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Facebook looks to connect with new search tool

posted 17 Jan 2013, 09:49 by Mpelembe   [ updated 17 Jan 2013, 09:49 ]

Facebook rolls out friends-based search product that focuses on people, places, photos and interests within their social network.

MENLO PARKCALIFORNIA (JANUARY 15, 2013) (FACEBOOK) -  Facebook took the wraps off a new search tool on Tuesday (January 15) that lets people trawl their network of friends to find everything from restaurants to movie recommendations, an improvement that's likely to increase competition with review websites like Yelp and potentially even Google.

The so-called "Graph Search," marks the company's biggest foray into online search to date, though it displays only information within the walls of the social network rather than links to sites available across the Internet.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's 28-year-old founder and chief executive, introduced the new product at the company's first major product launch since a rocky initial public offering in May.

"We believe in the concept that we call the social graph," Zuckerberg told reporters at its Menlo Park,California, headquarters. "It is the sum of all of these different connections in the world. We believe if we give people the tools to map out this graph than that map that people build can be the basis for building a lot of different kinds of services for connecting."

Facebook shares, which have climbed 15 percent since the start of the year, slid 3 percent Tuesday to just above 30. The product news fell short of some of the most optimistic predictions, which included speculation that the social network would introduce its own smartphone or an Internet search engine.

Dubbed "graph search" because Facebook refers to its growing content, data and membership as the "social graph," the function will be available at first only as a "beta," or trial, for just hundreds of thousands of its billion-plus users.

It will let users browse mainly photographs, people, places and members' interests. Zuckerberg stressed that people can sort through only content that has been shared with them, addressing potential privacy concerns.

"Not only are there a trillion connections more, there are also lots of different kind of connections on the graph," said Zuckerberg. "There are friend connections and follow connections and group and event connections and photo tags and locations and likes and comments and all these types of connections. What this basically all adds up to is indexing these connections and making it so that you can retrieve. It is a really hard technical problem that we have been working on for a long time to get to this point."

Some analysts also believe Facebook may be taking a tiny step toward eventually challenging Google on its home turf, but said that was a much more challenging undertaking and a long-term possibility at best.

The world's largest online social network, Facebook is moving to regain Wall Street's confidence after the IPO and concerns about its long-term financial prospects.

While Tuesday's revelation fell short of some of the wilder guesses about what Facebook planned to reveal in its highest-profile news briefing since its market debut, analysts said it was overdue for a well-rounded search tool, given its current inadequacies.