Facebook: losing active users, adding new search system, stock price down on the day

Facebook is launching a new search system that sometimes incorporates results from Bing to allow users to find people, places, photos and other results from both semi-private and public information.

A couple of examples from Forbes, which walked readers through today’s press conference:

Searching people: By typing in “friends of friends who are single men in San Francisco and who are from India” in the search box, the search engine highlights those search terms and brings up a list of eligible bachelors for matchmaking example. The search engine reads natural language and turns it into terms to search on.

Regarding privacy: you can only search for items that you could normally see on Facebook.

Searching photos: You can type “photos of my friends taken in Paris” or “photos of my friends taken in national parks.” The searches bring up big tiled photos of the photos in that category. Or you can just search for “photos I like.” This brings in social gestures such as the “Like” that Facebook already has that tag photos and other objects. This is also data that Facebook has that competitors don’t. You can only see the photos that people have shared with you.

Right now, the service is only available to a limited number of users, but you can check out a demo here. I can’t say I’m too impressed with that demo, however, as it just searches for one pretty lame thing — “People who live in my city” — and the people returned on my list are all ones that I’m already friends with on Facebook and with whom I have many mutual connections. For example, 24e owner Ruel Joyner is on my list — he and I have 908 mutual Facebook friends.

Meanwhile, a company that tracks social media reported today that Facebook in the U.S. lost 1.4 million active users last month. From Marketwatch:

The number of Americans using Facebook fell by nearly 1.4 million in early December, according to new data from social media monitoring company SocialBakers. While Facebook has more than 167 million users in the U.S. and 1 billion worldwide, the recent drop in monthly active users is still akin to losing the entire the population of San Antonio, Texas. “Facebook is possibly getting to a point where the less engaged part of the audience doesn’t visit every 30 days,” says SocialBaker CEO Jan Rezab.

Why the fall off? The increased advertising on the site and new experimental fees may be grating on some users’ nerves, experts say.

I disagree with the cause cited here. While some might be irritated by those fees and advertising, there are few Facebook users who would ever need the services offered for a fee and Facebook still has less advertising per page than many, many other websites.

I think Facebook is just getting a little tired. Having blurred the meaning of “friend”, many users don’t know whether they trust the service for private use and whether they want to put themselves out there on a public platform. Those with limited networks seem to have limited and repetitive activity in their news feeds. There’s too much forwarding and sharing of pablum.

I think all of these trends are going to get worse.

The market is not responding too kindly to Mark Zuckerberg’s big announcement today. Facebook is well off its lows but it’s down better than 2 percent today.

Here’s a screencap of the type of results that graph search — terrible name, huh? — can produce: