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Facebook expands search so you know what everyone's talking about

The world's largest social network is now letting users find news stories, comments from strangers and the conversations behind trending topics.

Facebook is expanding its search tool in hopes that we'll use its network even more.

Facebook wants to turn your comments into a town square.

Starting Thursday, the Menlo Park, California-based social network will roll out a function that allows its members to conduct a Google-like search through the more than 2 trillion posts they make each month. Facebook users can access the feature through a search bar on its website or mobile app.

Type "water" into the search box, for example, and Facebook will auto-suggest popular search terms and phrases, such as "water on Mars." If a user taps on the results, a list will appear with articles, quotes, videos and related posts from their friends, groups and other Facebook users.

The new function expands Facebook's search capabilities, which were previously limited to things like friends, groups and places. That meant the social network's 1.5 billion users could easily find who among their friends likes the band Nickelback, but not what other people were saying about the band.

"Facebook has a lot of that content and perspectives and opinions," said Rousseau Kazi, a Facebook product manager who works on search function. "Going from searching on your network to searching everything on Facebook is a big step."

Of course, Facebook has an incentive to keep you using its service. People already spend more than 46 minutes per day surfing Facebook, its Messenger chat program or Instagram photo-sharing app. The more people use Facebook, the more opportunities it has to present you with advertising and to drive up its revenue.

The new function also helps Facebook cement its position as the world's top social network. Twitter, a popular but much smaller competitor, is trying to gain ground by improving access to its user-created posts, photos and videos. Pinterest, which is privately held and doesn't regularly report user statistics, also has features that help people sort and share articles, photos and videos.

The new search functions will initially be available for Facebook members who use US English settings, starting Thursday. The company declined to say when it plans to expand access.

Facebook said the privacy settings of its social network won't change with the new feature.