Bing Brings "Friend Effect" to Search
This week Bing announced that it is taking a giant leap forward to recreate itself as a social search engine.
Bing is bringing the collective IQ of the Web together with the opinions of the people you trust most, to bring the “Friend Effect” to search. Starting today, you can receive personalized search results based on the opinions of your friends by simply signing into Facebook.
For some years, all major search engines have incorporated the use of what's known as "blended" search, which can be defined as a form of search that pulls in various types of content - websites, video, images, social media, blogs, podcasts and more - into search returns.
More recently, both Google and Bing have sought to turn search into a real-time environment by utilizing constantly updated feeds from Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Google offers a search option called RealTime. (Here's an example using "President Obama" as the keyword.) Bing has an option simply called "Social."
It's worth noting that, in running several Google Realtime searches, most, if not all the returns, were coming from Twitter. The ongoing rivalry between Google and Facebook - most recently evidenced by the alleged smear campaign where Facebook hired a pr firm to cast aspersions toward Google - means that Big G won't be seeing Facebook results appearing in SERPs anytime soon. Or, if any such returns are still showing up, one would have to assume that will be short-lived.
Bing, on the other hand, has been a staunch supporter of Facebook for some time. In 2007, Microsoft, Bing's parent company, invested $240 million in the social network. In return, Facebook uses Bing as its search engine for pulling in search results from outside the network, a practice Facebook refers to as "public" search.
With this announcement, Bing is taking further advantage of that relationship to position itself as the preferred social search engine. Users who are logged into Facebook now have the option to see their friends "Likes."
Starting today, you can receive personalized search results based on the opinions of your friends by simply signing 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. Decisions can now be made with more than facts, now the opinions of your trusted friends and the collective wisdom of the Web.
What does this mean for the future of search?
It's an obvious sign that search is becoming inherently social. The web is now a social environment. Search, however, has traditionally been driven by "facts and links" says the announcement. With the evolution from blended search to realtime search and now social search in its purest form to date, that landscape is changing.
What are the implications for ecommerce merchants?
It makes having a presence in social media all the more imperative. That's true not only from the standpoint of gaining ubiquity in terms of search results, but also - and perhaps more importantly - leveraging the immense value of what the Bing announcement refers to as the "Friend Effect" - the trust people place in the opinions of others like themselves, whether that be real world friends and family or virtual friends on Facebook.
I've said for a long while that the line of demarcation between search and social has largely been erased. This move by Bing only serves to prove my point. Nothing is a silo anymore. Everything connects to everything else, or should. There can be a dynamic symbiosis between search and social where one positively effects the other.
Will Bing's shift toward a more pro-active use of social media in search dislodge Google's prominence as the king of all search engines? That remains to be seen. It is certainly a volley fired across Google's bow. And it means that, until the enmity between Facebook and Google ceases to exist, that Bing will be the social network's #1 suitor.
Interesting times, wouldn't you say? What are your thoughts on the future of search, especially in terms of its relationship to social media?