Redmond, Washington -- Microsoft and Facebook moved to bridge the gap between social media and search Wednesday when the two companies announced tighter integration to create Bing Social. Starting on Wednesday, Bing will allow searchers to view results generated by their Facebook friends' use of the "like" button on the social network, in an attempt to bolstering its fledgling Bing search engine to catch up with Google Inc., Microsoft announced today.
The alliance between the world's largest software maker and the largest social network potentially propels Web searches -- one of the Internet's earliest activities -- in a new direction.
Microsoft's Qi Lu, president of Microsoft Online Services, and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg summoned a press conference at Microsoft's Silicon Valley headquarters to broadcast the extension of a long-running alliance between the two companies.
Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi and Qi Lu, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg (left to right) discuss the new Facebook-oriented results on Bing. (Credit: Tom Krazit/CNET)
Since the last couple of years there has been a splintering of the Web, dividing into the "topical" Web organized around documents and the "social" Web organized around people, Lu said. "We want to make social people first-class citizens of the search experience," he said.
The move underscores the growing rivalry between Facebook's 500-million member service and Google, whose search engine business has dominated the Web in past years.
"Google owned the old Web, the content-centric Web. Facebook has early leadership in the new Web, the social web," said Ray Valdes, an analyst at industry research firm Gartner. "This is the real long-term conflict. Microsoft in that sense, is a secondary player in this new battle."
The new product is called Liked Results. For example, users searching for a particular movie will see results indicating which of their friends like or dislike that film. Microsoft will start rolling out the features later today, said Bing head Yusuf Mehdi. Bing users will see a little pop-up window in the upper right-hand corner of their screens that asks them if they want to link their Bing accounts and their Facebook accounts. If you decline the offer, your Facebook profile and likes will not be shown on Bing, Mehdi said, and you can also delete Bing from your Facebook applications if you decide later to exclude your data. Microsoft will show the reminder five times.
Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that during the next five years he anticipates that nearly every industry will become disrupted by someone building a great socially integrated product. He called search "one of the most important areas on the Web today," which got the Facebook team thinking about what social search would look like and the best partner to help the network's engineers build it.
"I have no doubt that a great social integration in search will do for search what social integration did for games, photos, groups and events," Zuckerberg says.
"This will thoroughly change the way we use search," said Mehdi, during a press event held on Wednesday at Microsoft's Silicon Valley Campus.
According to Microsoft executives, search to date has been primarily based on technology and algorithms to provide relevant results. Now, Bing searches will incorporate human guidance, albeit in an automated fashion.
"Search was built on a concept of these signals that told engines what was ... the most likely piece of information you wanted based on the words you entered," wrote Satya Nadella, Microsoft's svp, online services division in a blog post. "But the signals that engines have come to rely on to help you find what you are looking for are not really representative of those human connections and the role they play in making decisions in real life. So we asked ourselves: What if we could make your friend's opinions visible to you in a simple way when you are searching?"