updated 03:15 pm EDT, Thu May 10, 2012
By Justin King
Microsoft on Thursday announced significant changes to its Bing search engine, expanding integration with social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. The primary Bing site will list search results and related content in three panes, including a 'sidebar' that presents recommendations based on a user's Facebook network. Users can see which friends have been to particular restaurants, for example, and post questions to a friend's page without leaving the Bing portal.
The sidebar can also be set to list Twitter posts related to a search inquiry, including items from individuals outside of the searcher's own Twitter network. Content will also include links to blogs or websites associated with some of the Twitter posts.
Microsoft appears to be utilizing its partnerships with Facebook and Twitter in an attempt to give Bing an edge against Google's dominant search service. Facebook data had already been used for Bing results, prioritizing results based on the number of 'likes' from a user's network, however the new interface brings the social networking integration to the forefront and separates the basic search results from the social networking content.
Google's approach has focused on its own social networks, culminating in Google+, which have served as competitors to Facebook. Google+ appears to be struggling to gain a significant share of the market, remaining a much smaller player in the same way that Bing has yet to persuade most users to switch from Google search.
The new Bing features will formally debut next month, however users can check out some of the new features beginning Tuesday.