Microsoft announced several updates to its Bing search engine, including improvements to its user experience, local and mobile capabilities.
Google has made great strides in these areas, too. The leading search engine launched its Google Places local business search in April, overhauled its search user interface, and applied its Google Instant predictive search technology to mobile phones in November.
For all of that innovative firepower, Bing also cranked out a couple upgrades in an area where Google has been woefully lacking: social.
Microsoft recently began indexing Facebook user profiles to surface contacts that are relevant to the searcher. The company also added Liked Results, displaying the Websites and links “liked” by a Facebook user’s friends.
So if a user searches for a coffee shop in Manhattan and one of their Facebook friends has recommended a certain Starbucks, that location will show up in Bing’s search results.
This was a firm validation of Bing by longtime partner Facebook, the definitive social network around the globe. At the Dec. 15 search event, Bing said it was bringing this Liked Results feature to more sites.
Now if Bing search results include a specific link that has also been “liked” by someone in a searcher’s Facebook network the link will be highlighted as “Liked” within Bing.”
Bing also more quietly revealed that the Happy Island social game is now available on Bing Games, allowing users to play with their friends by connecting the game directly to their Facebook page.
Sure, Google indexes Twitter tweets in its search results. But that’s a far cry from the interactivity Bing is providing with Facebook Liked Results and Happy Island, which hooks into the Facebook Connect service.
Analysts Award 2010 to Bing in Social
Google, despite partnering with social gaming giant Zynga and acquiring social game makers LabPixies and SocialDeck, social aggregator Angstro and social application power Slide, hasn’t offered anything of the sort in 2010.
Bing, which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg characterized as a scrappy upstart, has just shy of 12 percent market share to Google’s 66 percent. But it’s Bing that has gained social mindshare this year, analysts agreed.
IDC analyst Hadley Reynolds told eWEEK Bing has definitely played the social theme more skillfully than Google in 2010.
“The December release of the Facebook social search feature and its result set personalized through the lens of the searcher’s friend network is the first real foray into socially modulated Web search.”
Forrester Research Augie Ray agreed that that Bing has been doing more socially innovative things than Google in 2010.
Even so, he said all signs point to Google gearing up for a significant social launch early in 2011. Google, after all, has the advantage of owning a massively scalable search platform that serves 10 billion queries per month.
Google’s +1 initiative will enable social connections, and presumably social gaming. But that social layer cake isn’t expected until sometime in 2011.
“I don’t know if this is really a ‘make or break’ year for Google in terms of social because the Web and social media will continue to evolve for years to come, but each passing year is certainly a lost opportunity for the Web 1.0 pioneer.”
“This is definitely a space to watch, not least because Google does not want to be runner up in social,” Reynolds added.