Microsoft has announced it will expand its effort to bring Facebook into Bing’s search results, displaying new annotations alongside any search result links your Facebook friends have liked. Bing first began integrating Facebook “likes” into its search results back in October 2010, but results from your friends were relegated to the bottom of the page. The new version promotes your friends up into the main search results listing.
Bing’s change mirrors a very similar announcement from Google earlier this month when the company announced it would add links, photos and relevant web pages from your friends to Google’s normal search results.
Microsoft’s Bing offering is roughly the same thing with one huge difference — Bing includes results from Facebook, Google does not.
That’s a huge blind spot for Google given that Bing now has some 500 million Facebook users to pull social data from. At the same time, Google is pulling data from your Twitter friends, which is something Bing does not, thus far, offer. However, given the relatively open nature of Twitter versus the closed nature of Facebook, it will likely be easier for Bing to add Twitter, than for Google to add Facebook.
The best search engine choice depends, for now, on which social networks you use. Facebook fans will find Bing a better match, while those using a wide variety of services will probably see more results from Google Social Search. For the new features to be useful you need a large social network, and your friends need to share your interests, otherwise the odds of your friends’ data showing up in either service are slim.
However, there’s a huge difference between liking something Facebook and posting a link to Twitter. Your friends may post a link to Twitter for just about any reason, perhaps even because the link leads to something so bad it’s funny. Liking something on Facebook is a more direct message: Your friends like it. That gives Microsoft’s social search effort a considerable advantage over Google’s, and much more valuable set of social data to fight off Google in the burgeoning social search war.
How much value Facebook’s status updates will add to Bing’s search results remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, Bing is finally offering something Google doesn’t.