Facebook on Tuesday launched a search engine for shared content described as a way to find things liked by friends on the huge social network.
"We look at Facebook as a big social database," chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in announcing the so-called "graph search" function. "Just like any database, you should be able to query it."
The search engine aims to help members better navigate the vast amount of information on Facebook, which is not available on Web search engines such as Google.
Facebook emphasized that the new effort is not Web search, but can help find certain information archived within the network and in the content of friends.
The social network offered examples of search queries including "friends who live in my city," "people from my hometown who like hiking," "friends of friends who have been to Yosemite National Park," "software engineers who live in San Francisco and like skiing," "people who like things I like," "people who like tennis and live nearby."
"Every piece of content on Facebook has its own audience, and most content isn't public," a Facebook statement said.
"We've built Graph Search from the start with privacy in mind, and it respects the privacy and audience of each piece of content on Facebook. It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook."
Zuckerberg said the tool is aimed at "giving the people the power and tools to take any cut of the graph (of data) they want and make any query they want."
He added that "We are not indexing the Web here, we are indexing our map of the graph."
The company said the new function goes back to its original goals of helping people make connections.
"When Facebook first launched, the main way most people used the site was to browse around, learn about people and make new connections," the statement said.
"Graph Search takes us back to our roots and allows people to use the graph to make new connections."