Facebook is testing an expansion of its search product, introduced last year as “Graph Search,” on mobile devices, according to a report from Bloomberg. The change, which is currently only visible to a smaller subset of Facebook users, allows users to retrieve friends’ old posts via keyword, as well as content from pages they followed.
This feature was previously introduced to desktop users a year ago, but without mobile support. However, even the desktop version has yet to arrive for many users, which makes the presence of the mobile tests notable.
Last September, Facebook began the rollout of Graph Search for posts and comments to what was then a small subset of U.S. English users. Where before, Facebook search had begun by indexing people, photos, places and interests, the service was now able to search for older posts by keywords, including comments, photo captions, Notes, and check-ins. That way, you could pull up what your friends were saying about any given topic, whether a popular TV show, local event or venue, news item, trend and more.
With these increased capabilities, Facebook seemed to be ushering in a new era for its network – the end of “privacy by obscurity,” TechCrunch said at the time. In other words, everything a user wrote on Facebook wouldn’t just move down the Timeline and News Feed until it was long forgotten by you and others – it would now be easily retrievable. Forever.
Oddly, in the months since the rollout, the keyword-based search feature still hasn’t made its way to all Facebook users, U.S. or otherwise. For instance, an attempt this morning on my own page to pull up what my friends were saying about a particular TV show only pointed me to the official page, various fan pages, and suggestions to look up other pages or people with that name.
In addition, after our post on the subject last fall, commenters returned to inform us, many months later, that the feature had yet to arrive for them. One even speculated the project had been abandoned entirely. That was strange, especially given that Facebook’s own Help pages say that Graph Search supports keywords. (Though that same Help site does say the program is still limited.)
But the new report indicates that Graph Search’s progress has not stopped entirely, it’s only moving at a much slower pace than we may have suspected. Though it’s not broadly available, it’s progress to see that Facebook is now testing the feature on mobile. As to whether that progress is a good or bad thing for Facebook users who may not want their personal content as easily retrievable as pages on the web, indexed by Google, that’s for you to decide.