Facebook Announces Major New Search Features for Unearthing Photos


Facebook summoned a group of tech journalists to its Menlo Park headquarters this morning to unveil the latest products its legions of programmers have been hard at work building. The major announcement was a new search engine called “Graph Search,” which will allow users to run extremely powerful search queries on the social networks database of 1 billion members, 1 trillion social connections, and 240 billion photos.


The service’s unique dataset will allow for customizable queries that would be difficult (or impossible) for competing photo sharing services to offer.

Basic photo search queries might be based around location. Tell the service to find “Photos of my friends taken in San Francisco, California,” and that exact set of photos will pop up. A query that is a little more general — but still location-based — would be something like “Photos of my friends taken in national parks.”


Resulting photos will be ranked based on quality, which is calculated using likes, comments, and other analytics (possibly views?).

You’ll be able to run a query based on date. Search for “Photos of my friends before 1990,” and you’ll be taken back in time to when all your loved ones are at least 20 years younger.

Google Image search can already do photo searches based on keywords, but Facebook’s is a bit different in that it will only search through images that have been shared with you by your connections.

Here’s a video introducing Facebook’s new Graph Search:

Facebook is finally leveraging its massive social network to deliver a photo experience that other services can’t really match, but we’ll likely soon be seeing similar features propagating all across the photo sharing world.

(via Wired and The Verge)

Image credit: Photograph by Ariel Zambelich/Wired

  • Brian

    It’s nice that FB is starting to think about giving the users the ability to mine their own information through search (and opening up potential revenue streams in the process) Isn’t Facebook lacking in metadata for specific areas concerning photos though? For instance, if I was trying to search my own stream for photos of my children (none of whom are tagged in any meaningful way) without that metadata how could FB deliver specific results? The same thing for any photos that don’t have any geo-information encoded (which I would imagine are the majority of it’s non-mobile uploaded photos). Maybe they’ll start adding some more sophisticated image tagging features on the front end, but right now I don’t think I’ll be able to find a lot of relevant results through search even in my own stream. Meanwhile, I can pull up properly tagged photos on FLickr (hey, even with geo-information) in an instant. Granted I’ve put hundreds of hours over the years into tagging and catloging my photos (which is not standard user behavior) but still, I can’t see how without the metadata (other than people and geo information) that you’re going to be pulling a lot of relevant non-social results in imagery at this point. I may be missing something.

  • Goofball Jones

    So, we could search for Mark Zuckerberg’s sister posting family gatherings!

  • cheap shots for real

    yeah! and when facebook will stop pretending it’s only for the people who knows each other from like real life? such a stupid “face” book, just get out of my face!

  • Markus WET

    so I guess “nude shots of my hot female friends” will be the search term #1 until fb ceases to exist :D

  • 3ric15

    Yes. I believe Facebook gets rid of the metadata when you upload something, it even renames it. It makes sense though (until now^^) because from the millions of pictures that are uploaded everyday, that would be TB of information that would almost never be used by all of Facebook’s users. Renaming would probably just be for indexing purposes in their database/data centers.

  • Pete

    Not sure if that answers Brians question… He’s asking how FB knows locations or names if that wasn’t in the uploaded photo’s in the first place, you answer by claiming that FB deletes that info upon import.

    Now, I find that hard to believe, given how data-hungry FB is. Every TB of information is worth something to them. Maybe not to other FB users, but FB customers (present or future) is an altogether different story.

  • 3ric15

    “Isn’t Facebook lacking in metadata for specific areas concerning photos though?” That is the question I was responding to.