Facebook users who like to rely on their friends' recommendations will soon find it easier to peruse the movies they've seen, vacations they've taken and restaurants they frequent with a new search tool. Graph Search will allow a quick scan of photos, statuses, check-ins or likes to put such data at the user's fingertips.
It's a way for Facebook to invest all the data it collects from its 1 billion user accounts in an effort to generate additional data in the form of the user inquiries. That information makes it easier to target the user with specialized ads. The information can also be sold to other advertising agencies.
Search Your Own Stuff, Too
Users can also travel down a virtual Memory Lane by searching their own history of photos, updates and likes (ideal for deleting references to past jobs or relationships). If you like old photos, you can limit the search to pictures before a desired year.
Like any other Facebook feature, it has the intended potential to have users spending more time on the site.
All users won't have access to Graph Search yet, but they can sign up to be put on a waiting list to try out the Beta version. It won't be available to mobile users yet, and it will only work in English. A limited preview and related videos featuring CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg and others is available on Facebook's own Facebook page.
Facebook already has a search window that allows users to search within the social network for friends as well as conduct a wider search of the web if there are no results on Facebook. Graph Search will eventually replace that search window at the top of the page. But outside search will still be enabled, with an assist from Microsoft's Bing.
Unlike Google or Bing, Graph Search is geared toward "social questions that you wouldn't typically think to ask another search engine," said Keith Peiris, a Facebook product manager, in a video promoting Graphic Search.
"There's a lot to be said for taste, like what movie should I go and see, what bands might I like, based on the friends that I have."
Early on, Facebook encouraged users to list their favorite shows, movies, bands and other data as part of their profile, but those prompts are not part of the more condensed timeline profile. Graphic Search now invites users to share more of their preferences and tastes.
Susan Etlinger, an industry analyst at the Altimeter Group, said Facebook's launch of Graph Search was consistent with its history.
"They have always put products out carefully in beta to see how the market and users react," Etlinger said. "Sometimes they tweak it and change it and sometimes they kill it or wrap it into other things."
The announcement made on Tuesday morning at Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters was expected to be something bigger, perhaps the long-awaited launch of a smartphone made and sold by Facebook. The excitement caused a short-term spike in the company's share price, surging past $31 for the first time since its IPO last year. But at the close the stock was at $30.10, down 2.74 percent.