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Facebook launches new social search tool

"Graph search" to allow Facebook users to search within social connections for information such as photos and places.
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2013 11:17
Zuckerberg stressed that users can sort through content that has only been shared with them [Reuters]

Facebook has unveiled a new search feature which is likely to increase competition with review websites such as Yelp and Google. 

'Graph search' allows users to gain recommendations and reviews by searching their social connections for information on people, interests, photos and places rather than links to sites available across the internet. 

"Graph search is designed to take precise query and return to you the answer, not links to other places where you might get the answer," said Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive and founder of Facebook. 

"What you've seen today is a really different product from anything else that's out there," he added. 

The tool, which was launched on Tuesday, will gradually be available to all Facebook users and marks the popular social networking website's biggest foray into the online search market. 

Zuckerberg addressed potential privacy concerns by stressing that users can sort through content that has only been shared with them. 

Contrary to his comments on how the new search feature did not encompass internet searches like Google's system, analysts say that it is a long-term possibility. 

"We think this will enable them to expand beyond display ads and ultimately compete with Google," said Arvind Bhatia, analyst at Sterne Agee. 

Susan Etlinger, another analyst, said that one of the challenges Facebook has had was how it was not using the "incredible cache of data and information about people and their relationship and their likes" to help their users. 

The introduction of the search feature is considered one of Facebook's boldest steps since its initial public offering of shares flopped eight months ago. 

At the start of 2013, Facebook shares climbed 15 percent, but slid three percent on Tuesday to about $30.

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