Microsoft’s Bing really likes Facebook.
Bing likes Facebook so much, in fact, that the search engine now bakes the social network’s “Like” button more deeply into its results.
“Decisions don’t get made on rationality alone,” Bing director Stefan Weitz told eWEEK in an interview earlier in May. “People ask other people for information. Eighty percent of the people making a purchase online will delay that decision until they ask someone else.”
In light of that, he said, Microsoft decided to evolve Bing by “infusing the emotional into it.” That means adding Facebook-fueled social features, including the ability to see, in search results, which Websites your friends “Liked.” Those Websites will also find their way towards the top of search results, instead of being buried three or four pages back. If your friends have “Liked” a certain part of a Website, such as a recipe, that page will surface along with the Website in search results.
When users search for a specific person, Bing will now present Facebook information on the search-results page. If they’re traveling to a new city, such as Paris, Bing will tell you which Facebook friends lie there. Bing will notify users of airfare deals for places they’ve liked on Facebook, and let users post Bing Shopping pages on their Facebook wall (“Should I buy this?”).
Bing will also present companies’ and brands’ Facebook postings, alerting users to deals. The Bing Bar will also include a universal “Like” button, capable of tagging any Website-even those without Facebook buttons in the layout.
“Search becomes more human,” Weitz said.
Bing holds 14.1 percent of the search-engine market, according to recent data from comScore, trailing Yahoo at 15.9 percent and Google at 65.4 percent. However, Yahoo’s backend search is powered by Bing, effectively giving its market share to Microsoft; added together, Redmond has a little less than half the users of its Mountain View rival.
But Bing enjoyed query growth of 40.4 percent in April, more than five times that of the overall market, trouncing Google’s 6.5 percent. That suggests Microsoft’s omnipresent Bing ads, and possibly word-of-mouth, are persuading people to give Bing a tryout.
“We don’t have to beat anybody to take share,” Weitz told eWEEK during another meeting in March, suggesting that Bing remains perfectly happy to exploit verticals such as travel, and leverage its partnerships with companies such as Facebook.
At the time, he also suggested that the Web’s social layer has come to mimic the same sort of behaviors that people exhibit in the real world. Facebook and Microsoft were already collaborating on Facebook Profile Search, which leveraged a user’s Facebook connections to deliver more relevant results for people searches; they could also post messages to their Facebook walls via Bing’s pages.
Indeed, Microsoft seems determined to exploit its minority stake in Facebook to the proverbial hilt. FUSE Labs, a company incubator founded by now-departed Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, has continued to work on initiatives such as Docs.com, which allows Facebook users to create and share Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents with .PDF support and full-text search.
Executives at both Microsoft and Facebook likely hope that the partnership, and the resulting new features, will allow them to more effectively tackle their biggest mutual enemy: Google.