Social search context, interface, speed of development; Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg thinks Microsoft's Bing has the edge in all of these.
You expect partners to pat each other on the back when they make an announcement; if they weren't happy with each other, they wouldn't be rolling anything out. But explaining why Facebook chose Microsoft as their first partner and one of their continuing partners for services like instant personalisation, Zuckerberg handed out some very broad compliments, even taking into account the fact that Facebook has to view Google as a competitor with its moves into social tools.
Yes, Microsoft is being innovative because they have to be, he agreed; "why is Microsoft the company being innovative? The companies that have done great innovation tend not to be the incumbents." But it's pervasive; "I think that's fundamentally tied to their culture nowâ¦ and that's something that's really valuable in working with those folks."
When he credited Bing with innovation in the interface, he wasn't talking about just slapping a pretty picture in the background; it's what Qi Lu, the president of the Microsoft online services division, calls the surfaces in Bing - all the different panes of information you see like News, Videos and Images, the in-page previews, the maps, the weather, the 'instant answers', the embedded videos and the new Facebook-driven People and Liked results we'll be seeing soon. Lu says Bing will keep adding more surfaces, and that's why it wants to work with Facebook; "Experience is the holy grail of this partnership."
And it matters, Zuckerberg agrees. Seeing what your friends thing is useful in search, but it has to be presented well. "Social context is not only a feature that goes into the algorithm for determining what to show, the existence of that influences how good is the content that you showâ¦ Just seeing your friends faces and names on the page; weâre hard wired to have that influence us. Our view is that everything is going to be social eventually; one of the best ways to do that this to decrease the friction."
One thing about the social results where we're glad to see Bing's typical approach is the one-way nature of the personalisation. Bing isn't sending data back to Facebook about your searches, and it is not storing a user's specific information against a search so it doesn't have anything to send to Facebook. "The way instant personalisation works," says Zuckerberg, "when you go to another site that has it enabled, the site gets to see who you are - and it gets no other information about you. The it can query Facebook for any public info you've shared. Bing can see no other information about you than the other 5 billion people can see if they go to your profile."
Facebook VP Dan Rose also complimented the Bing team on how fast they work; they only started discussing the new features with Bing two months ago and it's going to be live soon. That's Internet speed; not the lengthy pace most people are used to associating with Microsoft, but Bing has been rolling out regular updates and extra features since it launched - and many of them really have been new and we'd say, yes, innovative.