It’s a search engine for Facebook

It may not have been a Facebook phone, but Graph Search, the social network’s beta tool for instant access to people, photos, places, and interests embedded within 240 billion photos and 1 trillion connections could equally have significant implications.

Despite online pundits’ declaration of the new Graph Search to be a flop, and the investors’ agreement which drove the stock down almost 3 percent, Facebook might be on to something

The new service, called “Graph Search” lets users quickly sift through their social connections for information about people, interests, photos and places.

A bigger search bar offers members a way to type in their natural language queries and find photos from their past, restaurants their friends have visited, music and movies their buddies like, or even employees from a certain company. When Facebook doesn’t have the answer, Microsoft’s Bing search engine will fill in the blanks with regular Web results.

Only a fraction of Facebook’s more than 1 billion users will have access to the new search tool beginning Tuesday 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 either, although the plan is to eventually unlock all the information in the network while honouring each user’s privacy settings.

That means users can only see content that’s available to them through other’s privacy settings, Mr. Zuckerberg pledged.

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 feeds, analysts said.

For now Google might be safe from Facebooks clutches, but other companies might not be so safe. Yelp’s online business review service could be hurt if Facebook’s search feature makes it easier for people to find recommendations from the people that they trust instead of relying on the opinions of strangers posting on Yelp. At the same time, Facebook’s search tool also will allow people to find people who worked at a specific company one of the advantages of LinkedIn Corp.’s online service for professional networking.

Depending on how the new search feature works, Marc Zuckerberg will have been responsible for having introduced the world to a new form of search and for unleashing a new wave of disruption.

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Written by Guest Contributor

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