Who are your friends that live in Seattle? Which ones of those like the Seattle Seahawks? What restaurants have your friends gone to lately, and which ones have they liked the most? Where are the photos of my friends taken in Paris? Which ones have the most likes?
These are the questions that Facebook’s new “Graph Search” will answer.
At its Menlo Park headquarters, Facebook this morning unveiled the company’s newest feature at a big press event. It’s called “Graph Search,” a tool to help Facebook users search for things their friends have shared.
“Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected,” reads the blog post announcement. “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.
“Today we’re announcing a new way to navigate these connections and make them more useful. We’re calling it Graph Search, and it starts today with a limited preview, or beta.”
This is a huge recruiting, dating and exploring tool. You can now search for employees within companies and see who has held what positions. You can also search for something like “friends of friends who are single in Seattle.”
Users can also search for things like “friends in Seattle who like trail running” to find new exercise buddies. This pattern applies to just about anything, whether it’s finding friends who share similar interests or products/services that friends like the most.
“Graph Search and web search are very different,” writes Facebook. “Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: “my friends in New York who like Jay-Z”) to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses.”
When your search doesn’t produce any Facebook results, Bing will be there to help. Microsoft and Facebook have partnered to provide Bing web results if you come up empty with Graph search. Read more about that here.
Another cool aspect: You can take a trip down memory lane and search for pictures of your friends taken before a specified date.
It’s also a powerful tool for journalists to find sources of information, as outlined here in another Facebook blog post.
Facebook has kept privacy a priority with this new feature, as you can only search for content that has been shared with you.
Several engineers from Facebook’s Seattle office were also working on this. Li-Tal Mashiach and Jason Brewer, two engineers from the Seattle office, spent almost a year focused on different aspects of the Graph Search product and they posted their own blog about the experience.
“Not only did we have to build out a search tool that understood real phrases—“people who live near me,” or “my friends of friends who like skiing”—but we also had to index and rank the social graph,” Mashiach and Brewer wrote. “They put out a call for help, and Seattle jumped in.”
The Seattle engineers worked in coordination with Menlo Park and made a couple trips there to collaborate with the team in person. “The whole thing was surprisingly seamless,” they wrote.