Bing Leverages Facebook 'Like' to Beat Google in Social Search

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-05-18

Bing Leverages Facebook 'Like' to Beat Google in Social Search

Microsoft Bing's deepened integration with Facebook is more of an effort to push users to where its believes search is going rather than where it actually is today.

Call it wish fulfillment vis-??í-vis Facebook's ubiquitous Like button. In the just-fortified friendship with Facebook, Bing is surfacing in search results which Websites users' friends Liked.

Bing director Stefan Weitz told eWEEK those Websites will bubble to the top of search results. For example, friends who have "Liked" a recipe will have those Webpages surfaced in search results.

Bing will also retrieve information about users from Facebook on the search-results page, and even let users post Bing Shopping recommendations on their Facebook wall.

Moreover, the all-important Bing Bar also includes a universal "Like" button to let users tag any Website they prefer. RockMelt, it should be noted, has already taken a similar approach for its Web browser.

All of these Facebook integration perks are geared to give users personalized search results based on the opinions of their friends.

What this means, opined Duane Forrester, senior product manager with Bing's Webmaster Program, is that decisions can now be made not just with facts, but with the opinions of trusted friends. Forrester added:

"By integrating social signals from the social sphere, we can help guide searchers to the best results. If people feel something is worth calling out socially as "the best," it's obvious hearing their opinions at the time someone is scanning for search results can have an impact on click choices made by that individual searcher.

Sounds fantastic in theory, right? A veritable Reese's peanut butter cup made of social and search.

Unfortunately for Microsoft and rival Google, which also wants to insert social into search, there is no compelling evidence that the majority of people who search want to rely on the wisdom (or lack thereof, as it were) of their friends for most of their searches.

Microsoft Bing Is Using Facebook to Beat Google in Social

It's a nice idea, ensconced in the accepted notion that there are no better people to trust than our friends. Except it fails to take into account the transient fluidity of peoples' lives, tastes and purchasing decisions, as well as the joy of searching and discovering information and new things on one's own.

And it blindly fails to take into account that most people don't want someone or everyone to know what they're looking to learn more about, let alone looking to buy. Privacy matters, albeit on different scales, for everyone at some stage online.

There is a tendency in tech for companies big and small to lend too much important to the social quotient. Facebook and its 600 million users are to blame for this, but what works for Facebook can't be applied to every part of the Web.

A teenager might ask their Facebook friends for tips on music they might like. A 30-something adult would likely not do the same.

Would the same thirty-something adult look for quaffable bottles of wine similar to ones he has relished in the past? Perhaps, but would this occur through Bing or Facebook? Probably not, when a text message or phone call might do.

One could argue that a teenager might be inclined to ask their friends on Facebook for music or movie suggestions, and that theoretically those could conversations can begin on Bing, but we'd argue back that such conversations begin on Facebook and end there.

In other words, the question was asked, answered and the friends moved on. To be fair, this Q&A session wouldn't fare any better on Google today, where Social Search tries to surface content from friends, but doesn't enable them to ask or field questions.

Try as Bing or Google might, social search just isn't native to the search experience. There seem to be too many hits and misses in Bing's bet on Facebook. This needs work for it to work. We're not sure Bing has properly accounted for the user scenarios.

Bing has been working with Microsoft for half a decade now, and for the last several months in serious search integration.

This has had little material effect on Bing, whose marketshare is respectfully at 14 percent has been inching up while Yahoo and others fall by the wayside to Google's 65 percent plot.



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