Facebook unveils new search engine
Mark Zuckerberg ... the Facebook CEO launches Graph Search. Photo: AP
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Facebook has unveiled a new tool that lets its 1 billion users search for specific content on the social network, in what is seen as a challenge to services already offered by Google, LinkedIn and Yelp.
This continues to pit Facebook against Google.Michael Gartenberg, Gartner analyst
Graph Search lets users discover people, photos, places and interests, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said at the company's California headquarters. Facebook also showed how the service can be used by recruiters to find potential employees and by members for seeking dates.
Facebook Graph Search
Photos from your search are displayed in the order in which Facebook thinks they would be most important to you. Importance is determined in part by the number of likes and comments a photo has.
Zuckerberg said users will be able to tailor their searches, such as by specifying music and restaurants that their friends like, or their favourite dentist. The reverse is also possible, such as discovering friends who have an interest in a particular topic.
When rolled out fully, the tool would give many web users an incentive to spend less time on Google, Yelp's reviews and LinkedIn's professional site. While Zuckerberg said the new feature could be a "business" in the future, he didn't outline how it will make money soon.
"Which is more valuable? Finding a sushi restaurant in New York City or finding one that my friends like," said Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg. "This continues to pit Facebook against Google."
Critics have long deemed the social network's current search capabilities inadequate, but Zuckerberg stressed Facebook was not getting into internet searches — Google's specialty.
"Graph Search is designed to take a precise query and return to you the answer, not links to other places," he said.
If Facebook introduces more robust advertising based on search results, it could grab five per cent of the US search advertising market, which reached about $US15 billion in 2012, within a year, said IDC analyst Karsten Weide.
The new search feature is also aimed at promoting the discovery of new friends on the network, Zuckerberg said. The service is being rolled out in test mode to a limited number of users, and it's designed to protect user privacy, Facebook said.
Unlike web search, which relies on keywords, Graph Search lets users combine phrases, such as "My friends in New York who like Jay-Z" to find information that's been shared on the social network. It will initially focus on four main areas: people, photos, places and interests, Facebook said.
Facebook also said it has a partnership with Microsoft's Bing search, which will deliver additional results from the web when Graph Search doesn't deliver clear answers to queries.
"This is just some really neat stuff, this is one of the coolest things we've done in a while," Zuckerberg said. "Graph Search is a completely new way for people to get information on Facebook."
Facebook shares fell 2.6 per cent, while LinkedIn and Monster Worldwide slipped amid speculation that Facebook's job-search capabilities might pose a threat to similar features on their own sites. Yelp, a restaurant and business-review website, fell 7.3 per cent.