SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is rolling out new, more powerful search capabilities that can tap into what the Internet is talking about at any given moment.
The giant social network said Thursday that it’s expanding search to include all public posts.
“We’re updating Facebook Search so that in addition to friends and family, you can find out what the world is saying about topics that matter to you,” said Tom Stocky, Facebook’s vice president of search.
Search has long been a work in progress for Facebook. About a year ago, Facebook made it possible to search for what friends are saying about popular topics, say Star Wars: The Force Awakens or the World Series-bound New York Mets.
The latest updates could be significant in the multi-year march toward more powerful search on Facebook, which already commands much of the time people spend on the Internet. Facebook users conduct more than 1.5 billion searches a day and Facebook has indexed more than 2 trillion posts.
The move is also a direct challenge to Google, which is the world’s most popular search engine, and to Twitter, which for years has carved out a niche as the world’s town square for live events. Twitter launched Moments earlier this month in an effort to capture just these kinds of real-time conversations.
Facebook says it will now offer better suggestions when users search. When users start typing in the search box, Facebook will offer “timely, personalized” suggestions, highlighting what’s happening in that moment so users can track popular stories as they unfold. That’s the secret sauce for Facebook, which is delivering results based on everything it knows about you, from the friends you keep, the status updates you like, basically everything you have ever done on Facebook.
Also, when users search on Facebook, they will now see the most recent and relevant public posts on a topic along with posts from friends. And when a link is shared widely on Facebook, users can tap to find public posts about that link and see quotes and phrases mentioned in these posts to get a sense for how people are reacting.
The search updates are rolling out Thursday in the U.S. on iPhone, Android and desktop.
Facebook has said it’s committed to a long-term effort to make search a better experience because it can deliver personalized information users can’t get from other search engines or social networks.
“There’s just so much content that’s unique to the Facebook ecosystem,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last year. “We can answer questions for you that really no other service can.”
Facebook’s search updates are a good reminder to users to be conscious of how much and how widely they are sharing on Facebook and to adjust privacy settings to their comfort level now that anything they say publicly on Facebook can potentially be indexed and searched.
“Your search results are personalized and unique to you and, as always, you can only see things that have been shared with you,” Facebook’s Stocky said in a blog post. “Likewise, you control who can see your posts on Facebook and it’s easy to change the audience of your past posts any time.”
Follow USA TODAY senior technology writer Jessica Guynn @jguynn
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