Bing weaves more Facebook, Twitter data into search results

The Microsoft search engine is doing more and more to distinguish itself as a social search tool

Bing is incorporating more information from outside social networks such as Facebook and Twitter into how it displays search results involving people.

The changes are designed to give users at-a-glance answers to their search queries while at the same time highlighting the relationships between results, Bing announced Thursday in a blog post.

When searching for famous people or celebrities, for instance, social information from Facebook, Twitter and Klout will be added to Snapshot, the center column of Bing's search results page that originally launched last June.

The Snapshot feature, which is based on back-end engineering technology that Bing refers to as "Satori," initially focused on movies, restaurants and hotel results. Since its launch, however, "we have expanded Satori to include a significantly larger number of entities from more domains with a deeper level of understanding about them," Richard Qian, of Bing's index team, said in the blog post.

Snapshot's functionality encompasses people, places and things, but people search is the most popular, with searches for celebrities, professionals and friends representing roughly 10 percent of all searches on Bing, Microsoft said.

Bing is highlighting the search feature particularly as it relates to relationships. When searching for John Kerry, for instance, users will see summary information, alongside photos of Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush, Microsoft said. Hovering over "people also search for" photos also gives an explanation of how each person is related to the celebrity. The love interests of certain famous people are also displayed.

When searching for people who aren't famous but who might be colleagues of the person doing the search, the Snapshot panel will also display quick facts about the person such as where they went to school and where they have worked, based on publicly available information from LinkedIn and Wikipedia.

Google+, predictably, was not cited as a social network whose data would be incorporated into Snapshot.

But comparing a Bing search for, say, the singer Justin Timberlake versus a Google search revealed similar results. Google's right-hand panel, for instance, also displayed quick at-a-glance information such as upcoming events, song titles, albums, and "people also search for" photos, including his spouse Jessica Biel.

Searching for places on Bing, meanwhile, will also incorporate new types of easily readable information. Searching for specific locations such as Copenhagen, for instance, will give users an overview of the city including population and nearby airports, Microsoft said. The search engine also now allows plain English-type searches, though some tests of that functionality were hit or miss.

For instance, typing in "who played Morpheus in the Matrix" prominently displayed the correct answer in Snapshot (Laurence Fishburne), but searching for "the highest-grossing movie of all time" did not reveal any prominent results in the panel.

Microsoft has long been committed to making its search engine more of a social experience for users. In January, the search engine was beefed up to include more content from users' Facebook friends in its right-hand Social Sidebar panel.

Further expansions to the way Bing displays information are sure to come as it works to provide a more personalized type of search engine for users. "We expect to deliver a number of additional improvements in the weeks and months ahead," Bing's Qian said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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Tags Internet-based applications and servicesbingLinkedIntwittersocial networkinginternetsocial mediaKloutFacebookwikipediasearch enginesGoogleMicrosoft

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Zach Miners

IDG News Service

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