For Bing and Google, the future of search is social

Over the next few weeks, Microsoft will overhaul its Bing search engine to incorporate results from Facebook, Twitter and other social networking platforms. 

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    The new Bing results page, which incorporates social search.
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Remember Bing?

It's a search engine, introduced in 2009 by Microsoft in order to compete with Google. As of last month, it claimed about 11 percent of the search engine market, leagues behind Google, and just a notch above Yahoo. It's always been hard not to root for Bing: A scrappy underdog, with plenty of fighting spirit and a pretty homepage, which rotates through scenic views of various locales around the globe. Even the name sounds optimistic. (Bing!) 

So for Bing lovers, here's some happy news: Over the new few weeks, Microsoft will roll out a social revamp of Bing, in the mold of Google's Search Plus Your World. In essence, the new Bing search result pages will encompass three panes. The leftmost pane consists of standard search results – the "core" of a Bing search. The center pane will be a "snapshot" – a map, for instance, or an aggregation of restaurant reviews. 

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And the rightmost pane will be social results. You'll be able to ask friends for suggestions or sift through an activity feed of Twitter and Facebook posts. 

"Our aim has always been to help you do more with search, and over the past three years we have made exciting strides to realize that vision," the Bing Team wrote in a blog post yesterday. "Today we are taking a big step forward as we begin rolling out what is the most significant update to Bing since we launched three years ago." The new Bing, they continued, will promote social search "without compromising the core search experience."

So how will the new Bing stack up against Google's Search Plus Your World? Well, over at the Verge, Ellis Hamburger, who had the chance to put Microsoft's would-be-Google-slayer through its paces, calls Bing a "futuristic and future-thinking" search engine. Of course, there are still plenty of kinks to be worked out.

But once everything is in ship-shape, Hamburger argues that Bing might yield "social search utopia. Imagine searching for a restaurant you're considering and seeing a few things: reviews from five different websites, organized by star rating inside the Bing Knows bar, then right next to it, a list of friends that have checked in to that restaurant across Facebook and Foursquare, and then even some pictures from Twitter of the restaurant's insane pasta fagioli." 

In related news, Farhad Manjoo of Slate recently attempted to undertake a novel experiment: One week without any Google products. (Manjoo even re-routed his emails from Gmail to a Hotmail account.) The result? It's very, very hard to live these days outside the Google ecosystem. 

"Google’s just too good – even beyond search, its products are too useful, too central to the Web to get much accomplished without them," Manjoo eventually acknowledged. "I lasted less than half a day without Google, and it was hell. And that’s the biggest case against switching to Bing. If you’re never really going to escape Google – and if Bing is pretty much exactly like Google – what’s the point?" 

Considering swapping Google for Bing? Drop us a line in the comments section.

And in the meantime, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut for more tech news.

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