How Bing and Facebook Actually Make "Social Search" A Reality

Facebook search, as it is now, is a pretty messy ordeal. If I search for White Stripes, I’m presented with a few pages that are hard to distinguish or identify. Enter Bing, and it looks like they may take this to a whole new level.

What is social search? It is loosely defined as a search query that includes your social graph as a factor in the results. So if I search for “The White Stripes”, I don’t just get web pages that have included that string of text, but I get pages that my friends have interacted with that include that string of text.

When done right, this will translate to a lot of better recommendations and search results. My search should show me who’s going to the upcoming concert, who’s bought their album, who’s liked their Facebook page and more. The opportunity for this kind of search has been on the table for a while, and while companies like LivingSocial tried in the first incarnation to create a list of everybody’s favorite ‘things’, their lack of a clear search platform meant it was still difficult to find out who on my social graph was interacting with my subject of desire.

That’s why I’m excited about this new Bing partnership. Take a look at this movie, first.

The simple, clean interface makes the first examples exciting. Easily search, find and add/message your new friends. That’s standard, and already easy on Facebook. But it’s when the searcher looks for Iron Man 2 that we can see a bit of innovation. I can find out what my friends have liked on IMDB. That’s a powerful application, and sure it’s been doable in other methods (through Imdb, and through Facebook search) before, but the fact that this is a standardized web search that I’m used to makes it very convenient and easy to use.

And the truth is that it’s ease of use that breeds popularity within features like this, just as Facebook and Google were partly successful due to clean UIs, Bing is making a very smart play here by focusing on simplicity of Facebook search integration.

I can now imagine social searching my favorite music, movies and more on Bing, and Bing returning links to iTunes, IMDB and more that also indicate how many Facebook friends liked the content. This, of course, can start to apply to other items, like local services like a good plumber. “Wow, 4 of my friends liked this local plumber.'” is probably the most powerful business application of Facebook for small businesses, and Bing may be poised to make this happen.