When Facebook introduced its next-generation search product in Menlo Park, Calif., this week, the announcement was no doubt being watched closely in nearby Mountain View.
The data that Google engineers have craved for years -- rich portraits of connections between people, places, and things, all tied to real identities -- was suddenly searchable on Facebook. It's data Google is trying to replicate, using Google+ and other products, but there's no doubt that Facebook's billion-member network has given it the advantage. You can imagine the Google crew listening to Mark Zuckerberg describe the data that underpins Graph Search and wishing they could get their hands on it.
In fact, two of them did. Lars Rasmussen and Tom Stocky, who both worked on search products at Google, defected to Facebook and began working on a new kind of search product. In 2011 they started on what would be introduced Tuesday as Graph Search. From the get-go it was clear that searching your social network was materially different than searching the Web. Like the Web, it could provide answers (who's a good dentist?) and entertainment (show me photos of my friends in Paris). But social networks promise something more, the duo said in an interview this week at CNET headquarters: bringing you closer to friends by helping you share experiences.