Bing Searchers Will Get Input from Facebook Friends

Microsoft is expanding Bing's reach through a deal with Facebook, but the arrangement may help the social network more than the software giant's search engine. Microsoft announced an integration between Bing and Facebook's search that brings information from a searcher's Facebook friends into search results on Bing.

Microsoft believes the signals that search engines rely on to help people find information don't represent human connections and the role they play in making decisions. Since Microsoft bills Bing as a "decision engine," the company is working to make more relevant connections in social decision-making and figures Facebook can help.

Getting Friendly Advice

Satya Nadella, senior vice president of Microsoft's Online Services Division, said Microsoft pondered questions such as: What if we could make your friends' opinions visible to you in a simple way when you're searching? What if we could put that information at your fingertips and bring your trusted sources to the forefront for many of your searches? What if there was a "social layer" in search that could make the whole process of connecting to information and making decisions more social, more personal, and more useful?

Some of the more practical examples Nadella offered to describe the Facebook-Bing integration are answers to questions like: Should I see the movie Inception? Would I like it? Should I buy an extended warranty for my new car? What is the most interesting tourist site in New York City?

"These types of questions are best answered if you ask someone who knows something about you," Nadella wrote in Microsoft's blog. "A friend might know you like Leonardo DiCaprio, but you don't like movies with guns. They might know you should get the warranty because the car you're buying is prone to problems after the fourth year -- because they own a car from the same manufacturer."

Limited Impact

As Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, sees it, the near-term impact will be limited. However, he added, the potential long-term impact on search and Facebook's role in search are quite significant.

Indeed, he said the inclusion of social data into results, with an eventual impact on ranking and relevance, represents a paradigm shift. That represents the future of the partnership, though. Right now, the solution is not quite that mature.

"Google will continue to beef up search results with social data, but it won't get the same kind of access to Facebook information for some time. Facebook has indicated that in principle it is willing to work with others, but as a practical matter it won't be working with Google or Yahoo in the near future," Sterling said.

"From an industry perspective it's a 'major deal' but it won't give Bing any real market-share boost in the immediate future," he added. "However, it makes Facebook a significant player in search in a way it wasn't before."[source]


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