Almost six months after CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook’s new search function in beta mode, the company said Monday that it will be providing its Graph Search feature for all English-speaking users in the next few weeks.
Facebook has billed Graph Search as an easy way to find people, photos and information about places, businesses and entertainment on the social network. It’s different from searching the web, and some early critics have noted that it’s limited by its reliance on users’ willingness to share information about themselves and their likes.
The new tool will help you find things your friends like, for example, or cool photos from different places or even times. But as I wrote in February:
It isn’t built to search the entire Internet, and it won’t answer all of your questions. But it lets you explore more aspects of your own social circles, as well as some unexpected corners of the online world, as I discovered while trying it over several days.
And yes, the search function does make it easier for people to find information you may have thought was private. As I also noted in that article:
Facebook says it won’t show information to complete strangers unless you’ve already marked it “public” for sharing. But some people might be surprised to know their “likes” are so easily discovered. That makes it all the more important for Facebook users to check their settings and review their past activity on the network.
Since its beta release, Facebook says it has worked to add more functions and improvements to the Graph Search interface and the way it works under the hood. The search box is now white, which makes it easier to find. And its algorithms now recognize more search terms and process requests more quickly.
Matt McGee at the blog Search Engine Land has a more detailed rundown on the changes, if you’re interested. Meanwhile, some analysts have been describing the feature as a challenge to Facebook’s bigger rival, Google.
Graph Search could help Facebook sell more targeted advertising, the thinking goes. And perhaps more importantly, it could keep Facebook users from straying outside the network or using other services, such as Google’s, when they have a question.
But for many people, using Google is almost an instinctive habit. Rebecca Lieb, a digital analyst with Altimeter Group, raised this question in her tweet: