Rumors of a Facebook search product have been debated and discussed for a long time. Today, led by founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Social Network held a press conference introducing the word to Facebook's new Graph Search. According to Zuck, the product is centered around "making new connections."
Graph Search, not unlike a traditional search engine, is meant to have its users search for data on more than 1 billion Facebook users. However, Facebook wants to leverage all the data they have on all their members to help you find more connections.
It was clearly emphasized from the onset of the announcement that this was not a product that would compete against traditional web search. This is about filtering and sorting through the 240 billion photos and nearly 1 trillion connections of the entire Facebook community.
Graph Search represents the next evolution of Facebook. It started with a News feed that answered the question "What is going on with people around me?" Next, Facebook introduced the Timeline, which helped users find out more information about a particular person (in a creepy, historical way).
Graph Search will allow you to fine new connections and friends like never before. Designed to show answers, not links to answers, Facebook showed two separate search screens. The first was a mock screen of a traditional "10 blue links" search. Then Facebook introduced a still of Graph Search.
A screen shows the familiar Facebook blue bar header, turned into a search box. Results are composed of several panels of friends, resembling Google Now tiles, containing the person's name and basic "About" information. Scores of drop-list controls in a sidebar to the right will act as filters to find just the people you're looking for.
The general idea is that you can search Facebook for people, places or photos as you can currently. However, now you can group your search into a to specific subset, such as "my friends who like fencing," or even "my friends who like fencing and live in San Francisco."
You can also filter for things like TV shows or movies my friends like. This could be convenient for date night with a new crush.
Graph search is also about "exploring new connections." For example, if you meet someone at a party (in real life), but want to find them on Facebook later. Graph Search will allow you, for example, to search for "people named Chris who are friends of Lars and went to Stanford."
Graph Search results for friends are ranked by people you care most about. The rest are sorted by a variety of Facebook signals that includes mutual friends. Photo searches are organized by engagement, likes and comments. Places search can be refined by location, who likes it, who visited or checked in to it, in a move that copies a Foursquare feature.
To eliminate the confusion of how to perform such complicated searches, a set of drop-lists and controls will persistently stay in a sidebar while you're in the search process. This will help you with making refinements to your search.
"We're not indexing the web. We are indexing our map of the graph, which is really big and constantly changing." Zuckerberg said. Regarding privacy, he added: "You want a search tool that can help you get access to things people have shared with you. Graph Search is privacy aware."
By "privacy aware," Facebook suggests the following:
- Every piece of content has its own audience.
- Most content is not public.
- You can only search for content that has been shared with you.
Graph Search is currently in beta, limited to invites. If you'd like to get on the short list, direct yourself to the Facebook Graph Search page and sign up with the "Join Waiting List" link at the bottom of the page.