Updated from Dec. 8th to provide more context on Graph Search in the seventh paragraph.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. (TheStreet) -- Say goodbye to Facebook (FB) Graph Search and hello to Facebook Search. The social network has overhauled its search experience to remove the natural language barrier, and give its English-speaking members the ability to perform a keyword search on their desktop or iPhone and find buried status updates.
Facebook Search marks a major undertaking by the social network to become a more top-of-mind destination for queries, but the endeavor is of little value to investors as it remains an ad-free zone. This is no Google (GOOG) killer. Still, if successful, the social network could boost engagement metrics and get users to come back on a more regular basis, which could translate into more eyeballs on ads elsewhere on the service. But as it stands, the launch barely moved the needle. Facebook closed up less than a quarter of a percent on Monday at $76.52.
The search release comes nearly two years after the social network's Graph Search flamboyantly first launched, and subsequently flopped, as a way to type natural language phrases -- "my friends who like Boo" or "photos from last year liked by my friends" -- to find people, places, Pages, and photos on the Web.
Monday's revamp, which scraps "Graph" from the name, may go unnoticed by the 1.35 billion people who use the site each month -- and that's a good thing, as it strips out the complexities introduced by Graph Search. Now people can search for content they may actually want to find (old posts), and do so in a familiar manner (keywords).
The new Facebook Search will, as described by search vice president Tom Stocky, "make it easier to find the posts that have been shared with you."
That translates to this: you can finally search the social network for old posts using keywords. The release makes Facebook search more akin to Google search, albeit with results completely insular to the service. Still, now up for the finding are your own updates, friends' posts shared with you, and public content such as news stories from Pages. Results are determined by the original poster's previously set privacy settings and are individualized to each person.
Despite Graph Search's initial failure to catch hold with members, company executives have repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to search. CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted in January, during the company's fourth-quarter earnings call, that search fits into the company's broader five-year plan to help people use their network to solve problems.
Though not entirely intuitive, the search experience is much simpler than before. When searching for content, just make sure to scroll down past the initial list of Pages and people and click the search icon to view expanded results. And, if you really like natural language queries, those still work too.
Here are a few things you can do with the new Facebook search bar on your desktop or phone:
Find any post you've seen before. The keyword query "Jennifer birthday" or "Christmas 2013" will return every post available to you, be it photo, status update, link, or video, that includes those words or dates.
Get specific. If results are too broad, narrow them down to a specific type -- posts, people, photos, pages, places, groups, apps, events -- by selecting the filter option atop the search page.
Search topics. To see what your friends, friends and friends, and media outlets are saying about a subject matter, type a keyword such as "Chargers" or "Black Friday" to scroll through a hodgepodge of links and updates from friends and Pages.
Travel the world (visually). Just as with Graph Search, the new Facebook Search can provide you with a look at places you may want to visit. Query "Hawaii" or "Tibet" to view updates from friends' travels, or set the filter for just photos for a completely visual feed of images mentioning the place in question.
Scour for ideas. Facebook search has a bit of a hidden Pinterest-like flavor to it. Search "cookie recipe" for recipe tips from friends and any of the brands you follow, or query "Christmas gifts" to take some gift-giving inspiration from friends.
Facebook said the new search experience is rolling out over the course of the next few days for use in English on the desktop or iPhone, with an Android version to come at a later date.
--Written by Jennifer Van Grove in San Francisco, Calif.
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