Facebook announces new and improved search engine

Mark Zuckerberg. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Users will be able to more easily search through Facebook to find items that have been shared with them by friends, Facebook announced during a Tuesday press event.

The new search capability, which the company has dubbed “Graph Search“, is meant to give users the ability to more easily search friends’ interests, photos, shared locations and more. It will also allow users to more easily make new connections on the social network.

The search queries that are used mirror the way people speak and are less like a Google search. For example, a search for “People who live in my city” will provide users with search results of friends in the user’s city. Other examples include “Photos of my friends in New York City,” “countries my friends have visited” and “books read by CEOs”.

User privacy choices also determine what is searchable through Graph Search. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted during the Tuesday press conference that user privacy settings will become more important to users now that Graph Search has arrived.

“We believe that people are going to care what shows up about them in search,” Zuckerberg said at the event.

“As you get started, remember that you can always review stuff on Facebook that relates to you, change the audience for your own content, and ask others to remove photos or other posts,” a statement from the company read.

The company has battled numerous privacy complaints from its users and Congress since its inception. New layouts and privacy settings have often frustrated users who use the social network to post personal moments with friends and family. Facebook’s own facial recognition technology, which it uses as a part of its photo tagging feature, even came under the scrutiny of Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken in July 2012.

Facebook, however, has continually updated its privacy features, allowing users to more finely tune who can see what they share on the social network.

Better search capabilities within the Facebook ecosystem have long been an item on its users’ wish list. The tech blog, SearchEngineLand, even wrote that improved search capabilities would be a potential revenue driver for the company and improve users’ overall user experience.

When former Googlers Lars Rasmussen and Tom Stocky joined Facebook in 2011, rumors circulated that Facebook was planning on beefing up its own user search experience. In September 2012, Zuckerberg alluded to search being in Facebook’s future.

Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, will be tightly integrated into Graph Search to answer user questions Facebook will be able to answer through Graph Search. Should the chill thaw between Facebook and Google, Zuckerberg alluded to the future possibility of Google search data being integrated into Graph Search results as well.

“I would love to work with Google,” Zuckerberg said during the event.

The importance of search advertising revenue can be underscored in Microsoft’s own war against Google in the search space, and Graph Search would no doubt be a boon to Microsoft’s flailing efforts to emerge as a leader in search. The company reportedly loses $2 billion in search advertising revenue annually.

Graph Search is being slowly rolled out starting Tuesday in beta, or trial form. Users can sign up immediately to join a waiting list to try Graph Search Beta by scrolling to the bottom of the Graph Search About page and clicking on the “Join Waiting List” button.

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