Bing back in February announced the integration of Facebook likes into the search results. Friend recommendations appeared only on some results pages at that time. This changed yesterday with the roll out of the second stage of Facebook integration.
What's the reasoning behind adding friend likes to the search results? According to Microsoft, it stems from the fact that the majority of people may delay decisions until they have asked a friend for advice.
Bing tries to speed up the decision making process by combining standard search results with the likes of a user's Facebook friends and likes of all Facebook users.
The decision delay can be shortened by combining the technology of Bing with Facebook, to incorporate the friend effect into search. Bing now uses the interests shown by friends on Facebook to deliver a personalized search experience. With more than 30 billion pieces of content shared each month on Facebook alone, there is power in the collective know-how of the Web, and Bing is the first search engine to harness this information in a useful way.
So how does the integration look like on Bing search results pages?
Likes are displayed beneath individual results on Bing. Webmasters should take note that Bing may promote results to the first page if friend's have liked them, even if they would not be on the first page of results for the query otherwise.
The Facebook integration does not stop here as Bing will make use of Facebook likes to present the searcher with popular sites and messages from companies and brands that match the query.
For example, when planning a vacation and searching for a rental car, Bing will show recent Facebook posts alerting people to a new deal at the top of the results.
Facebook has been integrated in other areas as well. If you search for a city for instance, you will see who lives in or nearby. Other features include flight deals that lead directly to company offers on Facebook and shared shopping lists for your local area.
Here is a video that visualizes most of the features:
Liking a website does not really give you the reason behind that like. What are some of the reasons behind a like? A friend may have done business with the site, may like the design of the site or the product offered. It may also be that the site was liked because your friend was paid to like it, or that it was liked because another friend liked it.
You basically cannot tell from a like why it was added by a friend.
Another aspect to consider is the trust you put into your friend's likes. If your grandparents liked a hotel in Florida, does it mean that you will like it as well? What about book recommendations. All your female friends recommend the latest Harry Potter, does it mean that you will like the book as well if you are male?
There is a lot to consider about individual likes before you can make the decision if it will aid you in your decision making process.
You can disable most "Friend Effect" features by being logged out of Facebook when searching on Bing. You furthermore need to make sure that you have not linked Bing to Facebook on the Bing page.
You still get general Facebook recommendations but not personal ones.
You can find out more about that at Bing's social site.
All major search engines are integrating social results into the search results. That should not be a problem as long as they offer options to block the results from showing.
What's your take on the friend effect and social integration into search in general?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.