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Facebook Finally Reveals Its New Feature: What Is Facebook’s Graph Search?

Jan. 15, 2013
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Facebook unveiled its new Graph Search feature at a much anticipated press event this morning in Menlo Park, California.

Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) shares rose above $32 for the first time since July, after the company sent out media invitations yesterday saying “come and see what we are building.”

At Tuesday’s press conference, Zuckerberg began by outlining the benefits of what he calls Facebook’s third pillar, alongside Timeline and NewsFeed: Graph Search.

How Does Graph Search Work?

Today’s event was hosted to outline new ways that Facebook plans to navigate the over one trillion connections between the information that users share on Facebook.

As Facebook’s press release explains, Facebook indexes over a trillion connections between its users’ photos, connections, interests, like, comments, etc.  All of this data composes the Graph, which Zuckerberg calls a “living database.”

Indexing this type of information has been rather difficult historically because of privacy issues, but Graph Search helps overcome this obstacle by returning data using information at its disposal on Facebook. Graph Search is different from Web Search in that it doesn’t index the Web to return links to your query, but rather Facebook’s web of user data.

What type of questions can Graph Search answer? Questions like “movies that my friends like” to “restaurants my friends think are good” can all be searched.  Tom Stocky, Facebook’s Director of Product Management, explained in the event how Graph Search could be used for diverse purposes ranging from dating to job-hunting. Say you are searching for how many friends of friends who are single men live in San Francisco.

What Do Users Stand to Gain?

With the addition of filters to restrict the answers, the search experience is meant to be more unique and personally tailored to the user, something that may prove to be a leg up for Facebook when facing competition against search engines like Google, which generally lack the detailed types of user information that Facebook has at its disposal.

This feature may also compete with Apple’s Siri, which similarly answers questions posed by users, as well as Yelp, which helps sort recommendations based on other users’ preferences.

Facebook is scheduled to announce its fourth-quarter earnings on January 30th.