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Facebook unveils Graph Search Beta: Lets users browse their social graph in an instant

We were invited along to Facebook’s London HQ to watch as CEO, Mark Zuckerberg announced the company’s latest product launch, stateside. The 45 minute livestream introduced us to a new forthcoming feature; Graph Search, alongside some of the first public demonstrations of the new service.

Photo from Facebook UK HQ

Mark was accompanied by fellow distinguished senior Facebook developers Tom Stocky and Lars Rasmussen, who took us through the key functionality of Graph Search and the applications users might decide to use it for. The service itself sits up in the top right-hand corner of a reworked Facebook page and whilst retaining the general search functionality of the current Facebook search bar, adds a huge amount of filtering capability divided into four key types of search: People, Photos, Interests and Places.

Graph Search on Facebook

By simply typing into the top of Facebook users can search through the millions of connections they’ll like already have within the realms of their personal network. Search terms can be broad, such as, ‘Photos I like’ or extremely specific like, ‘restaurants in San Francisco, California that my friends of friends like‘. Users can then extend their search results or simply tweak the search entry to modify the results and if Graph Search doesn’t turn up what the user might be after, Facebook’s long-standing partnership with Microsoft’s Bing, means that queries will then extend to general web searches for a broader results outside of the social network. The demonstrations extended to using Graph Search as a recruiting tool and even a dating tool. 

Naturally once questions were allowed, the new way in which users will quickly be able to filter people by select facts from their profiles brought out concerns in privacy. Zuckerberg assured us all that as with any element of a user’s Facebook profile, the privacy settings can be tuned and tweaked to define what will and won’t show up in search results. What’s more we were told that 10% of Facebook’s entire server setup is dedicated to performing privacy checks on the various content accessible to its 1 billion+ users throughout the the social network.

With regards to the technology on arriving every user’s Facebook profile. There’s no official launch date yet. With the trillions of connections established throughout the broader social network, ‘mapping the social graph’ as the company called it will take time. Of course our minds then progressed to if and when Graph Search will hit mobile devices. For now, we know it’s on the cards, but it’s even further along the timeline than the service coming to browsers, which as we just said, still had no concrete launch date.

We can see Graph Search completely reshaping the way users interface with the mobile Facebook apps. Spotlight search integration on iOS, Bing integration on Windows Phone and Google Now integration on Android devices (provided Google and Facebook can agree on privacy controls), but for now, that’s all speculation. We’ll come back to Graph Search once we’ve had a chance to really take it for a spin.

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