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Graph Search: Facebook searches just got a lot smarter

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At a press event at its headquarters Tuesday, Facebook revealed a new tool called Graph Search to let you look deeper into the connection between people.

The aim is to help you get more out of Facebook by providing very specific results for your search queries, and to foster new connections. CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted that the function will let you search for things as simple as "restaurants in Chicago" or more complex like "My friends who live in Palo Alto who like Game of Thrones."

Zuckerberg was keen to point out that this is not a Web search tool. Rather, it is designed to help you find things about your friends. He stressed that Graph Search is in its very early stages. The first version emphasizes four key areas: people, photos, places, and interests.

Here's a video giving an idea of how it works:

When you search for photos (for instance "photos of my friends"), they're organized based on likes, comments, and other signals. You can search for photos of your friends at a certain location, and at a certain time (i.e. "photos of Paris in 2005"). If you choose, you can also hunt for photos you've liked to see a history of all the images you've given the thumbs-up to.

The interests search offers options as broad as "TV shows my friends like," "movies doctors like," "my friends in NYC who like Jay-Z," or languages your friends speak. The places function offers the chance to view locations by place type, who's liked those places, and which of your friends have visited them. For instance, if you want to see where your friends have travelled to, you might look up which countries they've visited.

Facebook also showed off Graph Search as a potential dating option (for example searching from single friends of friends who live in your town) or as a recruiting tool (for instance, searching through friends of employees to see who studied a certain major).

Graph Search means that the ubiquitous blue bar at the top of Facebook will be modified slightly. your notifications, friend requests, and messages are shunted to the right, with much of the space handed over to the new search box and a new "F" logo replacing the longer "Facebook" wording.

On the right of the page where your search results are displayed, there are options to refine your search through filters like employer, city, friendship, and Likes. When Graph Search can't help you find what you're looking for, the same search features as before are still available, so you can still search the Web through Facebook's partnership with Bing.

Facebook's director of product management, Tom Stocky, and director of engineering, Lars Rasmussen, noted that Graph Search is in limited preview mode for people who use Facebook in English (US), for the time being.

Other features, like mobile search, additional languages, post search and Open Graph actions such as song listens or Netflix watches, are likely to arrive on Graph Search in coming months.

Keeping privacy in mind, you can only search through items that have been shared with you or are public. To get on the waiting list, head over to the Graph Search page.

It seems Facebook wants Graph Search to be all that Google isn't. Google can't delve into these connections between you, your friends, photos you've taken, things you've liked, and places you've been.

Of course, it's limited to what you and your friends have put on Facebook. It can't tell you everything about your buddies. Just what they've chosen to share. Once the additional search features are in play, the things you've shared through Open Graph apps, Graph Search will become a lot more intersting. As it is, Graph Search looks a pretty compelling way to make sense out of the years' worth of things you've added to Facebook.

Prior to the press conference, rumors flew that Facebook was announcing its own phone. In recent weeks, Facebook tested out its new single-column Timeline view and launched a new app, Snapchat competitor Poke.

The news of Graph Search comes just a couple of weeks before Facebook announces its quarterly earnings to investors.

Photo by Kevin Krejci/Flickr