Microsoft Corp.'s Bing search engine is getting friendlier. Microsoft plans to release a new version of its search engine in which a user's Facebook friends play a bigger role in shaping search results.
"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," says Qi Lu, president of Microsoft's online services division.
Industry experts say the tighter connections with Facebook could help Bing provide search results that appeal to many consumers, particularly for heavy users of Facebook, while also supporting more revenue-generating ad clicks for Microsoft. "Bing may actually be able to get some heavy Facebook users to prefer Bing results over Google's, which would be a major coup," says Kevin Lee, CEO of Didit, a search engine marketing firm.
The updated Bing will display Facebook content under an icon for the social network in a "social sidebar" on the far right side of the search results page. Without leaving the page, searchers will be able to click the Facebook icon to connect to the social network, making any pertinent content from their personal Facebook page appear in the sidebar.
For instance, a search on Bing for "Drake Hotel Chicago," would display in the social sidebar such information as the names of friends who live in Chicago, as well as any recent Facebook posts related to Chicago by the searcher's Facebook friends.
Bing will also feature a new "snapshot" section that summarizes content related to the search keyword. In the example of the Drake Hotel search, the snapshot could include the hotel's average room rate, interactive check-in and check-out calendar windows for choosing reservation dates, a clickable map showing the hotel's location, ratings and reviews and hotel photos. The snapshot section, which also shows paid search ads related to the search term, will appear in the middle of a search results page between regular search results and the social sidebar.
Microsoft, which owns a small stake in Facebook, also says the updated Bing will support faster searches, the result of a number of tweaks by Bing software engineers.