1. “What is it?”

While std::move() is technically a function – I would say it isn’t really a function. It’s sort of a converter between ways the compiler considers an expression’s value.

2. “What does it do?”

The first thing to note is that std::move() doesn’t actually move anything. It changes an expression from being an lvalue (such as a named variable) to being an xvalue. An xvalue tells the compiler:

You can plunder me, move anything I’m holding and use it elsewhere (since I’m going to be destroyed soon anyway)”.

in other words, when you use std::move(x), you’re allowing the compiler to cannibalize x. Thus if x has, say, its own buffer in memory – after std::move()ing the compiler can have another object own it instead.

You can also move from a prvalue (such as a temporary you’re passing around), but this is rarely useful.

3. “When should it be used?”

Another way to ask this question is “What would I cannibalize an existing object’s resources for?” well, if you’re writing application code, you would probably not be messing around a lot with temporary objects created by the compiler. So mainly you would do this in places like constructors, operator methods, standard-library-algorithm-like functions etc. where objects get created and destroyed automagically a lot. Of course, that’s just a rule of thumb.

A typical use is ‘moving’ resources from one object to another instead of copying. @Guillaume links to this page which has a straightforward short example: swapping two objects with less copying.

template <class T>
swap(T& a, T& b) {
    T tmp(a);   // we now have two copies of a
    a = b;      // we now have two copies of b (+ discarded a copy of a)
    b = tmp;    // we now have two copies of tmp (+ discarded a copy of b)
}

using move allows you to swap the resources instead of copying them around:

template <class T>
swap(T& a, T& b) {
    T tmp(std::move(a));
    a = std::move(b);   
    b = std::move(tmp);
}

Think of what happens when T is, say, vector<int> of size n. In the first version you read and write 3*n elements, in the second version you basically read and write just the 3 pointers to the vectors’ buffers, plus the 3 buffers’ sizes. Of course, class T needs to know how to do the moving; your class should have a move-assignment operator and a move-constructor for class T for this to work.