On January 15, 2013 Facebook (FB) issued a press release about a new feature called "Graph Search". Graph Search allows you to search for your friends and their interests at the same time. For example, you can search "friends who live in my city"; the result will be an accurate listing of your Facebook friends who live in the same city as you. The idea behind Graph Search is to allow people to make new connections on Facebook based on similar information (content given to Facebook by a user). You can also discover which of your friends have common interests, giving light to social trends as they happen.
The nature of Facebook's search function is fundamentally different than what is offered by firms such as Google (GOOG) or Bing (MSFT); it will only provide information that is deemed "relevant" by whether you and your friends have chosen to give Facebook data regarding it. It is because of this difference that Facebook will not take market share away from the search giants.
What Facebook is doing is changing the very nature of searching itself, allowing people to see what their friends have "searched" for. In this instance, "searching" on Facebook Implies finding something and actively "liking" it. With the new Graph Search, you can quantitatively assess how many of your friends have expressed interest in anything by their offering of that information on the social network. While this ties in nicely with Facebook's stated connect-everyone agenda, the purpose of the new search is to grant you more control over the information of people you're connected to on the network. In essence, this means that instead of providing a service where you search for something new, you can sift through a database provided by your colleagues. The usage of the technology will be entirely different than the traditional internet search.
In practice, Graph Search will become a tool for people to easier match people in their friend groups based on information. This may give people more connectivity, but is really just another reason for you to stay on its website. By offering another tool for manipulating the wealth of data that Facebook offers, we will be more enticed into spending more time on not just learning information about people, but learning what different informational categories people fall in. This will result in people spending more of their precious time on Facebook, but not as a substitute for anything that could be done with a traditional search engine. Rather, they will be more involved in the data offered by Facebook, thus adding to the social network's market share of social-network usage time, yet not taking anything from the vastly different products offered by companies like Google (GOOG).
Don't expect Graph Search to generate revenue for Facebook. The new feature will not be taking searches away from search titans. Knowing this allows us to determine that there is no reason for the stock to appreciate, apart from hype surrounding the feature. In reality, the announcement means nothing and you should not change your mind regarding Facebook if you have previously stayed away; nor should you sell it if you are long. Graph Search is just another way that Facebook is getting people to commit more of their time; it will not change the financial position of the company in any way, nor does it allow for Facebook to enter a market where it previously did not have a presence.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.