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Facebook introduces social search feature

Facebook Inc. unveiled a tool for searching information posted to its social network of more than 1 billion users, creating an alternative to services now available on Google Inc., LinkedIn Corp. and Yelp Inc.

Graph Search lets users discover people, photos, places and interests, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Tuesday at the company's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters. The company also showed how the service can be used by recruiters to find potential hires and by members for seeking dates.

When rolled out fully, it's thought that the tool would give many Internet users an incentive to spend less time on Google, Yelp's reviews and LinkedIn's professional site.

While Zuckerberg said the new feature could be a "business" in the future, he didn't outline how it will make money soon, weighing on Facebook shares, which closed at $30.10, down 2.74 percent Tuesday.

"Which is more valuable? Finding a sushi restaurant in New York City or finding one that my friends like," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "This continues to pit Facebook against Google."

Shares of Yelp, a restaurant and business-review website, fell 6.19 percent to $20.61 amid speculation that Facebook's search capabilities might pose a threat.

"Graph Search is designed to take a precise query and return to you the answer, not links to other places," Zuckerberg said at the event.

Unlike Web search, which relies on keywords, Graph Search lets users combine phrases, such as "My friends in New York who like Jay-Z" to find out information that's been shared on the social network. It will initially focus on four main areas: people, photos, places and interests, Facebook said.

The service is being rolled out in test mode to a limited number of users, and it's designed to protect user privacy, Facebook said.

Facebook also said it has a partnership with Microsoft Corp.'s Bing search, which will deliver additional results from the Web when Graph Search doesn't deliver clear answers to queries.

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