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Facebook Graph Search to make social data more accessible

Facebook has announced its entry into the search market, launching Graph Search to boost its users' ability to find what they're looking for through the service.

Designed, in Facebook's words, to "find more of what you're looking for through your friends and connections," Graph Search allows the user to craft clever search queries which are then fed through Facebook's database - exposing the likes and dislikes of your friends and your friends' friends.

An example provided by Facebook is a search for "trail running," a generic term that existing search engines such as Google can easily handle, being turned into a search for "my friends who like trail running" - providing a list of those Facebook acquaintances who enjoy the pastime, as well as links to videos, photos and wall posts documenting the subject. The same goes for almost any search: examples of such social search terms include "cities my family has visited," "people who like cycling and are from my hometown," and "restaurants in London my friends have been to."

The system also allows for searching based on location or time: "photos before 1990" will bring up images shared by your Facebook contacts only from that era, while "photos of my friends in New York" places a geographic constraint on the results. Other media can also be searched: the example "music my friends like" provides access to another of Facebook's impressively comprehensive databases.

Facebook claims to have taken privacy seriously when developing Graph Search: people will only appear in the results if their interests and profile information are publicly available, while geographic searching only works for users whose city is set to public or has been shared. Photos appear if you or your friends have been tagged in them, and include anything accessible via your Facebook account - even images hidden from the Facebook Timeline.

The company is making Graph Search available in a limited beta initially, with promises to roll the service out to all users in the near future.

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