Facebook launches ‘Questions’ social search tool

It may not be a rival for Google just yet, but Facebook Questions sees the social network making its first steps into the world of search.

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Social networking giant Facebook has made its first serious foray into the world of search with its Questions feature a social search tool that allows individuals to pose questions to other users on the site.

The feature sees an Ask Question' link added to users' homepages, which opens up an interface where users can type their query text, add a poll or upload a photo for added relevance.

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Once posted, the question will be accessible to anyone on the internet, though users can target groups more specifically by tagging their question with a topic.

At present, the feature is being trialled by a select group of Facebook users, with the intention to roll the facility out to the entire user base in the coming months.

With Facebook's member count now standing at upwards of 500 million, the move to start leveraging those numbers through the likes of search has been seen as all but inevitable.

However, the service as it stands is less a threat to the likes of Google as it is to targeted search sites such as Yahoo Answers and Ask Jeeves.

Facebook director of product management, Blake Ross, wrote on the Facebook blog: "Facebook Questions helps you tap into the collective knowledge of the more than 500 million people on Facebook."

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"For example, if you're vacationing in Costa Rica and want to know the best places to surf, you can use Facebook Questions to get answers from nearby surfing enthusiasts. Because questions will also appear to your friends and their friends, you'll receive answers that are more personalised to you."

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He went on to explain using the topic-tagging facility meant over time users would be able to browse an ever-increasing knowledge base of information on topics of interest to them.

Tagging themes also help others benefit from the knowledge of everyone on Facebook. For instance, if you've always wanted to learn more about cooking, politics or even how to train for a marathon, Facebook Questions lets you see what others are asking about those subjects, Ross wrote.

It will go head-to-head with other services such as Yahoo Answers, Twitter and search engines such as ask.com.

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