Bing's Search Pulls Facebook Footprint

Bing today introduced "social search," a way to filter search results by what your friends like. For instance, if I search for the word "sharks," Bing takes into account that eight of my Facebook friends have clicked "like" on the San Jose Sharks website and returns the hockey team much higher in the results.

In other words, Bing examines how many of my friends like underwater sharks compared to NHL Sharks and concludes I'm probably looking for the hockey team.

Bing calls it the "friend effect" and says "people feel more confident, smarter and safer with the wisdom of their trusted circle." You must be signed into Facebook for the system to work.

My results are somewhat limited. This could be because I am not a big Facebooker, or because my friends don't click "like" very often, but I am able to draw some conclusions. For instance, when searching for hotels, twice as many of my friends "like" Expedia than Travelocity. Forced to choose between the two services, I'd probably book through Expedia.

This would probably be enough for me, but Bing offers the reverse - it will populate your Facebook feed with search results. So if you search Bing for flights between San Jose and Chicago, and then click "like" on the results, your Facebook stream will update with new offers of flights to Chicago.  This will feel spammy to some people; others may find it convenient.

Others may feel uncomfortable linking their search results to their Facebook. While it does not appear Bing will tattle about your preferences on Facebook, even the act of linking the two makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. If I spend a lot of time looking for more information about the band Wham!, that's my business.

Bing's Social Search is similar to - but not an exact copy of - Google's system with the same name.  Google's system searches your friends Blogger, Flickr and Twitter feeds to see if they have written about the subject matter you're searching for.

The system has come under criticism from Burson-Marsteller and Facebook as part of a whisper campaign.

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