MENLO PARK, Calif. (MCT) — In a potential challenge to much larger rival Google Inc., Facebook Inc. said Tuesday that it's introducing new search tools that will let its 1 billion users scour the social network for information about people, photos, places and other interests.
The new "Graph Search" will show only information that has been posted publicly or shared with the person who is doing the search, according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who acknowledged privacy concerns while calling the new service "one of the coolest things we've done in a while."
While the new "Graph Search" function is limited to searching within the social network, it goes beyond Facebook's earlier search tools to let people query the network for things they are interested in — such as photos of a certain topic, or photos taken in a certain year, a list of friends who like "Game of Thrones," or a list of restaurants that are liked by friends who moved to San Francisco from India.
It will also rank the results — for example, Zuckerberg said the tool will show photos in the order of how interesting they are, as determined by the number of "likes" and comments they have previously received. The rankings also take into consideration how close the searcher is to other people on Facebook, based on how often they interact on the network.
Zuckerberg said the service was developed for users and does not yet have a business model for earning money. But in a possible hint at commercial applications, a Facebook engineer demonstrated how the service could be used by a job recruiter to search for NASA employees who live in a certain area.
Facebook also announced a closer partnership with Microsoft Corp.'s Bing search engine, which will provide search results from the Web to augment searches on Facebook. Microsoft's Bing has struggled to gain traction against Google's search engine, which provides billions of dollars in advertising revenue for Google. Zuckerberg said several times that he doesn't expect people to use Facebook as a tool to search the Web, but he acknowledged that could change over time.
The new search tool is being introduced gradually; Zuckerberg stressed that it's in "beta" mode and said it will initially be offered only to a few hundred users.