Facebook’s new search will scour all public posts

facebooks new search will scour all public posts facebook 3
Facebook represents an incomprehensibly vast collection of social interactions, but sometimes getting a sense of the collective pulse about topics — how people are responding to the legalization of gay marriage, or reactions to the latest presidential debate  — doesn’t feel as straightforward as it should.

In 2013, the social network giant launched Graph Search, a semantic tool aimed at making searches a bit better, but it wasn’t quite exhaustive — Graph Search didn’t search public posts that hadn’t been shared with you, for example. But now, Facebook’s rolling out an entirely reimagined search that’s based less around the people you know and more around what people are saying.

On Thursday, Facebook announced that search queries will no longer be bound by your insular network — i.e., the people you know and the content that’s been shared with you. Instead, Facebook will index, in real time, the more than two trillion public posts and counting that span its massive network.

The ambitious aim, product manager for Facebook’s search team Roussea Kazi said, is to transform Facebook search into a veritable parser of global conversation. “Because we’ve indexed the entire world’s conversations, we tell you things that are trending, things that are breaking, what’s happening right now” he told The Verge. The new search sifts through Facebook interactions as they unfold, taking a curatorial approach: search for a broad term such as “2016 election,” for example, and you’ll get a list of sources arranged essentially by which is the most authoritative.

Posts by news organizations will more often than not float to the top, followed by friends, topical issues, and geographically proximate communities — you’re more likely to see posts from people you know and users in your country than strangers from across the pond.

Search results are also personalized; the new Facebook search, like Google search, tailors results to your habits and interests. Unlike Google, though, Facebook does this with far greater precision, leveraging its veritable trove of data to inform the way its search function surfaces and organizes content.

“We have to balance two things: how are the authors relevant to you and how is what they’re posting relevant to what you’re searching for,” vice president of Facebook search told The Verge. Every action you’ve taken on Facebook — every post you’ve liked, friend you’ve accepted (or rejected), and photo you’ve posted — will form the basis of the results.

facebook_search_2

The granularity of Facebook’s new search function is impressive. You can drill down by date; a search for “2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami” yields chronologically appropriate posts and news stories, while changing the year to “2015” filters accordingly. And historical posts remain fully intact — you can even view comments. “The whole idea here is that if you can group these pieces of content in certain ways, it makes it pretty easy to get the full story,” Kazi told The Verge. “We’re making it super easy for you to get everyone’s [current or historical] perspective on one place about a topic that you care about.”

The new search is radically different from its previous incarnation. Graph Search relied essentially on a tagging system, prioritizing your social connections to help find specific categories of content such as photos of your friends, music your friends like, or restaurants nearby. Facebook’s new search, by contrast, is almost akin to Twitter’s recently introduced Moments feature. Boiled down, it’s an attempt to mold a firehose of social data into something cohesive, coherent and, all told, useful.

The new Facebook search, however, has privacy implications that Twitter Moments doesn’t. Though Facebook is adamant that people who opt to keep their content private won’t appear in search results, it’s unclear just how many users know how to adjust, or are even aware of, the settings to do so. In 2012, Consumer Reports found that 13 million Facebook users in the US alone weren’t familiar with the social network’s privacy options. Facebook has improved the visibility of its privacy toggles since then, but the scary fact remains: regrettable comments made five years ago are now all the easier to find.

But privacy, some may argue, may be an inevitable casualty of convenience. After all, Facebook’s only tapping into what many of its users want — according to the American Press Institute, 88 percent of millennials get news and information from Facebook and many (57 percent) check for updates more than once a day. Any tool to enable the surfacing of just the kind of topical posts they’re looking for makes sense, and that’s something Facebook’s retooled search absolutely accomplishes.

The new Facebook search is rolling out to users in English-speaking territories first. It’s launching on iOS, Android, and desktop over the next few days.

Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.
Computing

Chrome is a fantastic browser, but is is still the best among new competitors?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Gaming

How you can share your best gaming moments with friends on the PS4

Check out Digital Trends' quick guide to everything you need to know to save your outstanding PlayStation 4 gameplay moments, share them online, and transfer them to your computer.
Mobile

How to perform a reverse image search in Android or iOS

You can quickly use Google to search, and reverse search, images on a PC or laptop, but did you know it's almost as easy to do in Android and iOS? We explain how to do it here, whether you want to use Chrome or a third-party app.
Mobile

With Galaxy S10e, Samsung unapologetically rips a page out of Apple’s playbook

Samsung's Galaxy S10e -- a new entry in the Galaxy S-series -- has a few things in common with Apple's lower-cost iPhone XR. From the price tag to the color, we take a look atthe similarities.
Product Review

If price is top of mind, Samsung’s Galaxy S10e is the flagship phone to buy

Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus are joined with a new entry into the Galaxy S family -- the Galaxy S10e. It costs a little more than the original price of the Galaxy S9, but it’s meant to be the more affordable phone compared to the…
Product Review

Samsung's Galaxy S10 phones are its most refined yet. Be prepared to pay up

Samsung has unveiled its lineup for its most popular smartphones, and it includes the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus. The two flagship phones boast hole-punch cameras, fingerprint sensors embedded in the display, and beefier batteries.
Mobile

Samsung goes big with the next-gen Galaxy S10 5G smartphone

Samsung has announced a whopping four new Galaxy S10 devices, from the low-cost S10e to the triple-camera S10 and S10 Plus. But it's the Galaxy S10 5G that steals the show as it's among the first 5G-ready smartphones to hit the market.
Mobile

Folding smartphones hinge on the success of the Samsung Galaxy Fold

The Samsung Galaxy Fold has arrived, and it goes on sale soon. Folding out from a 4.6-inch display to a tablet-sized 7.3-inch display, this unique device has six cameras, two batteries, and special software to help you use multiple apps.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. S10 Plus vs. S10e vs. S10 5G: Which should you buy?

With four stunning Galaxy S10 phones to choose from, Samsung is bombarding us with choice, but which one should you buy? We compare the S10, S10 Plus, S10e, and S10 5G in various categories to find out exactly how they differ.
Wearables

Samsung's new Galaxy Watch Active can track your blood pressure

Looking for a new fitness buddy? Samsung just launched the Galaxy Watch Active and the Galaxy Fit, two new wearables with a raft of fitness-focused features that'll keep you moving and get you down the gym.
Mobile

Here’s where you can buy the brand-new Samsung Galaxy S10

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is one of the most-anticipated phones of the year, offering a new chipset, beautiful display, and more. Now that the phone has been announced, however, you might be wondering where you can get it for yourself.
Mobile

Adobe Premiere Rush CC is coming to the Samsung Galaxy S10 this year

The Samsung Galaxy S10 boasts a number of hardware improvements over previous Samsung phones, but it also offers a few software improvements too. Adobe Premiere Rush CC, for example, is coming to the Samsung Galaxy S10 later this year.
Mobile

From folding phones to 5G -- here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked

Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked event treated us to a real parade of technological excellence, from folding phones to new fitness wearables. Here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked on February 20.