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(Pocket-lint) - Facebook is to launch its own search engine, Pocket-lint has learnt, taking on Google at its own game. With its rival now steadily gaining traction in the social networking space with Google+, Facebook is to retaliate in the other direction. And we understand that it is this the company will announce at its 15 January press event.

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Although exact details of how the new search engine will work remain unclear for now, we have been told that the social network is planning to launch a big new "search feature" on the site "very soon", one that will shake everything up.

Sources who don't wish to be named have confirmed to Pocket-lint that the big announcement at the company's event will focus on the new search feature with an expected roll-out shortly afterwards. Although the information is light on detail, the source is trusted and has given us legitimate information before.

Facebook already offers a basic search feature on its site, allowing users to look for "people, places and things". The 15 January announcement is expected to expand the offering considerably further.

If Facebook were to allow users to quickly search the social network and beyond for example, it could cause major headaches for Google: the new feature would give Facebook users a reason to bypass Google altogether.

Facebook could either expand on the ways of searching the content it currently has, or bring in more content from a wider catchment area. There have been rumours in the past that Mark Zuckerberg and his company have wanted users to make the social network their opening homepage. Adding full search functionality would do just that.

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Incidentally and intriguingly, Google is currently blocked from cataloguing Facebook pages.

Meanwhile, earlier on Monday, rumours circulated that Facebook would also release an iPad version of its Messenger app.

Writing by Stuart Miles.