Facebook Releases Graph Search In US
July 8, 2013

Facebook Rolls Out Graph Search In US, Lets Users Search Friends’ History

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Facebook kicked off 2013 with the introduction of Graph Search, a tool for drilling deep into a friend's past entries to find their check-ins, photos and posts. After spending the past five months as a limited release, today the social networking giant will release it to all users in the US and those who use the American English version of the site. The feature will then roll out to other countries and languages soon after.

As the site has grown to include more than one billion users, finding small pieces of information can sometimes prove to be a difficult task. Though Facebook is leveraging this feature as a way to help its users search through the minutiae of their and their friends' lives, some have seen this as Facebook's first foray into search territory, a realm in which Google reigns supreme.

Any Facebooker looking for specific yet nuanced information about their friends should be well served by Graph Search. For instance, this new tool allows those users who are vacationing to search for their friends who have also visited the same location they plan to and which restaurants they enjoyed while they were there. Users can also search which of their friends from their hometown are a fan of certain television crime dramas to schedule a meet up. Additionally, users looking for a specific picture taken at the museum during their trip four years ago are now able to drill down to the specific moments and hopefully, the specific picture.

Of course, this kind of search power implies two things: Facebook has this treasure trove of information about their users and it's available to anyone who searches for it. Having dealt with many privacy issues in the past, Facebook was careful to mention in January (and are just as careful to point out now) that the only information viewable in Graph Search is that which users decide can be viewable. That is, if the information wouldn't have shown up before Graph Search or if the information (such as religious preference, location data, etc) is set to private, it will not be returned in the search results.

With their constantly shifting privacy controls and policies, some users may be surprised, however, to find what kind of information is available to their friends, friends of friends, or even the general public. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Facebook plans to let users know about this new feature which will make it easier for their friends to locate information they've posted to the site. They'll also remind users to check the "who can see my stuff" section in the privacy settings.

"The goal is to avoid bad surprises," said Nicky Jackson Colaco, Facebook's privacy and safety manager in a statement to Businessweek. She also mentions, however, that with Graph Search, Facebook is able to index information "differently than we have ever been able to do before, in a really positive way."

Ever looking for more revenue opportunities, Facebook has said they won't begin serving ads to those using Graph Search just yet, but they're leaving the door open to do so in the future. This, some say, is how Facebook plans to go toe-to-toe with the world's largest search engine, Google. Any Google search is also served up with ads generally relating to the search. Facebook could one day use the ads already present on the site and match them with users' searches as a way to bring in extra revenue.