Facebook Challenges Google With New Search Feature


Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) officially launched its new Graph Search feature for U.S. users today, in the process highlighting just how it differs from other Web search engines like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG).

In the next few weeks everyone who uses Facebook with the “U.S. English” setting will have the new feature. After more than six months of testing, several hundred million users will see it appear as part of their Facebook search bar this week. The company said on its blog that Graph Search was highly personalized: ”With Graph Search, you can look up anything shared with you on Facebook, and others can find stuff you’ve shared with them, including content set to public. That means different people see different results.”

Facebook said it believes Graph Search, like News Feed and Timeline, would become another pillar  of the social networking site. Keith Peiris, Facebook’s product manager, said Graph Search handled “The types of questions that are the slightly nuanced and social questions you wouldn’t typically ask of a search engine, that you wouldn’t think the Internet could solve. There’s a lot to be said for taste like what movie should I go and see? What bands might I like based on the friends that I have?”

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg added that Graph Search would feature simple searches in its infancy such as searching for people, photos, places, and pages for businesses.”It’s interesting because most people don’t think about Facebook as the place to discover places where they could go eat or things they could go do, but with this product it’s just so natural to be able to do that,” Zuckerberg said. ”We just view this as a project we are going to be working on for years and years to come but as it gets more completed, it’s just going to be this amazing resource for a lot of people around the world to use.”

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Facebook’s goal was not to replace Google Search: “Graph Search isn’t Web search. We aren’t duplicating what Bing does and what Google does, but rather we are making things easier for people to find on Facebook.”

Graph Search could prove to be an important tool for Facebook as it prepares to sell demand-fulfillment ads. However, the company has taken a conservative approach to monetization and has yet to announce Graph Search’s mobile rollout; the feature is currently only available on the full website. Facebook does not currently show users ads based on what they are searching for, but analysts suggest the company may do in the future.

According to research firm eMarketer, it’s a lucrative avenue for business. The firm estimates that Google will take nearly 42 percent of all U.S. digital ad spending this year, well above Facebook’s share of less than 7 percent. Facebook’s Graph Search could divert traffic and ad spending from its rival, but this will depend on whether Facebook users embrace the tool. Nonetheless, Graph Search is just another facet of Facebook’s goal to better organize the data generated from its 1.11 billion users.

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