Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, laid out a new vision of search based on his company’s private database of social information, rather than the collection of links on the open web that underpins Google’s service.
Before today, Facebook’s search features have been minimal. Users searched mainly for people, but the execution was considered poor.
Marketers are likely to find the new features appealing. Google has proved the effectiveness and demand for search-based advertising. Combining that with the social network data of Facebook could prove powerful for advertisers, analysts said.
“There are so many people on Facebook, you can get a really good signal really quickly,” Mr Zuckerberg said.
A 2012 global consumer survey by Greenlight, a digital marketing agency, concluded that Facebook could potentially capture close to a quarter of the search market if it were to launch its own search engine.
Mr Zuckerberg was careful to emphasise that the new search product was at its very earliest stages, and would be available to a very limited number of users at first.
He said he did not anticipate that users would use the new function for web searches, but if they wanted to, they could use Bing, the search engine developed by Microsoft.
The new feature gives Facebook users the ability to conduct targeted searches for people, photos, places and interests within Facebook’s “social graph”, its database of social connections and affinities.
“We’re giving people the power and the tools to take any cut of the graph that they want and make any query they want,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive.
He demonstrated the new search box from his own Facebook page, showing how he could search for his friends who like fencing, restaurants his friends like, or photos of Priscilla Chan, his wife.
Investors had mixed reactions to the announcement. Facebook’s stock dipped at the first word of the news, then rallied back above its opening price to $31.10, then fell again to a daily low of $29.91.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013
(c) 2013 The Financial Times Limited