Microsoft today announced yet another update to Bing with yet even more Facebook features. As before, assuming you are signed into Facebook while searching, Bing will surface content your Facebook friends could access by viewing your Facebook profile directly. The biggest change this time around, however, is a new column that features your Facebook friends who might have some insight into your query.
Remember when Microsoft said Bing would use Facebook and Twitter more in its fight against Google? The software giant is now delivering on that promise. See also: Microsoft, Facebook are collaboration pals: Will the new Bing deliver market share returns? and If this is what a Metrofied Bing looks like, more, please.
Since I'm only interested in the Facebook integration, here are the relevant points from today's announcement:
- Ask Friends: You can post a question to get help from your Facebook friends as you search, tag friends Bing suggests might know about the topic, and share your search so that your friends can reply to your question on either Facebook or Bing.
- Friends Who Might Know: Once you authorize Bing, the sidebar helps you post a question to get help from your Facebook friends as you search. Bing suggests Facebook friends who might know about the topic – based on what they Like, their Facebook profile information, or photos they have shared.
- Activity feed: From the activity feed in the sidebar, you can see posts and queries you and your friends have chosen to share from Bing. You can help answer friends' questions, Like something interesting they have shared. Because these activities show up in both Bing (activity feed) and Facebook, you can comment on them from either place.
This upcoming Bing overhaul is Microsoft's latest effort to leverage its Facebook partnership to challenge Google's dominance in search. In October 2007, Microsoft bought a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook for about $240 million, giving Facebook a valuation of $15 billion. Ever since then, the two companies have been best friends and have worked together on many different products, although now it's just mainly Bing (see links below).
So what's the use of adding Facebook all over the place? The general consensus amongst search engine services is that adding social networking will fix a major problem with traditional search, namely that users often have a hard time figure out which links are worth the click. Having friends give them insight removes any uncertainty, at least in theory.
Google believes the way forward with search and social is Search Plus Your World, which mainly features Google+ content amongst the typical search results (and has been heavily criticized). Microsoft meanwhile seems to think the answer is a social sidebar to the right of the main search results.
Microsoft's advantage here is that Facebook is many times larger than Google+. Google's advantage is that it owns both search and the social network, leading to much tighter integration.