Facebook launches tool to search the social graph

by Kenny Hemphill on January 15, 2013

Facebook used a special event in San Francisco today to launch a new search tool, Graph Search, which it hopes will allow users to more easily connect with each other. Its name is derived from the database of user information Facebook holds, which the company calls ‘the social graph.’

Graph search will allow users to search for answers to questions like ‘Which of my friends like The Hobbit and live in London?’ It will then search its database of posts, likes, images and location data and produces an answer. Facebook said it has integrated Microsoft’s Bing search to handle queries Graph Search can’t answer.

‘When Facebook first launched, the main way most people used the site was to browse around, learn about people and make new connections,’ explained Facebook director of engineering, Lars Rasmussen. ‘Graph Search takes us back to our roots and allows people to use the graph to make new connections.’

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg explained that it wasn’t intended to compete with Google. ‘We’re not indexing the web,’ he said at the launch. ‘We’re indexing our map of the graph – the graph is really big and its constantly changing.’

While not designed as competition for Google, Facebook did suggest that Graph Search would be useful for recruitment, a task for which LinkedIn is often used.

Addressing privacy concerns, Zuckerburg said that Graph Search could only access data that was enabled in existing privacy settings, and even suggested it would make controlling privacy easier for users by allowing them to say, search for photos of themselves taken at a particular location and remove their tag.

Graph search is in beta and is being rolled out to users gradually.

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