Facebook recently launched a trial phase of a new feature: “Graph Search,” a search engine for your life.
This new search option allows users to sift through their friend lists based on factors such as interests, places visited and types of photos. Each search sorts through the history and friend network of the user, providing results based on the friends and interests of individual users. For example, a search for “People who bike” on one person’s Facebook will list different friends (and friends of friends) that bike then you can view the same search done by another person.
With this new feature, users will be able to easily learn what bands their friends are listening to and find news stories specific to their interests, among other things. The information that is currently available on individual profiles will be accessible through the search bar. For example, if a photo is hidden from certain users, it will not show up in their searches. Interests and hobbies listed, however, will. Other changes include a fee to message people outside a friend network and the option to pay to “promote” a post, elevating it higher in the news feed.
Graph Search also has a few features that are not directly tied to Facebook. It searches the web and finds nearby restaurants through Bing. Restaurant searches also provide photos and a list of friends that have been tagged at the establishment.
In an interview for Wired magazine, Mark Zuckerberg stated that his favorite part of the search tool is the “recruiting” aspect. “You can find the right people or content page and then send a message,” Zuckerberg said.
According to Facebook’s website, the tool cannot access information hidden by privacy settings, but with precise searches (such as “Photos in June 2010 taken in Las Vegas liked by friends of Steve Holt”) the new feature promises to raise inquiries about privacy.
After using the Graph Search trial, I have developed a mixed opinion of the new feature. It is incredibly useful when trying to find old pictures, and it eliminates the need to sort through dozens of albums. However, the searches reached too far into my friends’ networks. I can find photos of friends of my friends, many of whom I have never met before. The tool cannot yet find wall posts or statuses, but this feature will eventually be implemented.
This new search feature is now available to select users as a trial at facebook.com/about/graphsearch. The official release date has not been announced.