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New Facebook Function Lets Users Search Friend's Pages


Facebook is trying to make it easier for users to do more detailed searches. Today, the company unveiled what it calls graph search. It lets users search within their friend network for things like restaurants, photos and travel tips.

And as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, the new feature is likely to help Facebook sell more personalized ads.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Until now, search on Facebook was limited to looking up someone else's page by typing in their name. But now, say you want to go out for dinner and try somewhere new. You could check on Yelp or, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed off, you can search your friends on Facebook and see what they like.

MARK ZUCKERBERG: You can see right here which friends have been to each of the restaurants and which ones have liked it and also information about the restaurant and a rating.

SYDELL: Zuckerberg says the new search feature will also let you find out which of your friends has visited a certain country or which television shows they like. You can narrow the search to find out who lives near you so you can find out if they might want to come over and, say, watch "Game of Thrones." Zuckerberg demonstrated.

ZUCKERBERG: And this is great. I mean I just clicked on a bunch of them, invited them over, and we had a small Dothraki party.

SYDELL: Many people will certainly find this convenient, though Facebook is also a company that really has one product - its users. The company sells ads based on what it knows about you. If it knows you live in San Francisco and like Mexican food, you're the perfect target for a new Mexican restaurant. Facebook software engineer Tom Stocky says the new service should help the company find out more about its users.

TOM STOCKY: We do think that people will, you know, maybe want to fill out their favorite sports teams and TV shows and stuff because they want to help their friends find cool stuff.

SYDELL: Part of the new search tool is a partnership with Microsoft's Bing search. If you can't find it among your friends, Bing will go out to the wider Web for you. No doubt, Silicon Valley neighbor Google, which is also trying to make search more personal, is watching the new features carefully. Facebook says its graph search will roll out slowly over the coming months.

Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.