Today Facebook unveiled Graph Search, a new internal search tool that will help members sort through personal data on the social network.

Unlike web search, which is designed to take any open-ended query and return links that might have answers, Graph Search take a precise query and returns an answer, not links. Currently it’s focused on four main areas: people, photos, Facebook Places, and interests, but an API might become available in the future.

Built atop Facebook’s Social Graph, the new search tool enables members to ask questions using natural language. For example, “which of my friends live in New York?” or “bands my friends are listening to.” While individual searches will be tracked in members’ Activity Logs, they won’t have any influence over ads at all.

As a benefit to businesses, Graph Search also enables people to find new restaurants or even dentists all through the people they’re connected to — there’s nothing better than a trusted recommendation. For example, someone could search for “national parks my friends have been to” or “restaurants in San Francisco liked by The Culinary Institute of America graduates.”

This makes for a pretty convincing argument for local businesses that are still on the fence about using Facebook Places. If you have a physical location, it might be worth creating your Places Page, if only to appear in search results — of course, we recommend regular monitoring of your Places page.

The Graph Search page is now live, complete with demo videos. You can find more information about how it works and privacy on that page as well. The feature is currently being rolled out as a limited beta and will become more widely available as more information is indexed.

[Image credit: gerlos]