Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg introduces Graph Search this morning in Menlo Park. Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images.
Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg introduces Graph Search this morning in Menlo Park. Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images.

Facebook officials announced a new social search feature called Graph Search at a much-hyped press event this morning. You can try it out, sign up to be a beta tester and get a preview here.

From Facebook’s website:

Graph Search will appear as a bigger search bar at the top of each page. When you search for something, that search not only determines the set of results you get, but also serves as a title for the page. You can edit the title – and in doing so create your own custom view of the content you and your friends have shared on Facebook…

Graph Search and web search are very different. Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: “my friends in New York who like Jay-Z”) to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses.

Another big difference from web search is that every piece of content on Facebook has its own audience, and most content isn’t public. We’ve built Graph Search from the start with privacy in mind, and it respects the privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook. It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook.

What does that mean for you? It could soon be easier to get recommendations from Facebook on what to read, what bands and musicians to check out and what restaurants to visit. As CNN notes, Graph Search will generate results for queries like “Italian restaurants liked by my friends from Italy.” That may put Facebook in competition with the recommendation website Yelp, which is based in San Francisco. Yelp stock fell 8.5 percent following the Facebook announcement this morning.

But before you start testing Graph Search you might want to review the privacy settings on the content you’ve posted on Facebook in the past. Also check out photos of you that your friends have shared. If they’re set to public, they might be much easier to find thanks to Graph Search. From Mashable:

As an example, if a friend uploads a picture of you at a bar, geo-tags it and sets it as public, it will be Graph Searchable to anyone who searches for pictures from that bar. You can, however, make sure to untag yourself or request the uploader of the photo remove it from Facebook or change the privacy settings.

To help ensure Facebook users have set their privacy settings to their liking before Graph Search reveals any unpleasant surprises, Facebook has began asking users to “review who can see your stuff.” You should expect a prompt with that language to appear on Facebook shortly.

Zuckerberg has reportedly said Facebook received help building Graph Search from Microsoft, which has the Bing search engine. That led to the obvious follow-up question, as Tweeted by Jessica Guynn of the Los Angeles Times:

Any consideration of working with Google? Mark Zuckerberg laughs. “I would love to work with Google. We want to make Web search social.”

“Microsoft was more willing to do things specific to Facebook,” Mark Zuckerberg says.

Biggest stumbling block in negotiations with Google: Giving Facebook users the ability to change how they want their information treated.

Additional coverage from Reuters, CNBC and CNET.

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