Bing Introduces Social Results You Might Actually Find Useful

The search engine's social sidebar now shows you more and better results from friends, pulling from Facebook status updates, shared links, and comments.

Bing's social sidebar will now start displaying your Facebook friends' relevant status updates, shared links, comments, and photos when you conduct a search.

The update is part of the Bing team's latest push to bolsters its search engine with more and more social data. It's also the second swing in a one-two punch by Bing, who earlier this week got a boost as Facebook's default web search engine that steps in when its own new Graph Search isn't the right fit.

As of today, Bing will draw from a social data pool that's 30 times larger than before, Bing director Stefan Weitz tells Fast Company.

Weitz specifically points out Facebook as an example of what this means for Bing. Facebook isn't the only source of social data Bing uses—it also pulls in data from Twitter, Foursquare, Quora, Klout, and Google+. But it's a good example of why Bing's social results have previously been limited. Bing used to show Facebook results pulled from a much smaller pool of information, such as Likes and basic profile information. Now, it will be pulling in more granular information from status updates, shared links, comments, and their photos. It's usually these very places where your friends are posting the most important, interesting, or timely information they share on the social network.

“We’re literally looking at a far bigger step of peoples’ footprints across the web,” Weitz says.

Will these new social results always been relevant to what you're actually searching for? Of course no, but as a part of the search experience, it's way more pleasant to see familiar names and faces in that sidebar than some stranger telling you to order the Grandma's Pie when you're looking up directions to Brooklyn Pizza.

As Weitz told us, "This is the first time that anyone has considered people as a critical part to search."

Weitz says the greater the amount of social data Bing has to put in front of users, the better they can identify what users find the most interesting and useful.

"We know social data is a fascinating and rich data set," he says. "What we don’t know is how people want to use that in the context of their searches."

Between Bing's social sidebar and its partnership with Facebook on Graph Search, Bing could be poised to find the sweet spot between social and search.

[Image: Flickr user Kara Allyson]

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