Bing expands Facebook integration with new social sidebar on search results pages

Bing redesigned its search engine to include a sidebar that displays information from Facebook friends and other social media sources that might be able to help with a search topic.

The sidebar includes four components:

  • An “ask friends” feature that lets users post a question to Facebook
  • A list of “friends who might know” about the topic of a user’s query. This pulls information from users’ Facebook profiles to make suggestions based on what friends Like, photos they’ve added, where they’ve lived, work history, where they went to school and more.
  • Suggestions of experts, enthusiasts and other “people who know” about a topic based on their public activity and authority on networks like Twitter, Quora, Foursquare, Google+ and others.
  • An activity feed of real-time posts and queries, from which users can answer their friends questions and Like posts. This activity will simultaneously appear on Bing and Facebook.

The change reflects the increasing influence of the social and interest graphs on products across industries. However, Bing made it a point to distinguish itself from Google, which recently received criticism for its Search Plus Your World redesign that gives prominence to pages with some connection to Google+. Microsoft, despite its longtime partnership with Facebook, chose to include results from a number of networks and separate its social results from traditional topic-based results with the addition of the sidebar.

The sidebar looks similar  Facebook’s Ticker, which has also influenced how Spotify displays activity from a user’s friends. Its functionality is similar to TripAdvisor’s instant personalization which helps users find and connect with friends who are likely to have information about a travel destination based on what is available in their Facebook profiles. Bing builds on this concept by letting users post to News Feed and tag friends to notify them directly when there’s a question they might be able to answer. All of these features are available on mobile devices, but they are shown at the bottom of the search results. The new sidebar will roll out gradually, but users can request access here.

Bing began its Facebook integration by indexing page updates and publicly visible links posted by users in June 2010. Later that year Microsoft used Facebook instant personalization to influence its people search capabilities and to display Likes. Bing expanded its Facebook integration last year and began personalizing the rank of results based on the Likes of a user’s friends.

Here is an example of how someone might use the sidebar after searching for information about Honolulu.