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Facebook has announced a major addition to its social network - a smart search engine it has called 'Graph Search.'
Facebook has dramatically overhauled its search service to allow people to search for information and pictures posted by their friends - as well as public posts from everyone else on Facebook.
The new Graph Search service allows users to search photos, people, and connections, and find places their friends have recommended.
The feature allows users to make "natural" searches of content shared by their friends. For example, search terms could include phrases such as "friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter".
Announcing the new feature from the company's California campus, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the technology would become an extra pillar of Facebook, allowing people instant access to information shared by its billion users.
Graph Search only displays material people have shared on Facebook, making it different from Google's web search. However, many of the queries the feature is designed for, such as "restaurants near me" and "photos of London", are searches that people tend to turn to Google for.
"If you do a web search, it'll show you lots of links that may have answers to the question you might be trying to ask. Graph search is very different, it is designed to take a precise query and return the answer, not different links where you might get the answer," Zuckerberg said.
Perhaps mindful of privacy concerns highlighted by recent misfires on policies for its other services such as Instagram, Facebook stressed that it had put limits on the search system.
"On graph search, you can only see content that people have shared with you," developer Lars Rasmussen, who was previously the co-founder of Google Maps, told reporters.
Graph Search will be rolled out slowly, Zuckerberg said, with the technology still in its early stages. It will first be available to certain US users, and only on personal computers at a time when rising numbers of Facebook's members are accessing the service via mobile phones.
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