In an effort to gain traction in the search engine space historically dominated by Google, Microsoft’s Bing search engine will soon integrate Facebook’s (News - Alert) and Twitter’s social features into its search results. Unveiled Thursday, the changes mark a fundamental redesign in how Bing displays search results.
Microsoft (News - Alert) is counting on the new format to help Bing gain a significant share of the search market, something it has been unable to do up to this point, shadowed by Google’s popularity. This is partly prompted by the fact that Microsoft’s online division has lost more than $6.3 billion since Bing’s debut in June 2009.
Bing has been mining Microsoft’s close relationship with Facebook to provide more personalized results for the past two years, but it hasn’t been enough for most Web surfers to take notice. However, the new changes, effective next month, will be dramatic, and come with a full marketing blitz complete with TV and Internet ads.
The revised system will feature three columns, or panes, much like Facebook’s current layout. The left column will sport the familiar blue links Bing usually presents. The middle column, called “Snapshot,” will be dedicated to completing tasks – getting directions, making a hotel reservation, buying movie tickets, etc.
The “Sidebar” column on the right, however, is to be Bing’s new pièce de résistance. The Bing Sidebar is where those logged into Facebook will see recommendations taken from each user’s Facebook friends. Bing users will be able to pose questions to their Facebook friends right from the results page, while users can also share their results on Facebook from here.
The Sidebar will also feature relevant tweets, including some from those you don’t follow, and suggest experts on topics related to some search requests as well as list their Twitter (News - Alert) handles, blogs or Websites.
In many ways, this revamp is an admission that past attempts to integrate Facebook social aspects into Bing failed. But even Google (News - Alert) has had some trouble integrating social media into its search, though this has more to do with the search giant choosing to highlight Google+ results over the more popular Facebook and Twitter.
At the end of March, it was reported that Google owned 66 percent of the U.S. search market by comScore (News - Alert) Inc., while Bing’s share sat at a distant 15 percent.
Microsoft and Google also to continue to battle it out on the Web-based email front with their Hotmail and Gmail services, as well as in the smartphone space, albeit less directly.