By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 12:57 pm
I’m at an event at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus, where a bunch of Microsoft and Facebook executives (including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg) just finished showing some new Bing features that should start rolling out shortly. The two companies (which first established a partnership four years ago) are working together to integrate stuff Facebook knows about you and your friends into Bing search results, using Facebook’s Instant Personalization feature.
Mostly, what Bing is doing is looking at which Facebook Like buttons your buddies have clicked around the Web, then inserting a module into search results that spotlights pages they’ve given a thumbs-up. We saw examples involving searches relating to cars, San Francisco steakhouses, and the movie Waiting for Superman.
When you search for a person, Bing will also use your Facebook friendships to try and return relevant results–the example we saw involved a search for “Brian Lee” that returned a module with Brian Lees who were friends of the user’s friends.
Some fuzzy photos I took of the projected demos:
With any matter Facebook-related, questions of privacy are sure to pop up–they certainly did during the Q&A session here. The Bing-Facebook integration is opt-out rather than opt-in, but Bing will pop up a bubble the first five times you go to Bing while logged into Facebook explaining what’s going on and allowing you to disable it with a click. You can also opt out later. No information travels from Bing back to Facebook–say, involving the nature of your searches. And Zuckerberg said repeatedly that Bing does’t know anything about you that 500 million Facebook users can’t see.
Both companies said this is just the first step of more ambitious integration efforts. For instance, Bing might someday look at which of your friends have checked into a particular restaurant using Facebook Places in order to identify those people as experts on that particular eatery. I also asked whether the Facebook data might get factored into search results in a more holistic way rather than in one module; the execs said that Bing plans to do inventive things with user interfaces in the future that could involve fresh approaches to incorporating the Facebook information. (Then again, Mark Zuckerberg himself told me that human beings are conditioned to factor their friendships into decisions: If you see your Facebook friends’ names and faces in Bing results, you’ll react differently than if their influence was more transparent.)
The newly Facebook-ized Bing doesn’t seem to be live for me quite yet–I wanna try it out, but it’s intriguing in part because it’s leveraging all those gazillions of Like-button clicks which, until now, have had an impact only on the sites with the buttons and on Facebook itself. If this works well, it makes the Like button a much more useful idea than it’s been to date.
If the new features are working for you, let us know what you think…