Facebook isn't giving up on search

CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls the company's indexing efforts a years-long process

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the company's headquarters on January 15, 2013

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the company's headquarters on January 15, 2013

Facebook reported Wednesday that it now handles an average of more than 1 billion searches a day, but it still has work to do to provide a comprehensive search tool.

Early last year, Facebook unveiled an ambitious search project called Graph Search. The feature was conceived to index the people on Facebook, their posts and the connections between them, to provide a personalized search tool based around people's social networks. It would allow for searches on a variety of topics pertaining to places, people, interests and other topics.

When it was announced at Facebook's headquarters in California, CEO Mark Zuckerberg described it as a way to make Facebook more useful by providing more answers to questions and helping to encourage new connections among members.

It's not quite there yet. On Wednesday, Zuckerberg said Facebook is still a ways off from indexing the range of content on its site. And it's probably even further from making it easily searchable.

"Search for Facebook is going to be a multi-year voyage," Zuckerberg said during a conference call with financial analysts, coming off Facebook's second-quarter earnings announcement. "There's just so much content that's unique to the Facebook ecosystem," he said.

With Graph Search, Facebook started with indexing people. But the company's now working more on indexing the trillion-plus connections among them, as well as their posts, Zuckerberg said.

Ultimately, with this indexing, Facebook wants to give people answers to questions they can't get anywhere else, Zuckerberg said. As an example, the CEO said that the other day he was curious which of his friend's friends worked at a certain company.

Graph Search currently is only available on the desktop version of Facebook. It will let you ask questions such as "Restaurants in Denver, Colorado, my friends like," or "Friends who like to ski." The results, of course, will depend on what information your connections have shared.

Facebook has big competitors in search, the obvious one being Google. Google does not break out its daily searches, but it does handle more than 100 billion a month, according to the company. Graph Search's promised functions would also compete with services offered by Yelp, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and even upstarts like Jelly.

But with well over 1 billion active users, Facebook has a lot of data to use for a search tool.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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