Facebook Socializes Awkward Little Bing

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bing_small.jpgADOTAS – It’s a classic story, but my favorite variation is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Bernice Bobs Her Hair.” The most popular girl helps the ugly duckling blossom into a socialite, but in Fitzgerald’s story, Bernice gets a little too cool and awakens the wrath of her social fairy godmother. If you want a tale with a happier (though far less humorous) ending, watch “Clueless.”

So as Facebook lends its highly valuable social data to “underdog” Bing (currently grabbing a meager 11% share of all searches compared to Google’s 65%), I wonder if the hand that feeds will eventually turn into the hand that slaps down. In the juicy world of Internet business — especially concerning the ever-alienating Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — I can’t wait to find out.

Things your Facebook friends “Liked” will start appearing in your Bing search results thanks to a new partnership between the two companies. In a new feature that Microsoft is gradually rolling out, if you search for President Obama (I hear some people still like him), articles about the White House that your friends gave thumbs up with will be featured in the search results page. In turn, Facebook’s search tool will be powered by Bing, just like Yahoo.

Of course, Facebook public data is available on any search engine, but Facebook seems to have opened a special “Like” channel just for Bing. Google CEO Eric Schmidt suggested last month that Facebook should share that same info with everyone, and that Big G would get the data somehow, some way… But since Facebook is emerging as an arch rival — and this Microsoft deal is the equivalent of Zuckerberg sticking out his tongue — Google is likely going to have to come up with similar data on its own through socializing its core components.

Zuck did say during the press conference that it wants all companies to have social search, apparently the company wants to get it right with Bing first. Google replied in a public statement that it welcomed the competition.

“Search is more fun when you bring your friends,” Microsoft chirps in a demo video, but Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land says only when your friends show up. Apparently friendly recommendations didn’t show up on a lot of searches he conducted, in particular ones where he would have appreciated some peer advice.

“If Liked Results begin showing more often — and add truly unique content to a page — then this becomes a compelling feature that might pull people over to Bing more often,” he writes. “But for the moment, it’s just a start, not a done deal.”

However, last week Searchmetrics introduced a tool for judging the indirect effect of Facebook on SEO — well, looks like that effect got a bit more direct. No, SEO isn’t going to be done in by this feature, but professionals are going to have to put more thought into the Facebook effect. Eventually Facebook data could be linked into the overall ranking algorithm, which is a whole new can of worms…

For publishers, the Facebook Like button is more important than ever, and if Facebook really does share its social data with all search engines, getting Liked will become imperative. While we’ll see open graph fever at new heights among publishers, I’m doubting that the new feature helps Bing take a huge chunk out of Google’s search share.

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