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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bing Adds Facebook 'Likes' to Search Results

Microsoft and Facebook announced a deep partnership that would bring Facebook data to the Bing search results. A couple of new features have been announced, the possibility to see what your friends have 'liked,' if it's relevant to the query, and a people search feature based on Facebook. 

"Today, we're partnering with Bing to give you a way to bring your friends' recommendations to online search," Bret Taylor, CTO of Facebook, announced. 

"Your friends have liked lots of things all over the web, and now instead of stumbling across a new movie or having to look at a friend's profile to see which restaurants they like, we're bringing everything together in one place," he said. 

The first new feature, arguably the most interesting, is a new section which will sometimes show up in Bing search results. Bing taps into Facebook Like data to add links from your friends if they are relevant to your query. 

In theory, links that your friends liked should be a lot more relevant to you than algorithmically determined results, especially if those links wouldn't show up in the results otherwise. 

The second feature is people search which now adds Facebook data. With 500 million users, Facebook is clearly the best place on the web to find someone. 

Essentially, Bing becomes part of Facebook's Instant Personalizationprogram which enables websites to customize the experience for each user. 

While Yahoo has had a deep partnership with Facebook for the better part of a year, Bing is the first to introduce this sort of feature. Yahoo added the possibility to find your friends' Facebook photos with Image Search a couple of days ago. Bing can do this because it has full access to the Facebook data stream. 

Google was actually first to introduce a social search section, initially in Labs and later for everybody. Google taps into several data sources for Social Search, including Facebook, but it has nowhere near the type of access Bing does. 

Note that much of the 'like' data is available through Facebook APIs, like the OpenGraph. However, there are restrictions and Google using OpenGraph to get 'like' data for each query would prove a huge burden for Facebook. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that the company is open to working with everyone for this. However, Taylor later clarified that it is unlikely something like the Bing integration revealed now would be available for others any time soon. 

The new features will be rolled out over the next few weeks in the US. The integration seems to be hit and miss for now, according to initial opinions, but there is definitely potential. 

Both Microsoft and Facebook stressed the fact that this is just the first iteration and that they plan to improve the features as well as add new ones based on feedback.

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