Facebook, Bing Team Up for Integrated Search

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Facebook and Microsoft (Stock Quote: MSFT) announced a new joint initiative Wednesday aimed at using the recommendations of your social network to bolster search results on Microsoft’s search engine, Bing.

“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,” explained Facebook Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor on Facebook’s official blog. “When you search for something on Bing or in web results on Facebook (powered by Bing), you'll be able to see your friends' faces next to web pages they've liked.”

As an example, he showed how a search for “iron man” would turn up the IMDB page for the 2008 movie, with the faces of friends who liked that page displayed next to the link.

The partnership seems to bring Bing’s promise to serve more as a “decision engine” than a traditional search engine closer to fruition. “The fact is the real world isn't defined purely by how information is connected; it's also defined by the connections between people,” explained the Bing team on their own official blog.

In other words, the new initiative recognizes the value that people place on the recommendations of friends, and will weigh those recommendations when returning search results.

In addition to weighing your friends’ “likes” in Bing searches, the partnership will also make it easier to find their Facebook pages. While a search for a friend’s name on Google will simply return several pages of links to people with that name, a Bing search will begin to place a priority on those with whom you have mutual friends, as Facebook searches already do.

The announcement predictably raised privacy concerns, much as the “Open Graph” tool – which displays your friends’ “likes” on various websites – did when it was announced. Integrating those “likes” into web searches makes them even more ubiquitous, and is likely to revive the controversy in the coming months. While a few commenters on Facebook’s announcement have already expressed trepidation, the two companies have sought to preemptively quell these concerns with a promise that Bing users would be prompted to choose whether or not to link to their Facebook accounts and enable the features.

The initiative is the product of a strategic alliance forged between the two tech giants in 2006, three years before Microsoft launched Bing. It remains to be seen whether the integration of Facebook’s 500 million-strong social network will help the nascent search engine cut into Google’s commanding market share.

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