The recent partnership between Bing and Facebook sees a whole new measure for determining the best search results within Bing (and so within Facebook Search). This is through using ‘social signals’ such as the ‘Like’ button seen on many external websites, as well as within Facebook. Historically one of the largest measures of determining relevant results has been through links pointing towards a website. This means that Bing Search results will be different depending on what your network of friends link to or ‘Like’.

Advantages of Search Powered by Social Signals

Facebook has a lot more personalised data about its users than what Google has of their users. Facebook users have information such as age, sex, location, place of work etc, within their profiles, as well as what their ‘Like’s are (this includes websites and businesses they like on Facebook). Think of what this could mean for search? With these social signals provided by Facebook such as location, friends, jobs and interests, Bing Search may be able to better determine what a person is actually searching for, and so proving more accurate results. If this data is effectively programmed into the search engine algorithm and provides more relevant search results, we could see much more personalised and accurate search results than Google has been able to provide us. This could present the largest challenge to Google we have seen to-date. Let's use the following example of Fashion. A female between 18-25 years old living in Sydney may have very different tastes in fashion to a female in the same age demographic living in outback Australia. A female between the ages of 40-50 will have very different fashion requirements again. And yet if you were to simply search ‘Buy Female Clothing’ into Google, the results significantly vary across a variety of demography. With the demographic information already available to Facebook, they could provide very different personalised search results more suited to an individual user.

The Future of ‘Social Signals Search’

While Bing currently powers Facebook Search and with the growth of Facebook moving into many different areas, could Facebook be one day powering their own ‘Facebook Search’? If the current social signals prove to be effective in driving Bing ahead in the search industry, imagine the damage to Bing if Facebook decided to take that social data back to power their own search engine! I believe that all of this will hinge on how effectively Facebook position ‘Facebook Search’. With so many people already using Facebook, if they don’t need to leave Facebook to search the Web, many users will simply use Facebook just because it’s simpler. Facebook Search (which includes Web results), has already been in place within Facebook for some time now, and yet less than 10% of the people we talk to are even aware of Facebook search.