On Tuesday morning, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook held a press conference to announce they are entering the search game with the unveiling of their newest feature: Graph Search.

Mark Zuckerberg introducing the new Facebook Graph SearchAs with any new feature to Facebook, Graph Search was welcomed with some love and some criticism. The reality is, this has been a long time coming and it will probably prove to be a pretty important change to the social network. There is an ocean of information within Facebook and until now the search functionality has been less than ideal. I, for one, am excited to see what this will become.

So, what is Graph Search?

Let’s break it down. First of all, Graph Search is still in beta. This means a select crowd (invite only right now, get your invite here) will be able to test the functionality and provide feedback. It also means Facebook is still building and improving the search system before they roll it out to the general public. Graph Search will show up as a bigger search bar at the top of each page when you are within Facebook and will be used as a search engine for Facebook users to find specific content inside Facebook.

What will Graph Search do for us? Or, “Why should we care?”

With Graph Search, Facebook users will be able to:

  • Ask specific questions: ‘Which of my friends live in Chicago?’ or ‘Which of my friends have been to Oktoberfest in Munich?’
  • Search based on interests or places: ‘Which of my friends like Homeland?’ or ‘Restaurants my friends like in New York City’ or ‘Games my friends play’
  • Search based on photos or your own past actions: ‘Photos I like’ or ‘Photos of my family’
  • Search based on products or services (the things your friends ‘like’): which in turn could be useful for brands and marketers

An interesting feature to note about the listings you will receive when searching, is your Facebook friends will be ranked based on your interactions. The more you ‘like’ and comment on a friends photos and status updates, the more likely they will be at the top of the listings. Similar to the News Feed now. I do think Facebook will try different ways in the coming months to gather more specific information from users to feed Graph Search as it grows, but we can expect them to remain mindful of privacy settings. You will essentially only be able to find things that you already could find if you looked around for it. It will just be a lot easier.

So, the big question is… what does this mean for Google?

My opinion is: nothing really.

The main difference between the two right now is that Google (and other search engines) search based on keywords and serve you the best possible results from throughout the web based on those keywords and the authority of those pages. Facebook’s Graph Search will take a phrase or combined phrases and serve results based on people, places and photos shared only on Facebook (most of which is not public, but within your personal connections).

The similarity between the two is the personalization behind the search result. People are more likely to click on a result that is already endorsed by a trusted friend. Google has already brought this idea to life with Google+, serving content our personal Google network has given a +1. Facebook’s goal is to do everything it can to keep users inside Facebook, but if a user’s search does not return any results within Facebook content, the Bing web search integration will still be available to provide results from the web outside of Facebook’s walled garden.

For more information on Facebook’s Graph Search – check out Facebook’s Press Release