Microsoft rolled out some big social search features yesterday for Bing. In what the company is calling its “most significant update to Bing since [it] launched three years ago,” the search engine will soon give you the choice of extending your search into Facebook and other social sites. The new Bing will feature a three-column search page. The left portion of the page will show you traditional search results, while the middle column, which Microsoft calls “snapshot,” will show sites that it thinks might be relevant to your search. For example, if you search for “Thai food” you would get a list of restaurants in the left column and maybe reviews and maps in the middle column. So far, so good, now on to the third column.
On the right side of the page, you’ll see the sidebar, and if you’re signed into Facebook, you’ll be able to see relevant answers to your search and ask questions to your network of friends. In the Thai food example, Bing might show wall posts from a couple workmates who recently slurped a couple spicy bowls of tom yung goong. The sidebar will also show you relevant blog entries, tweets, and other information people have posted publicly.
Sure, this isn’t going to be a Google slayer, but Bing really scored a coup by getting its hands on all that delicious Facebook user data. The New York Times reports:
Strengthening the ties between Bing and Facebook is also another sign of how Microsoft and Facebook are working together to provide a counterbalance to their common adversary, Google. While Google is by far the dominant player in the Internet search business, it also competes with Microsoft in productivity applications and with Facebook through its Google Plus social network.
One big question remains, however: Why didn’t those guys invite you to lunch with them. They know you totally love spicy Thai food. Maybe Bing will have an answer some day.