This week, Facebook unveiled its search tool, which it calls graph search, a reference to the network of friends its users have created. The company's algorithms will filter search results for each person, ranking the friends and brands that it thinks a user would trust the most. At first, it will mine users' interests, photos, check-ins and "likes," but later it will search through other information, including status updates.
"While the usefulness of graph search increases as people share more about their favorite restaurants, music and other interests, the product doesn't hinge on this," a Facebook spokesman, Jonathan Thaw, said.
Nevertheless, the company engineers who created the tool -- former Google employees -- say that the project will not reach its full potential if Facebook data is "sparse," as they call it. But the company is confident people will share more data, be it the movies they watch, the dentists they trust or the meals that make their mouths water.
The things people declare on Facebook will be useful, when someone searches for those interests, Tom Stocky, one of the creators of Facebook search, said in an interview this week. Conversely, by liking more things, he said, people will become more useful in the eyes of their friends.
Mr. Stocky offered these examples of how more information may be desirable: A single man may want to be discovered when a friend of a friend is searching for eligible bachelors in San Francisco or a restaurant that stays open late may want to be found by a night owl.
"People have shared all this great stuff on Facebook," Mr. Stocky said. "It's latent value. We wanted a way to unlock that."
Users have been encouraged to check their privacy settings in order to fine-tune whom they wish to share with. At the same time, Facebook eliminated a longstanding option that users enjoyed: if someone is searching for them, they will no longer be able to remain obscure.
Still, some Facebook users may be skeptical. Jana Uyeda, 35, a photographer and social media consultant in Seattle, said, "I love my friends, but sometimes their taste in restaurants is terrible."