After much buzz and anticipation over its "top-secret" announcement today, Facebook revealed a new search capability called Facebook Graph Search.
The feature, which is currently available in a limited beta release, lets you search for friends, photos, restaurants, games, music and more. Results that Facebook returns will depend on your friends' privacy settings and the privacy settings of people you're not connected to.
Graph Search is available only in English and if you want to sign up for the waitlist for Graph Search, visit facebook.com/graphsearch.
"When Facebook first launched, the main way most people used the site was to browse around, learn about people and make new connections," writes Tom Stocky, director of product management and Lars Rasmussen, director of engineering, in a press release. "Graph Search takes us back to our roots and allows people to use the graph to make new connections."
Graph Search will appear as a bigger search bar at the top of each page. At today's press conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a point of explaining the difference between traditional Web search and Graph Search; the two are very different, he says.
According to Facebook, Web search is designed to take a set of keywords and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. Graph Search, the company says, lets you combine phrases-such as "movies my friends like"-to find that set of people, places, photos or other content that's been shared on Facebook.
Another difference: every piece of content on Facebook has its own audience, and Facebook has built Graph Search with that privacy in mind, it says. "It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook," Rasmussen and Stocky write in the press release.
Eden Zoller, principal analyst at technology consultancy Ovum, says that while Facebook may stress its commitment to privacy, it's walking a thin line. "Facebook needs tread very carefully here and be mindful of user privacy," she says. "It claims to have built Graph Search with privacy in mind, but Facebook has a mixed track record on this front and is in the habit of pushing privacy to the limits of what is acceptable."
Here's a look at how your privacy settings impact Graph Search.
Your 'About Me' Privacy Settings
Graph Search lets others find you based on what you've shared with your various friend groups, including your interests and profile information. This means that if you share your location, relationship status and political beliefs with your college friends, but not your Limited Profile list, only your college friends will see that information in their search results.
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