MENLO PARK— Putting hardware rumors to rest, Facebook didn’t announce a branded phone Tuesday. And it didn’t even launch a dedicated mobile initiative that would have remedied the company’s ability to make money on smartphones and tablets. But Facebook did go straight after Google’s bread and butter: You can finally search through the massive piles of information, photos, music, “likes,” and other data on the social networking giant’s servers.
The new feature is called Graph Search, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dubbed it the “third pillar” of Facebook behind the site’s News Feed and Timeline features. Within the next few weeks, a few hundred thousand users in the U.S. will get a chance to use the new search functions. You can sign up for the Graph Search beta program at the bottom of this page.
“We’re giving people the power and the tools they need to search through the content on the site,” Zuckerberg said.
For example, users can now search for all their friends in their hometown that use the site, a relatively simple task that couldn’t be done before on Facebook. The site now hosts content from nearly a billion people, including 240 billion photos.
Zuckerberg stressed that Graph Search is not the same thing as Web search, which is, of course, rival Google’s main business. One difference is that Graph Search does not use keywords. It’s a structured search, where users can type in phrases such as “friends of friends who like Star Wars,” or “Friends of Pete who went to Stanford,” or “restaurants in New York my friends liked.”