Microsoft on Wednesday announced a significant upgrade to Bing that could, for once, lend some real clout to the search engine in its uphill battle against Google: deep integration with Facebook.
The changes, which were unveiled at a special event hosted by Microsoft in Mountain View, CA, involve the use of Instant Personalization to import Facebook information directly into Bing’s search results pages.
It’s been almost exactly six months since Facebook launched Instant Personalization, and with it, a whole array of social plugins designed to keep friends connected via Facebook even while visiting third-party sites not directly associated with the social network. The most ubiquitous of these plugins, the Like button, was getting clicked across the Web (in June) by almost 65 million members daily. Accounting for Facebook’s growth as well as the probable increase in Likes since then, we can safely assume that Facebook is easily registering tens of billions of Likes monthly.
Bing puts this massive ocean of data to work by displaying what your friends have Liked in search results, when relevant. For example, if you search for the movie Iron Man, you might see that a couple of your friends Liked the movie on IMDb. Picturing a typical user’s Facebook profile gives a pretty good idea of how potentially far-reaching this could be. Music, books, movies, television--people have outlined a lot of their interests and, until now, no one has really tapped into that.
The other way Bing will now use Facebook is for people searches. If you search for a person’s name, Bing will now return results more relevant to you based on your current social network on Facebook. For example, if a few of your friends happen to be friends with the person you’re searching for, that person will show up higher search in search results on Bing--even if you’re not friends with the person. Basically it’s the way user search works on Facebook imported directly into Bing.
Microsoft first got serious about Facebook in 2007, when the former invested $240 milion into CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s prized social site, a deal that secured Microsoft a strategic partnership with Facebook.
And though many people may not have noticed, Facebook and Bing have worked together for some time now. When a user searches for something on Facebook, the top results more often than not link to pages within Facebook, like user profiles, groups, and applications. At the bottom of the results, however, one will find “Web results” curated by Bing.
Because most people don’t use Facebook to search the Web, it makes more sense to incorporate Facebook results into Bing than the other way around.
The changes will be rolling out to Bing in the U.S. over the next few weeks.