Jan. 15, 2013 at 1:48 PM ET
Facebook announced a new "Graph Search" feature on Tuesday that will answer all the questions that the social network's Newsfeed and Timeline do not.
"Today we're going to take a little trip to our roots," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, in making the announcement.
He described Facebook as a huge database before pointing out that "just like a database, you should be able to query it." The Newsfeed answers the question "What's going on?" and Timeline answers "Who is this person?" But what about everything else? We'll be able to answer other questions using something called "Graph Search."
In addition to launching Graph Search, Facebook is also incorporating Microsoft's Bing search results in Facebook searches. (Microsoft owns a 1.6 percent share of Facebook.) Doing search on Facebook has often been an exercise in frustration, and Graph Search may help to change that. Will Graph Search challenge Google? No, but it could be a start to making Facebook's nemesis even more nervous, although Zuckerberg emphasized the new tool is "not Web search."
Graph Search is a privacy-aware search, Zuckerberg said. That means that it only searches content which has been shared with you and that your search results will differ from the search results someone else will see ... even if you enter the same exact queries.
You can initially use Graph Search search through people, photos, places, and interests.
For example, let's say you want to play matchmaker for a friend who recently moved to New York City from Germany. You could search for all friends-of-friends who happen to reside in New York City, lived in Germany at some point, and are single. Ta da! You'll have a list of the ideal matches for your pal. Or perhaps you need to find a dentist. You can easily search for dentists who are liked by your friends.
There was a lot of emphasis on privacy and Zuckerberg explained that a message will appear on users' Newsfeeds to remind them that they should review their privacy settings. Even though Graph Search is privacy-conscious, some slightly embarrassing content could always come up and haunt you.
Zuckerberg emphasized that Graph Search is currently a beta product, meaning that it isn't quite perfect just yet.
"Even as an early product, Graph Search is a completely new way for people to get information on Facebook," he says. If you want to start using the new feature, you can sign up for the beta by heading here.
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