Facebook’s Big Reveal: Searching Your Social Graph with “Graph Search”

It may come as no surprise to you that Facebook hosts a lot of data, generated by and harvested from its billion users. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg said today that there are 240 billion photos and one trillion connections in Facebook’s social graph. Thus, it makes sense for Facebook to launch its own search tool, called Graph Search.

Zuck was clear that Graph Search is not a Web search tool, but one that is primarily focused on Facebook and its many users. (Of course, Facebook has partnered with Bing to pull in "lite" Web search results for things like weather, so how that partnership evolves over time will be fascinating to watch.) Graph Search is designed to answer users’ very specific questions; examples of search queries Facebook gave include, “Who are my friends in San Francisco” and “People named Chris who are friends of Lars and went to Stanford”. The results are filtered to find the people closest to you, connection-wise, and you can further refine the results using drop-down menus and sub-categories.

Facebook Graph Search

Graph Search seems to be a refined and expanded version of how Facebook already delivers search results for people. For example, if you enter someone’s name in the search box on Facebook, the results will list people you’re most likely to be looking for, such as someone who lives in your town or with whom you share several mutual friends.

Graph Search has four “pillars”--people, places, photos, and interests--and if the demo is to be believed, you really can use simple, common language to find what you’re looking for. For example, you can search for something as simple as “photos of my friends” or “photos of my friends hiking” and get decent results.

Facebook Graph Search

Of course, the first thing everyone will wonder is how privacy will be invaded by Graph Search. Facebook said that the search engine won’t pull profile information that you haven’t shared with friends, so ostensibly your annoying ex won’t be able to search for what movies you like or pull up photos of your new beau, unless he or she is also your Facebook friend.

As is typical of most of Facebook's new features, Graph Search will roll out slowly at first. If you want in on the beta, head over here to sign up.

It remains to be seen how well Graph Search works in the real world, and how much or how little it impacts privacy concerns, but if this thing works as advertised, search just evolved a little.