If you've been a Facebook member for several years -- or if you simply have a lot of friends -- chances are, many of your memories, photos, comments and likes have been buried and forgotten. Until now.
On Monday, Facebook announced its new tool, Graph Search, would be available to several hundred million users in the U.S. -- and soon to other locations around the world -- in effort to make it easier to recover and revisit all that lost activity and create deeper connections with those you already know.
Graph Search allows the user to search for anything and everything from a friend's name to a nearby restaurant to a list of people who attended your high school. Facebook says the tool isn't designed to replace Google, but rather, to easily navigate all that Facebook has allowed you to learn and acquire over the years.
Remember that photo from your Boundary Waters trip in '08? Remember that photo from your husband's Boundary Waters trip in '08 from before you were married? Now, you can find it with one simple search engine at the top of the page.
You can also type in simple phrases to explore your connections. For example, type in " friends who have gone to the University of Minnesota" to see a list of your college buddies, or "music my friends like" to explore what your Facebook friends have 'liked' on their own pages. Facebook is only in the beginning stages of this search engine, and the possibilities are numerous as it looks to incorporate activity from third-party applications like Instagram and Yelp.
Of course, privacy concerns constantly loom as users become increasingly savvy. They notice when the side bar advertisements correspond to websites they've visited. They notice when more ads appear in their newsfeed. Facebook says Graph Search only shows information based on a user's privacy settings, but you've perhaps forgotten about a lot of your previous Facebook activity, and there may be a few items you'd just assume remain buried. For now, if you haven't told Facebook you're an Atheist and you like McDonald's, you're not going to appear under a search of "Atheists who like McDonald's."
Facebook hopes users will ultimately spend more time on the service and share more information about themselves – a potentially huge benefit for the business. The more a user shares, the more Facebook can tailor and target its advertisements. Marketers know that you trust your friends, and Graph Search presents yet another vehicle for companies that pop up in searches to spend more ad dollars in that arena.