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Facebook Unveils Social-Search Tool Posing Challenge to Google

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- 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 Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said at the company’s Menlo Park, California, 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, the tool would 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 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.”

Facebook fell 2.6 percent to $30.15 at 2:54 p.m. in New York. LinkedIn and Monster Worldwide Inc. slipped amid speculation that Facebook’s job-search capabilities might pose a threat to similar features on their own sites. Yelp, a restaurant and business-review website, fell 7.3 percent to $20.36.

“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.

Search Market

If Facebook introduces more robust advertising that’s based on search results, it could grab 5 percent of the U.S. search advertising market, which reached about $15 billion in 2012, within a year, Karsten Weide, an analyst at IDC, said earlier this month.

The new search feature is also aimed at promoting the discovery of new friends on the network, Zuckerberg 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.

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.

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.

“This is just some really neat stuff, this is one of the coolest things we’ve done in a while,” Zuckerberg said. “Graph Search is a completely new way for people to get information on Facebook.”

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don 3:07pm January 15, 2013

once it launches how quickly will widgets be available to put on our website to drive more traffic?