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Bing Friends Facebook

Wednesday, October 13, 2010   (0 Comments)
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Bing Friends Facebook
by Ryan Single
WIRED Magazine
October 13, 2010

Microsoft's search engine Bing made friends with Facebook Wednesday, an integration that poses a new challenge to the companies' shared rival Google, which has struggled to build software that connects users socially.

"This is going to show how search gets better through your friends,” Microsoft vice president Yusef Mehdi said onstage at Microsoft's Mountain View campus, in remarks prefacing the announcement.

Bing is already embedded inside Facebook to let Facebook users search the web, and Facebook has been feeding data out to Bing, letting Bing users can search public Facebook postings at Microsoft also owns a small sliver of Facebook, and has long worked closely with upstart social network.

But on Wednesday, Bing's main search box went social, with embedded results from your Facebook friends showing up in search results.

So for example, if you search on "Motorola Droid,” you will see a search module in the main results that shows related links that your friends have shared on Facebook that are about that phone. If you search on a movie, the module will show which of your friends have liked that movie. For people search, Microsoft looks through your Facebook profile and people close to your social graph to help determine which "Jeff Smith” you are liking searching for.

That integration shows that Microsoft is getting inside Facebook's data and is being able to see conversations that aren't easily seen by search engines, something that Google has recently complained about.

However, the search results won't include any data that's not set to public by a user.

The new features go live on Bing Wednesday afternoon. Users will see the features by simply showing up logged into their Facebook account — the controversial Instant Personalization — or by logging in via their Facebook credentials. Microsoft says users can block the personalization, and will be notified about how to opt out with a box on the search results screens the first five times they visit.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage to call the Bing partnership one of the most important ones the company had made, and said Facebook likes partnering with underdogs that understand social.

"Over the next five years, we expect nearly every industry will disrupted by new applications that are deeply social,” Zuckerberg said.

"We started thinking what would social search look like and we started looking around for partners,” Zuckerberg said. "Microsoft really is the underdog here and they really are incentivized to try new things.”

"They are just trying to rapicly gain share by doing new stuff that no one has done before,” Zuckerberg said, adding that search was something Facebook has no interest in doing itself.

Both Microsoft and Facebook were careful to repeatedly stress this was just the beginning, trying to play down expectations that social search would be an immediate Google-killer.

When asked if the feature could look into private conversations and groups, Zuckerberg said there's no philosophical objection so long as a user gives Bing that permission.

"For first version we focussed on not getting extra information and that's what we are doing,” Zuckerberg said, noting that the Groups product introduced last week to allow small group conversations that aren't public also has an API that would allow such an integration.

The announcement of the pairing comes as Google readies its own social effort — reportedly dubbed Google Me — that will attempt to stitch together Google's communication and search software into a cohesive social whole.

Social search will help when people are deciding what to do in a town they are visiting or deciding whether to see a movie, according to Mehdi.

"The recommendations are coming from people that like you,” Mehdi said.

"We see the web going far beyond a web of documents to a web of the world,” said Microsoft Online Services Division President Qi Lu. ”The social graph enables our users to access and discover information and complete tasks more efficiently.”

"We will be able to harness and unlock the power of Facebook's platform and take search to the next level,” Qi added. "This is just the beginning of how people can become first-class citizens of a search experience.”

"Look at all the queries you made over the last month and ask yourself 'Can the expericence be much better if all the people in your Facebook social graph were able to help?” Qi said. "A substantial number of quereies will be much, much better.”

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