Starting today Bing will begin using data from Facebook in searches. Recommendations from friends will affect results, providing more personal relevance to things like clothes shopping and movie preferences. Bing has been collecting this data for several months, but now recommendations will be more clearly delineated to users via features like the following:
- Profile pictures of friends will appear next to search results they like
- When you search for people, you’ll start getting detailed info like their bio or location
- When you search about a city, you’ll get results of friends near that location
Turning Search into a Conversation
Bing wants to make all searches social. Seeing what friends are in a city you’re going to visit means you’ll likely reach out and make plans for your trip. When you search for a product, you’ll want your friends to weigh in on what to buy. And the more people get used to this type of social search, the more they’ll leave Google and use Bing—a win/win for Microsoft and Facebook.
The Wisdom of Your Social Graph
Whether you’re a fan of Bing or not, the move by Microsoft is of huge importance to the world of search. Rather than results being dictated by keywords and algorithms, this trend means your friends and social graph (or folks who think like you do) will start to dictate the results you see when you search.
There are pros and cons to this model. Pros include crowd sourcing a decision when it comes to buying an outfit. But you’re not going to want to employ that group mentality when seeking advice on a personal health or finance issue. Some searches are inherently private in nature.
Also, there are multiple times when I’m actually not interested in what my social graph has to say because I’m looking for an entirely new perspective. This is definitively true regarding issues that are global in nature. I love reading things like The Economist when it comes to world events so I don’t always have a North American skew on news. Likewise, if I’m interested in social media trends, I want to know about Orkut as well as Facebook. Granted, I don’t mind culling through results to find that gem of a page that I never would have found from friends (foreign academic publications, etc).
Opinion Versus Objectivity
But a major concern I have is that searches based on social results could turn into a popularity contest around brands that have gotten attention from certain influencers. Although I’d likely hear their thoughts about a favorite gadget, movie or product sooner or later anyway, searching in relative anonymity is appealing to me so I can feel like there’s a mote of objectivity in my results.
What do you think? Do you want search to stay focused on keywords or do you like Bing’s new direction? Or both?