Facebook takes on Google with new search engine that can scan a BILLION profiles to find everything from users’ favourite restaurants to their embarrassing photos
Facebook has dramatically overhauled its search service to allow people to search for information and pictures posted by their friends – as well as public posts from everyone else on Facebook.
The new ‘Graph Search’ service allows users to search photos, people, and connections, and find places their friends have recommended.
However, experts have warned the social network to ‘tread carefully’ with user privacy – even though Facebook claims its new service is ‘privacy aware’
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg announcing the new ‘Social Graph’ service at the firm’s Menlo Park HQ
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said it is ‘not web search’ – but the firm has partnered with Microsoft’s Bing search engine in a snub to Google, which has its own social network, Google+.
Called Graph Search, the new Facebook service uses ‘intelligent’ interpretation to allow you to find friends by interest, for example Facebook suggests typing in text such as ‘Friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter’ for planning a film night.
‘You need to be able to ask the query, like, who are my friends in San Francisco,’ said Mr Zuckerberg.
He also confirmed the firm planned to add its other services, including Instagram, to the service.
‘Instagram data is on the list of things we will one day get to,’ he said.
‘It’s so clear how much stuff out there you’d want to have in a product like this.’
While the new search engine does not search the web, it intensifies Facebook’s battle with Google+, the search giant’s social network.
It will also allow the firm to improve its personalised advertisments by finding out more about what users want to do – what kind of films they want to see, for instance.
The firm was quick to address privacy concerns over the new service, saying: ‘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.’
The announcement was made at a special event at Facebook’s HQ.
‘Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected,’ the firm said.
‘The main way we do this is by giving people the tools to map out their relationships with the people and things they care about.
‘We call this map the graph.
‘It’s big and constantly expanding with new people, content and connections.
‘There are already more than a billion people, more than 240 billion photos and more than a trillion connections.’
The firm also said users can sign up to the new service from today, but that ‘The roll out is going to be slow so we can see how people use Graph Search and make improvements.’
Eden Zoller, principal analyst at Ovum, said the new service could dramatically improve Facebook’s ability to target advertising.
‘Before the arrival of Facebook’s Graph Search, the search function on Facebook was basic and as such, a wasted opportunity given Facebook’s imperative to strengthen advertising revenues.
‘Facebook Graph Search will no doubt leverage member data to provide advertisers with more targeted, personalized advertising opportunities going forward.
‘But Facebook needs tread very carefully here and be mindful of user privacy.
‘It claims to have built Graph Search with privacy in mind, but Facebook has a mixed track record on this front and is in the habit of pushing privacy to the limits of what is acceptable.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks about Facebook Graph Search at a Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park
Others claim the announcement could see Facebook take on a raft of sites.
Victor Basta, managing director of technology avisory firm Magister Advisors, said: ‘It positions Facebook as a much more significant strategic threat to Google than it has been to date.
‘Facebook has effectively rolled Amazon, TripAdvisor and tribal search engine capabilities into the ecosystem in one fell swoop.
‘This is far more important for Facebook’s mobile strategy than simply doing a Facebook phone.
‘Graph Search will be key to generating revenues from Facebook’s hundreds of millions of mobile users through super-value, highly targeted search.
‘To date it has been very difficult to serve up advertising on a small screen, search is really the only way to do it.
‘Graph Search potentially sets up Facebook to generate the billions of dollars of revenues that it needs to achieve to underpin its valuation.
‘Google gets more than 90 percent of its revenues from advertising and search drives advertising, so this is really the only way that Facebook can take revenues from Google.’
Facebook’s HQ in Menlo Park, in the heart of silicon Valley, where the launch will take place
Facebook is also preparing to roll out a new feature for its Messenger app which allows users to place free voice calls to friends.
The feature is so far available only to iPhone users in Canada and is buried within the latest update to the app, but it will eventually allow users to make free internet voice calls, known as VoIP calls, to any Facebook friend.
Experts are saying it represents an attempt by the world’s largest social network to dominate the social world by taking on the default calling function in mobile phones.
Mark Zuckerberg in his personal conference room at Facebook HQ
WHAT YOU CAN SEARCH FOR
The first version of Graph Search focuses on four main areas — people, photos, places, and interests. Facebook gives the following examples for searches:
People: “friends who live in my city,” “people from my hometown who like hiking,” “friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park,” “software engineers who live in San Francisco and like skiing,” “people who like things I like,” “people who like tennis and live nearby”
Photos: “photos I like,” “photos of my family,” “photos of my friends before 1999,” “photos of my friends taken in New York,” “photos of the Eiffel Tower”
Places: “restaurants in San Francisco,” “cities visited by my family,” “Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India,” “tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends,” “restaurants in New York liked by chefs,” “countries my friends have visited”
Interests: “music my friends like,” “movies liked by people who like movies I like,” “languages my friends speak,” “strategy games played by friends of my friends,” “movies liked by people who are film directors,” “books read by CEOs”