Facebook Graph Search: What it means for Google, Microsoft and business users

What it means for businessGraph Search's potential as a staff recruitment tool was demonstrated by Facebook's Tom Stocky, who said people could use it to search through their friends' networks for people who may have worked in particular industries or at certain firms.

Users could then approach their friends for more information about said person's character and suitability for a potential role, he said. You can only see content on Graph Search that was already on Facebook before.Whether or not people will use Graph Search in this way is anyone's guess. Many Facebook users tend to keep details about their work life off the site or use online resources such as LinkedIn to trumpet their professional achievements.

Where it might come in more useful for businesses is in building brand awareness, as corporations with a Facebook page stand a better chance of appearing within people's Graph Searches if they provide somewhere for people to check-in at and Like.

Graph Search could also provide businesses with an easy way of gauging the popularity of the services they offer and find out more about the wider interests of people who like their brand.

This was demonstrated last night when a search asking what music people who support Mitt Romney like was compared to a similar one investigating the musical tastes of Barack Obama fans.

Information like this could be used to hone products or market them differently, but the success and accuracy of this depends on how many Facebook users are willing to share this kind of information, and how many friends they have.

As Lars Rasmussen, director of product development at Facebook, pointed out last night. "You can only see the content [in Graph Search] you could already see on Facebook before."

Therefore, any photos, posts or interests uses have set to private will not be included in Graph Search's results.

Zuckerberg explained that Facebook has gone to great lengths to make it easier for users to hide information they don't want shared by introducing features, for example, that let people untag multiple items at once rather.

Ahead of the service being rolled out to users, the site will also feature a prompt on its homepage urging members to review the information they share so they can sweep anything incriminating under a virtual carpet.

This is all part of the firm's ultimate aim to roll out a search service that was "privacy aware," explained Zuckerberg.

"Each piece of content has a different person who can see it [and] most of the things people share with you aren't public, so you want a search tool that lets you get access to things people have just shared with you," he added.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.