Facebook today launched a very limited beta of Graph Search, a new service which lets you make natural language queries across posts and photos made by friends on the service. If you want to find a good Chinese restaurant in Sydney, you can type "Chinese restaurants my friends have visited in Sydney" and Facebook will show relevant results. It's an interesting idea, but the rollout plan means it will be a long while before it has much relevance to Australians.
The big selling point for Graph Search is that it uses your existing connections to highlight material that's actually important to people you know, rather than offering more generalised search results. That doesn't mean it can search everything you've ever done on Facebook — yet. Right now, it only searches through people, places, photos and interests. For a much more detailed overview, check out Gizmodo's discussion of the new service.
The usefulness of Graph Search will very much depend on how heavily you use Facebook. If your group of friends is relatively limited and those people don't check in to locations or share photographs, then there won't be much to find. (This is the same challenge that Google+ has faced; Google can force everyone with a Google account to be signed up for Google+, but that doesn't mean you actually have to use it). And remember — encouraging people to use the service ultimately makes it easier for Facebook to sell ads.
You can sign up for a waitlist to test out Graph Search on Facebook; no time frame has been set for when the feature will officially launch. "The roll out is going to be slow so we can see how people use Graph Search and make improvements," the launch site says.
Right now, there's a practical limitation on whether the option will work for many Australians as well. Only users with their language set to 'English (US)' can use Graph Search. Many Australians (myself included) choose the English (UK) option instead to avoid American spelling. If you've done that, while you can sign up for the waitlist, you seem unlikely to be picked.
Like the sound of Graph Search? Reluctant to hand over any more of your social life to Facebook? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.