Facebook’s Huge Announcement Is… A Search Engine

An example of what search results would look like.

An example of what search results would look like.

After days of building up hype about some big, mysterious announcement it would make today, Facebook finally revealed what was hidden behind door #2: The ability to search.

So now you can search through your previous posts, updates, photos, like and whatever other ephemera you and your friends tossed onto the site without thinking about it five years ago.

“We’re giving people the power and the tools they need to search through the content on the site,” said founder Mark Zuckerburg.

Here’s how the company explains its “Graph Search” is any different from a web search:

Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: “my friends in New York who like Jay-Z”) to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses.

Another big difference from web search is that every piece of content on Facebook has its own audience, and most content isn’t public. We’ve built Graph Search from the start with privacy in mind, and it respects the privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook. It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook.

Here are the four main areas that the search will focus on at launch:

People: “friends who live in my city,” “people from my hometown who like hiking,” “friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park,” “software engineers who live in San Francisco and like skiing,” “people who like things I like,” “people who like tennis and live nearby”

Photos: “photos I like,” “photos of my family,” “photos of my friends before 1999,” “photos of my friends taken in New York,” “photos of the Eiffel Tower”

Places: “restaurants in San Francisco,” “cities visited by my family,” “Indian restaurants liked by my friends from India,” “tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends,” “restaurants in New York liked by chefs,” “countries my friends have visited”

Interests: “music my friends like,” “movies liked by people who like movies I like,” “languages my friends speak,” “strategy games played by friends of my friends,” “movies liked by people who are film directors,” “books read by CEOs”

There’s an intro to the new service here.

Graph Search will be starting a beta test today for some English-language users in the U.S.