Facebook search is… well, kind of a joke. It can tell you which 400 people in your area have similar names to that one person you want to connect to but aren’t quite them, but it’s not great for finding that post you really, really wanted to dig up from last year with that article you half-remember. Until now.
Facebook happily announced a huge update to their search feature today. They want you to “find out what the world is saying about topics that matter to you.”
People tend to think of Facebook as personal and timely, but not necessarily as useful for those top cultural snapshots or for historical searches. The idea here is that you can look at an article or issue when it was happening — say, the 2012 election — and get a picture of what Facebook users were saying, searching, and doing at the time it happened. Does the impending 2015 World Series make you nostalgic for what everyone said about 2014’s? Now you can use that ever-present Facebook search tool to get a little time capsule blast from the past and find out, customized just for you.
The tool seems optimized to make Facebook posts relevant and widely sharable by media outlets, from CNN to Reddit, when they are at the heart of an unfolding viral moment. Conceptually, it’s a lot like being able to follow any story or moment as it unfolds on Twitter, like last summer’s protests in Ferguson, MO.
“When you tap into the search box and start typing,” Facebook says, “We’ll now offer timely, personalized search suggestions. As you type, we’ll highlight things that are happening right now so you can follow popular stories as they unfold.”
You will now see the “most recent, relevant public posts along with posts from your friends.” The results are “organized to help you cut through the noise and quickly understand what the world is saying about a topic in the moment.”
However, here is a critical part of what this really means for most users: any public status is now universally searchable worldwide. Instantly. Easily. With roughly zero effort on the part of the searcher except typing something into the Facebook search bar.
If you do not want your status updates (past, present, or future) to be easily searched and viewable by anyone in the world, now would be an excellent time to spend a few minutes with the kindly privacy dinosaur and make sure you’ve got everything set up the way you want it.