Facebook is testing a tool that will allow users to search for posts using keywords. Bloomberg reports that some Facebook users on the mobile app have been given the option to search for old posts from their Facebook friends.
In a statement emailed to Bloomberg, Facebook called the experiment an “improvement to search on mobile.” There’s no indication whether the keyword search will roll out to all users or if Facebook plans to bring it to the desktop site.
Facebook Search has long been considered an important area for the site, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg commenting in Facebook’s July earnings call that “search for Facebook is going to be a multiyear voyage.”
Zuckerberg considers an expanded version of Facebook Search a powerful tool, one that could even rival search engine giant Google. In the site’s Q4 2013 earnings call, Zuckerberg hinted at the value of allowing users to search through Facebook’s vast amount of content, remarking “There are more than a trillion status updates and unstructured text posts and photos and pieces of content that people have shared over the past 10 years, and indexing that was a really big deal, because as the number of people on the team who have worked on web search engines in the past have told me, a trillion pieces of content is more than the index in any web search engine.”
The context, of course, is that although Facebook is already years into its search voyage Google is still the king of search and has a head start of more than a decade. There is a huge gap between Zuckerberg’s ambition for search and the reality on Facebook today: Most searches on Facebook’s Graph Search tool are somewhat disappointing.
The rollout of a proper search system on Facebook may also see opposition from privacy campaigners. A $16 million class-action lawsuit filed in a European court is seeking damages from Facebook for, amongst other allegations, the “unlawful” introduction of Graph Search. The limited Graph Search function was released in March 2013, and allowed users to perform basic searches to see, for example, which of their friends work at certain companies, or like specific pages.