Facebook Kicks Off Graph Search for Social Connection Discovery

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Facebook rolled out its Graph Search, a functional search tool that provides results based on social connections. It’s a big step for Facebook that evolves its social function to provide relevant knowledge based on relationships. Search for “friends of friends who are single women,” and you completely revamp the nature of dating. Search for restaurants enjoyed by culinary students, and you give Yelp a run for its money. Search for friends that have yet to see the Hobbit, and you’ve got a buddy date this weekend.

Yet Facebook’s graph search is very different from web search, despite that it was designed by Lars Rasmussen and Tom Stocky, two ex-Google heavyweights Facebook attracted to its side. Graph Search is designed to find content already on Facebook’s Open Graph, which includes comments, content shared, music listened to, and very soon, what movies you may have watched on Netflix. If the search can’t be covered in Facebook’s Open Graph, Microsoft’s Bing steps in to provide web search in a new partnership between the search engine and Facebook. The Open Graph includes a billion people, 240 billion photos, and 1 trillion connections.

Notably, Facebook’s Graph Search serves up information Google has no access to, and is centered on four key areas: People, Photos, Places and Interests. You can discover which restaurants in the city have been enjoyed by your friends, which ones own dogs, and which are staunch Republicans. The results are based not only on your friends, but the frequency of your interactions with them.

“If anyone else does this search they get a completely different set of results,” Stocky said at a press conference. “Even if someone had the same set of friends as me, the results would be different [because we know our friends differently.)”

Not yet available to the public, Graph Search is currently in beta. It will begin with English speakers in the US first. There is a waiting list to join the beta test.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg described Graph Search, along with news feed and Timeline, as “one of the three main pillars of Facebook.”

The search results will be actual answers, not just links to the answer, Zuckerberg explained.

“We came up with something we think is a lot more natural,” he said.

As the new Graph Search makes an ideal dating tool but also a potentially sketchy super stalking tool, the company rolled out Privacy Shortcuts a few weeks ago to make it easy to opt some content out of the search function. Nevertheless, this level of openness introduced to the social network will have unintentional consequences.

Yet it also has enormous marketing potential, and pretty much turns Yelp on its head. Upon news of Facebook’s Graph Search, Yelp stock slipped 8 percent.

Facebook stock did not exactly surge at the news, either. After starting out on a high of $31.71, the stock slipped to a low of $29.88 before recovering slightly to $30.10