Google’s upgrade of its Social Search feature was quickly outdone by Microsoft Bing, which released a revamped Bing Bar with deeper integration with Facebook.
Google vowed to begin mixing its Social Search results throughout results pages based on their relevance, raising content from the dark pit of the bottom of results pages. Google also is improving content relevance by gauging how much links and videos have been shared by users’ friends.
These are moves that should have been made when Google launched Social Search more than a year ago, but the search engine erred on the side of caution because it feared cluttering users’ results with social links.
Google Social Search aggregates users’ content from Twitter, Flickr, Google Buzz, YouTube, Flickr and Quora, but not leading social site Facebook.
While the change was a positive, Microsoft’s Bing team nudged it aside a few hours later by unveiling Bing Bar 7, which continues the company’s integration with Facebook by providing users with access to their Facebook content without whisking them away from Bing to the social network.
Users have easy access to their Facebook news feed to see posts from friends and update their status. Users may also comment on or Like a friend’s post right from the Bing Bar. Facebook friend requests, messages and notifications are also surfaced in the Bing Bar. In many ways, the upgrades mirror what RockMelt has done with its social Web browser.
Bing’s message to Google with this move is: People don’t want social search done by the search engines who lack organic social networks. They want to access what they and their friends are familiar with. That would be Facebook, which boasts more than 600 million users.
Google’s efforts are well-intentioned, both from a business and consumer standpoint. Google co-founder Sergey Brin described Google’s social efforts last month as being in their infancy, admitting that Google has only “touched 1 percent” of what social can lend to search.
There are whispers that the new Social Search upgrade is laying a foundation for the Google +1 social efforts expected to come later this year, providing a more detailed infusion of social layers across Google’s Web services.
Viewed in this context, the Google Social Search may be a preparatory move, agreed industry analyst Greg Sterling, who said it’s “consistent with Google’s broader movement to integrate social across its properties and raise its ‘social profile,’ so to speak.”
Yet IDC analyst Hadley Reynolds told eWEEK he views the Google Social Search overture as a catch-up play, not a new breakthrough in Google’s social strategy or in social options for Google users.
“On the other hand, both Bing and Google have yet to prove that people will find the social features in search attractive enough to spend more time in the search environments,” Reynolds said.
“The end game for the search engines is to stop the growth in the hours people spend on social sites, particularly Facebook and Twitter, and get them back to the search box. So far, I don’t see that that is happening.”