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Facebook Refines Search Tools

The social networking site makes a move after competitors like Google and Greplin take steps to improve their own search capabilities.

In the latest move in the highly competitive search market, Facebook on Wednesday announced it is improving the social media site's search methodology, a move designed to enable users to more easily locate the results they are seeking.

The search market is abuzz with activity. On Wednesday, for example, startup Greplin -- which calls itself the "search bar for your life" -- left beta. Greplin users can search across their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Gmail connections. The search company's premium services support queries in Google Reader, Google Docs, and Google Calendar. The engine hopes to follow tweets in coming months, Greplin said.

Addressing users' ongoing battle against spam, Google on Monday released a tool that lets Chrome users filter undesirable Web sites from their search results. With the Personal Blocklist, users click a button to add unwanted sites to a list of blocked URLs that will no longer appear in search results.

And Facebook, viewed as the main competitor to Google's long-held top-spot in the search rankings, last week redesigned its business-oriented Facebook Pages.

The new search design -- which eliminated the tabs format, lets administrators interact via the Facebook Page identity, highlights news based on interest not chronology, and moved photos to the top of the page -- correlates with the social media network's newer, streamlined design, the company said.

"We're improving Search on Facebook to make it even easier for you to find what you're looking for. Similar types of your search results will now be listed in their respective sections, organizing the Pages, Groups, and people you care the most about," the developer said on its Facebook wall. "Look for the new results soon as you type in the search box."

By Thursday afternoon, almost 16,000 Facebook account holders "liked" the news, and more than 6,100 people had commented. Like many Facebook changes, the news was greeted with a mixture of anger, confusion, and thanks, and some comments were unrelated to news of the search changes.

"[I] look forward to a new and improved search. More intuitive and refined," posted Leslie J. Lingren, who also liked the site's new photo viewer.

Finding friends may be more difficult using the new search tool, said one user. In the past, when a user entered a name, a menu of possible matches often included these individuals' towns or other identifiers such as schools or regions. Today, only their names appear, and Facebook accountholders apparently must open each individual page or scrutinize the thumbprint photo to determine whether it is the person being sought.

"I noticed how you changed the friend finder. Unfortunately it makes it hard for me to find friends. Now I could just type the first and last name of the person I want in the search engine but there'd be, I don't know how many people of that same name. Could you add stuff to where it says find your friends, like you can find them with a graduation year as well as a school and add where you can type the first, last, or both names of a friend? I'd really appreciate that," wrote accountholder Jonathan Sharpe.

Added member Julie Rogers: "I asked for more easily searchable links and you take away the links tab."

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