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Facebook Search: New Tool for Finding Cool Stuff--and a Threat to Rivals

Facebook is launching a new search feature to allow users to find music, vacation spots, people and other love interests through friends, and friends of friends. “Graph search” could be a threat to Google, Yelp, and LinkedIn--or a flop.
 
Speaking at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters on Tuesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the new feature makes Facebook more than just a place to connect with people you already know. "Now people are going to have the ability to discover and make all these new connections. It's a really big new thing for Facebook."
 
Graph search is currently in test mode with a few hundred users.
 
Once launched, it’s a way to go through one’s own social networks to find people, photos, interests, places–think of it as a personalized Google of sorts.
 
Say I'm looking for a nerdy date. I can comb through friends and friends of friends for a single guy in San Francisco who studied computer science at MIT.
 
Threat to Google?
 
Tom Stocky, Facebook's director of product management, said Facebook is not using the new search feature to compete with his former employer, Google. "We think of it more as: These are the sorts of things you couldn't do anywhere else. I mean it's hard to find a place that has [the] music liked by Republicans."
 
Nicco Mele, a social media professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, says the new search feature is a bid to convert its huge membership into profits. "They are trying desperately to figure out a way to capture some of Google's search ad revenue, and this is a first step.”
 
Zuckerberg didn't offer details on a monetization strategy Tuesday.
 
The company is partnering with Microsoft’s Bing to display web search results alongside the Facebook Graph results. “It’s better to show world-class web search results than to show nothing,” Zuckerberg said. “We don’t have any concept that people will come to Facebook to do web search.”
 
Competition With Other Social Networks
 
Facebook has just started asking using to rate restaurants.  For Graph search to work, users will have to reveal more about themselves.
 
Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University, said the new feature is partially competitive with Yelp, LinkedIn and online dating sites.  “For example, many of my friends have provided substantially more professional-related information in their LinkedIn profile than in their Facebook profile, meaning that LinkedIn's search tools often will have better data to work with.”
 
The new feature may prompt people to pay attention to their privacy settings, said Adi Kamdar of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Actions and photos that were once lost in the sands of Timeline are now more easily discoverable by strangers with loose ties, forcing us to reassess what we actually think is private and what is not.”
 
Zuckerberg says Facebook will roll out the new search very slowly, with a prominent home screen message so users understand the new tool.
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