San Francisco: Microsoft on Thursday said that it is weaving insights from user’s Facebook friends into Bing results as part of the biggest revamp of the search engine since its launch three years ago.
A new version of Bing will be rolled out in the weeks ahead and was to be widely available in the United States in early June.
“Increasingly, the Web is about much more than simply finding information by navigating a topically organized graph of links,” said Microsoft online services division president Qi Lu.
“We’re evolving search in a way that recognizes new user paradigms like the growth of the social graph, and will empower people with the broad knowledge of the Web alongside the help of their friends.”
Google in January meshed posts from its social network into search results based on a similar belief that people value input from friends or others they respect.
The new version of Bing will feature a “social sidebar” that will list Facebook friends who may know something about a query topic, according to Microsoft.
For example, when handling a query about “Hawaii,” Bing will check Facebook “likes,” photos and other public profile information to suggest people who could provide useful insights, according to principal development lead Sandy Wong.
“You’ll still see search results for Hawaii within the traditional Web search results,” Wong said while giving the example.
“But, now you’ll also be able to consider the advice of your friends who may know something about Hawaii.”
Microsoft said that Bing improvements include faster, more relevant results and cleaner pages that will include “snapshots” that tightly summarize pertinent information.
“People are using the Web to do things in the real world, and that’s a big change from where things were a decade ago,” said Bing senior director Stefan Weitz.
Social search has the potential to be a winner, and Facebook could take a chunk of the market if it launched its own online query service, according to survey results released by London-based digital marketing agency Greenlight.
“Facebook could capture around 22% of the global search market by simply launching its own search engine tomorrow morning,” Greenlight chief operating officer (COO) Andreas Pouros said Thursday in a release.
“It wouldn’t need to be a spectacular engine either, just well integrated into the Facebook experience and generally competent.”
The survey also revealed that merging views from friends at Google+ social network with personalized results served up by the Internet search titan is proving a success.
Nearly a quarter of Google search users have clicked “+1” icons to signal endorsement of results in what it seen as valuable feedback, according to Greenlight.
“Brands and e-retailers need to be encouraging +1’s in Google,” Pouros said. “It isn’t something that might be important in the future - it already is.”
In a move appearing shrewdly visionary, Microsoft in late 2007 paid what seemed an exorbitant $240 million for a 1.6% stake in Facebook.
The investment put Microsoft in a position to build a relationship with the California-based startup with a stated mission of making the Internet more social.
The investment also promises to pay off for Microsoft, which will have a piece of Facebook worth at least $700 million after the social network makes its expected debut on the stock exchange next week.
In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Facebook set a price range of $28 to $35 for its shares, which would value the firm at between $70 billion and $87.5 billion.