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Facebook Unveils Graph Search

Alex Spencer

A week ago, Facebook sent out an invite to a mysterious press event at its California HQ, which read: "'Come and see what we're building".

Since then, speculation as to what the social network giant would announce has spiralled. Would it be a new advertising platform, a mobile OS, or even a full-blown Facebook handset?

Well, now the wait is over, and we know what Facebook has been building: 'Graph Search'.

Graph Search, which will launch initially in a private beta, is an expanded social search function intended to make it easier to navigate connections - whether that's friends, photos, places, and interests.

Users can combine phrases to narrow down their search by traits including location, interests, and relationship to the user. Some of the examples given by Facebook include being able to search for “software engineers who live in San Francisco and like skiing," or “movies liked by people who like movies I like”.

"When Facebook first launched, the main way most people used the site was to browse around, learn about people and make new connections," said Facebook's Tom Stocky and Lars Rasmussen in a blog post announcing the function. "Graph Search takes us back to our roots and allows people to use the graph to make new connections."

It's a potentially powerful tool for users seeking recommendations, grouping their friends by interest, or trying to track down people they've met and can't remember the names of.

But, with Facebook's story over the last six months being dominated by attempts to monetise its huge userbase, it's hard not to see the potential benefits for marketing. Facebook haven't revealed how, or if at all, this could work for improving the targeting of adverts on its site and apps, but it seems unlikely that there'll be no developments on this front.