Today at Facebook’s press event, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, announced its latest product, called Graph Search.
Zuckerberg made it very clear that this is not web search, but completely different:
What’s more interesting than any of these things (that Facebook currently does) is giving people power and tools to take any cut of the graph that they want.
Zuckerberg explained the difference between web search and Graph Search. “Web search is designed to take any open-ended query and give you links that might have answers.” Linking things together based on things that you’re interested in is a “very hard technical problem,” according to Zuckerberg.
Graph Search is designed to take a precise query and give you an answer, rather than links that might provide the answer.” For example, you could ask Graph Search “Who are my friends that live in San Francisco?” Zuckerberg joked that a difference is “filters,” which grabbed a few chuckles.
Zuckerberg says that Graph Search is in “very early beta.” People, photos, places and interests are the focus for the first iteration of the product.
Facebook Graph Search is completely personalized. Tom Stocky of the search team explains he gets unique results for a search of “friends who Like Star Wars and Harry Potter.” Then, “If anyone else does this search they get a completely different set of results. Even if someone had the same set of friends as me, the results would be different [because we have different relationships with our friends].”
Stocky says you can also use Graph Search for dating. He wanted to set up a girl with a potential date so he searched “Who are single men?” Stocky says. “I get the set of single men that are friends of people I’m friends with.” Then he can refine that to just San Francisco, and add the filter “and are from India” since his friend is Indian.
You can also use Graph Search for recruiting. Stocky says if he was looking for people to join the team at Facebook, he could search for NASA Ames employees who are friends with people at Facebook. If I wanted to reach out and recruit them, I could see who their friends are at Facebook. To refine them I can look for people who wrote they are “founders.”
Photos is another big part of Graph Search. Results are sorted by engagement so you see the ones with the most likes and comments at the top. For example, Lars Rasmussen, Facebook engineer, searched for “photos of my friends taken at National Parks.” He got a gorgeous page of photos from Yosemite, Machu Pichu, and other parks.
Some more things you can do include searching for photos you Like, or query for “Photos of Berlin, Germany in 1989″ that brings up Berlin Wall tear-down shots.
The interest search portion of Graph Search is pretty extensive, unlocking all types of content on Facebook. This is why the company has been collecting your interests for all of these years. Graph Search makes it so that you’ll never want to leave Facebook. Before, to find out what your friends liked, you had to go to everyone’s different profile.
But with Graph Search you can query “Movie my friends like,” which brings up the movies liked by most of my friends. A “People also liked” suggestion section shows movies also liked by the people that liked a result. So for “The Dark Knight Rises,” you get suggestions to check out “Batman: The Dark Knight,” and “Transformers.”
It seems a lot like Amazon, but for interest discovery rather than purchasing — at least for now.
Stocky explained that “If I wanted to find a new show to watch, the best way is to see a video clip of it.” He showed a search for what friends have watched that brought up clips of Archer, Modern Family, Seinfeld, and more. Stocky beamed “I can find something new to watch through the filter of my friends.”
The last area that Graph Search touches is “places,” allowing you to search through places by city, or places where your friends have been anywhere in the world. This will definitely grab the interest of Foursquare, which has been working on its own search and exploration product.
The new Graph Search product will be integrated into privacy, as well. In the upper-right of Facebook’s bar, you will find shortcuts to privacy settings. You can granularly control which photos show up to the world, which will of course remove them from search results.
Zuckerberg, re-joining the stage, then announced a partnership with Microsoft’s Bing, so Facebook, in a way, is a true Google competitor. This is a huge lift for Microsoft.
Graph Search is rolling out in “limited beta” today, says Zuckerberg:
We’re going to start with a limited rollout of Graph Search now but starting very slowly. We need to get data from people using it so we can make the data better. But we’re looking forward to getting more people onto it over the coming weeks and months.
Before we rollout Graph Search we’re going to put an encouragement on the homepage for people to check out what they’re sharing. We built a few tools so you can see the photos and information that will be in Graph Search. You can bulk untag things for the first time.
Our own Josh Constine asked Zuckerberg how this new product could open up new avenues for revenue, via advertising, and Zuckerberg responded:
This could potentially be a business over time, but we’re just focusing on building a good experience for users.
When asked about whether Facebook was interested in working with Google, after a few laughs from the audience, Zuckerberg said “I would actually love to work with Google.” Zuckerberg contests that even with Bing’s integration, Facebook still doesn’t assume that users will want to come to Facebook to do web search.
It will be interesting to see how this is received by Facebook users, as the team feels like this initial offering is strong. There have been a few rounds of testing in a “user experience lab,” with people playing with the product while Facebook collected feedback. Currently, there is no mobile interface built; that will come in the future, Zuckerberg says. Also in the “list of things we’ll get to,” according to Zuckerberg, is the inclusion of Instagram photos.
Graph Search won’t just change the way we use Facebook. It could also pull users away from other services like Yelp and Foursquare, and create huge advertising opportunities for Facebook. But that all depends on the social network convincing us that when we have a question to answer, you don’t just have to Google it. Now you can Facebook it.
Check out more of TechCrunch’s coverage of Facebook Graph Search: