Speculation has been running rampant over the last few days regarding Facebook's big announcement. Is the company going to announce a phone? Is it going to start charging for messaging? Predictions were all over the place, with many settling on the smartphone bet.
Facebook's press conference on Tuesday came and went with no smartphone announcement, but the social networking giant did reveal a brand new way to search its treasure trove of information with Graph Search.
Mark Zuckerberg tried to dispel any notion that he was promoting a new online search engine to take on Google. Graph Search's purpose is narrower in that it only compiles information through what users share on Facebook. Considering how big Facebook is, though, the new service is likely to intrude into competing companies' specialties.
As an example, Graph Search lets users ask questions like "Which of my friends like 'The Dark Knight?'" and see a list of results. Or perhaps someone wants to search for photos of a particular friend before the year 2000. Want to know what music your friends like? What countries they visited? The answers can all be found through Graph Search.
"We're not indexing the web," said Zuckerberg. "We're indexing our map of the graph - the graph is really big and it's constantly changing."
Going further, say a user wants to find a brand new connection having only met them through another person, or wants to search for "Sushi restaurants in New York City that my friends like." The site will then sift through its database before listing the results in front of you. This kind of service could potentially put Facebook in competition with sites like Yelp and LinkedIn.
Of course, anytime Facebook comes out with a new way to display the information it's sitting on, privacy is a concern. Knowing that, the company tried to alleviate those worries as it explained how Graph Search works.
"We've built Graph Search from the start with privacy in mind, and it respects the privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook. It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook."
Just in case a search does turn up empty results, Facebook announced a partnership with Microsoft's Bing search engine, which will then attempt to fill in the gaps by suggesting Web site links.
Graph Search is only available in limited beta testing right now, but if you want to participate, then go here.