Facebook took another step toward becoming its own web universe when it launched a search engine for shared content. This move challenges the future relevance of search engines like Google, as well as review sites such as Yelp and Foursquare.

The aim of “graph search” is to assist the Facebook community in finding information more easily about what other Facebook users have shared on the network. It uses the indexed information generated within the Facebook universe to generate search information. It will allow people to find others by their interests, location or career. So if you like water skiing you can find other people that live nearby that also like water skiing, which will in turn allow you to make new connections with other people who share similar interests with you. Alternatively you can search for people nearby who like Chinese food and see what restaurants they have “liked,” and read their comments.

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This graph search engine is designed to give Facebook users the ability to sort information by topics and interests with the added advantage of keeping its users within the Facebook community instead of sending them to search engines or review sites for the information they seek. "Graph Search is designed to take a precise query and return to you the answer, not link to other places where you might get the answer," Mark Zuckerberg explained, highlighting some of the issues of a typical Web search.

Graph Search (beta) version rolls out Tuesday on a limited basis to users. This version will be able to handle queries based on people, photos, places and interests.

It is anticipated that results will be displayed based on importance, so a restaurant with more likes could possibly show up toward the top of the list that is generated by the search. Check-ins could also have an impact on where a place is positioned on the list, emphasizing the importance and need for businesses to be actively involved on Facebook and ensuring that their Page is relevant, engaging and up-to-date.

Facebook also partners with Microsoft's Bing social search engine to fill in some of the gaps where Graph Search cannot supply the information. Facebook does stress that Graph Search is not a web search, but this can be seen as the first step in that direction, because when the product is fully operational it will give many Facebook users an incentive to stay within the Facebook community instead of spending time on other social media and search sites.