Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at the company’s headquarters this morning to show off the company’s new Graph Search product, which allows users to search their friends, pages and connections for data.
Wall Street had been anticipating a phone-based product, and the announcement has clearly shaken things up. Shares in business review site Yelp fell 8% following the announcement.
The move is also being touted as one that could shake up Google’s ownership of the web search space.
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Graph Search is a new feature in Facebook which allows you to search through your connections, as well as the total Facebook ecosystem. The search engine gathers data from all Facebook profiles, pages, and information, to bring you results.
The product is an attempt to capitalise on a growing problem – how to give users the ability to search their growing social profiles. While internet users still depend on web search, they’re also hungry for tools which allow them to search through social networks.
For instance, as Zuckerberg pointed out, users can search for phrases such as, “restaurants liked by my friends”, or “cities my families have been to”, or even something more specific, like “photos of friends before 1999”.
The amount of data being leveraged for such a venture is huge – Facebook has one billion members and even more connections between users. Along with photos, business pages and check-ins, Facebook is sitting on a gold mine of data that, until now, hasn’t been easily searchable.
Zuckerberg underlined several things during his presentation, and repeatedly said the Graph Search was not a web search tool.
“Web search is designed to take any open-ended query and give you links that might have answers,” he said. What Facebook is doing is much harder, he says.
“Graph Search is designed to take a precise query and give you an answer, rather than links that might provide the answer.”
The product is in beta right now, and will roll out to users slowly over the coming weeks. People, photos, places and interests will be included in the first version of Graph Search.
The search results can be extremely personal, with users able to search for friends who like specific things. One Facebook employee showed off a search which queried “friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter”.
“If anyone else does this search they get a completely different set of results,” he said.