Facebook unveils social search feature
MENLO PARK, Calif. — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a new search feature Tuesday that’s designed to entice people to spend more time on its website and will put the social networking company more squarely in competition with Google and other rivals such as Yelp and LinkedIn.
Called “graph search,” the new service lets users quickly sift through their social connections for information about people, interests, photos and places. It will help users who, for instance, want to scroll through all the photos their friends have taken in Paris or search for the favorite TV shows of all their friends who happen to be doctors.
Although Zuckerberg stressed that “graph search” is different from an all-purpose search engine, the expanded feature escalates an already fierce duel between Google and Facebook as they grapple for the attention of Web surfers and revenue from online advertisers.
“This could be another reason not to use Google and another reason to stay on Facebook for longer periods,” said Gartner analyst Brian Blau. “I don’t think Google is going to lose its search business, but it could have an impact on Google by changing the nature of search in the future.”
If the new search tool works the way Facebook envisions, users should be able to find information they want to see on their own instead of relying on the social network’s formulas to pick which posts and pictures to display in their fees, analysts said.
Only a fraction of Facebook’s more than 1 billion users will have access to the new search tool immediately, because the company plans to gradually roll it out during the next year to allow time for more fine tuning.
Not all the interests that people share on Facebook will be immediately indexed in the search engine, although the plan is to eventually unlock all the information in the network while honoring each user’s privacy settings.
That means users can search only for content that have been granted permission to see by their online connections, Zuckerberg said.