8 Dec 2011

Do Bing's New Facebook Features Make it a Better Search Engine Than Google?




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Chris Crum

Do Bing's New Facebook Features Make it a Better Search Engine Than Google?
Recommend on Facebook Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Retweet This! Bing Does More To Differentiate Itself with Social Search Features

Bing has been steadily increasing its integration with Facebook, and while that's likely far from over, they've launched some significant new features. We've written plenty about social search in the past, and from the comments we've received, it's clear that there are a lot of people out there who don't think there is any value in it. Others acknowledge that there might be value there, but still have a hard time finding it. Bing says half of people (based on its own research) say seeing their friends "likes" with search results could help them make better decisions.

Is there value to having info from your Facebook friends in search results? Comment here.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Yusuf Mehdi talks about the company's line of reasoning on the Bing Search Blog:

"Research tells us that 90% of people seek advice from family and friends as part of the decision making process. This 'Friend Effect' is apparent in most of our decisions and often outweighs other facts because people feel more confident, smarter and safer with the wisdom of their trusted circle. A movie critic may pan the latest summer block buster, but your friends say it's the feel good movie of the year, so you ignore the critic and go (and wholeheartedly agree). Historically, search hasn't incorporated this 'Friend Effect' – and 80% of people will delay making a decision until they can get a friend's stamp of approval. This decision delay, or period of time it takes to hunt down a friend for advice, can last anywhere from a few minutes to days, whether you're waiting for a call back, text, email or tweet."

With the new update, users will get more personalized search results on Bing based on the opinions of Facebook friends. You have to be signed into Facebook. "New features make it easier to see what your Facebook friends 'like' across the Web, incorporate the collective know-how of the Web into your search results, and begin adding a more conversational aspect to your searches," says Mehdi.

What Exactly is Bing Doing?
  • Displaying "likes" from news stories, celebrities, movies, bands, brands, etc. in search results, where applicable
  • Displaying actual sites your friends have "liked" - not just individual pieces of content. Bing says if you're looking for a TV, and you have a friend that has "liked" overstock.com, you might see that in your results.
  • A very important element of this update is that it is actually influencing the rankings of content (on a personalized basis). Mehdi says, "Bing will surface results, which may typically have been on page three or four, higher in its results based on stuff your friends have liked. And, how often do you go beyond page one of the results?"
  • Bing is using Facebook data to show "well-liked content, including trending topics, articles and Facebook fan pages, from sites across the web".
  • Bing is showing Facebook posts from brands when the brand is searched for. Search for Avis and you'll see recent updates from the Avis Facebook page (in theory. I couldn't get that to actually work).
  • Bing now has a feature that will let you have conversations with Facebook friends who live where you're traveling.
  • They also recently launched a feature that lets you share shopping lists with friends.
  • When you search for a specific person, Bing will use Facebook to provide location, education, and employment details.
  • A "Travel Wishlist" feature lets you compare trips with Facebook friends, suggest new destinations, and learn more about locations. When you pick a travel destination, Bing will show you friends that live or have lived there.
  • If you "like" a city on Bing, Bing will send deals for flights to that city to your Facebook news feed.
Turning it on/off

The beauty of the feature is that if you don't like it, you don't have to use it. Just don't sign into Facebook. It's as simple as that.

For the first five times you use Bing in this way, you'll see a note at the top right of the screen saying that it is using your Facebook friends, and has a link to "learn more" and a "disable' button. You can always connect to Facebook again under the sign-in menu.

Will it deliver better search results?

There are plenty of questions that surround the execution of social search, which is probably why nobody has really gotten it 100% right yet. For example, should Bing be focusing on friends that have similar interests to you rather than your whole body of friends? Perhaps it depends on the query.

There's no question that most Facebook users have friends they interact with more and some they don't even really know that well. Maybe you're friends with someone you went to middle school with and haven't talked to since. Without measuring the level of friendship or common interests, can data from these more obscure "friends" really be valuable? If Bing found a way to identify the people you really interact with and/or have common interests beyond just being your Facebook friend, search results could improve for certain queries.

What's missing?

As with some past Bing announcements, the execution doesn't seem to quite live up to the hype. That doesn't mean it won't get better, but the features are not perfect by any means.

Which is the better search engine: Google or Bing? Tell us what you think.

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About the Author:
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow WebProNews on Facebook or Twitter. Twitter: @CCrum237
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