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The Bing-Facebook Alliance: Six Things You (and Google) Should Know

Bing and Facebook just made search social. Will your online life ever be the same again?

It’s not too audacious to say that the new Bing search features that Microsoft and Facebook unveiled today are going to upend the search business.

Until now, search algorithms have used machine learning and artificial intelligence to predict which of the billions of pages out on the Internet might be most salient to your search. Now, at least on Bing, they’re going to have access to something even more precious: the knowledge of who your friends are and what they like.

Among the features Bing is rolling out to users in the coming days is a module called "Liked Results" to its search results. Looking for information on that new Tom Cruise movie? On Google, your search engine would serve up the relevant pages it has calculated are the most popular. On Bing, as of now, it serves up the regular Google-style results and a module that shows you pages your friends have liked — including, for example, movie reviews. You no longer have to do the work of trolling through search results to figure out which of the pages might tell you whether the movie’s a hit or a bomb. Trust your friend Sara’s taste? Click on the page she Liked.

So what does this all mean? Here are a few takeaways:

1. Search just reached an inflection point. Google’s great innovation was to figure out how to deliver the most relevant search results, based on the assumption that a webpage that had a large number of other pages linking to it would be more interesting than one with fewer links. Google has built its search algorithms by continuing to troll large sets of data for other attributes that indicate relevance. Now, however, Bing can deliver results based on what your trusted sources of information—your friends and acquaintances—think. This is a giant leap forward. Among other things, it means that…

2. Companies have to focus on creating great customer experiences. Because when their customers go searching online—for a movie, a camera, a travel destination—their friends’ recommendations are going to be front and center. Launched a store that no one "Liked?" you’re not going to show up in the search results.

3. Search is going to look a lot different. Forget the list of blue links. As Qi Lu, the engineering lead for the new changes (and president of Microfsoft’s Online Services Group), said, once you introduce a social dimension to search results, you could actually start representing search results—visually—in new ways. He didn’t say what those might look like, but be prepared to see them soon, because…

4. We’re going to be seeing even more social elements introduced into Bing’s search results. And soon. Both Microsoft and Facebook said that today’s new features were just the beginning. It only took them two months to gin up the ones they released today. Which means more are going to be coming down the pike in the months to come. Which means...

5. Google may have to go back to the drawing board. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg didn't say they were shutting the search giant out. In fact, he said that, ultimately, the company would like to work with all players in search. But for now, it appears he's working solely with Microsoft.

6. You must master your Facebook privacy settings. Mindful of earlier criticism of Facebook’s handling of privacy issues, both Microsoft and Facebook went out of their way today to stress that users will retain control over what Facebook shares with Bing. The flip side is that users actually have to exercise the control that Bing and Facebook give them. Learn more about how to turn Facebook on and off in Bing here and about privacy settings here and here (you have to be logged into Facebook for those last two).

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  • JEH

    This kind of thinking by FB is further evidence to support the idea that in a couple of years it will be what MySpace is today and in five years it will be what AOL is today.

  • E.B. Boyd

    In an earlier version of this story, we incorrectly reported that you'd be able to see your friends' friends Likes. Turns out you can only see your direct friends' Likes. (At least as of the current implementation. :) )

  • StPete

    Googles appeal to me is the spread of new information. Just receiving what everyone I know thinks is not enough- and it never should be.

  • Gaston Garcia

    I'm not using Bing no matter what. I don't care if my friends Liked stuff or not, I can see that on Facebook or ask them myself through Facebook if I wanted to know what they think.

    It's the kind of stuff that sound good on an article like this one, but that's actually kind of stupid when you think about it for a couple of seconds.

  • Morgan Barnhart

    This is great news! I'm really excited that this is all being integrated. It is important that privacy be kept, but this is a great combination!

  • Jeffery Chapman

    This sounds great - go straight to the source to find out what my friends think - but I am not sure my few friends are as exhaustively indexing the web as is Google. How relevant will my search results be in cases (which would probably be most of the time) where my friends have not gone through the efforts of reviewing multiple pages and "liking" at least one of them, on a specific search criteria that matches the one I am trying to do?? I don't know if I am ready to replace Google with my "Friend-Engine".

  • Lizi Obolensky

    I would love to know just how many pages Facebook members scroll when online - do they just look at the page they're "on" or do they scroll past one more page...especially since it's so tedious to go further wait-time-wise - in reality how many friends is one person reaching w/ their updates - not many. It's hit or miss so even if you have 5000+ friends you've built up if you're seriously working it ; ) HOW MANY are you really reaching? I know "I" don't see daily status updates or sharing from fiends I KNOW are updating on a daily basis and ARE seriously working it to exceed the 5K mark...which means a lot of it is hype driven by social media companies who group "like-minded" or "most-in-touch" people and choose for you whose updates you're going to see - social manipulation is not healthy. That is why I prefer to use twitter to reach a wider target for marketing. It's much easier to look at people's bulletin boards and scroll for what engages you & find quality links to follow. BING & FB collaboration though changes that entirely for company "like" pages! footnote 10/18/10 came across SOME ANSWERS!