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Last week Google and Bing announced new changes to their search engines – implementing a more socially orientated dimension for users. With the future of search looking to integrate social networks, has either of them got it right yet?
Just looking recent web trends, with Facebook finally ousting Google as the most visited site [See: Facebook overhaul Google as the Most Popular Site of 2010], it is evident that both Google and Bing need to do innovate, incorporate and assert themselves once more. So, with this in mind, let’s have a look at what both search engines are bringing to this social search hybrid table.
Google announced changes to three key areas including, showing social search results directly in SERPs, adding more comprehensive notes for links people have shared, and giving the user more control over what they share publicly and privately. Bing announced the very same day their revamped Bing Bar that centralises your search, Facebook and e-mail.
Google’s implementation of social results aggregates content from most social networking sites including Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and its own social networking site Buzz. However, it doesn’t integrate results from Facebook. Bing on the other hand has partnered with Facebook to provide users with a totally new dimension to search – one which could give them a slight edge.
Whilst Google have taken steps towards a fusion between search and social, it appears Bing are making the more significant strides (at the moment). For example, with Bing, users will have access to their Facebook news feeds, messages, notifications and friend’s requests. They can even ‘like’ a friend’s posts straight from their Bing Bar. This is in addition to a number of other changes they have made. A consolidation of search history, suggestions and deep links in search results are also included; and ‘proactive alerts’ that attempt to personally assist you when you’re online.
Where Bing may fall short though is the side effect this will have on user’s privacy. Bing Bar 7 will study your every move to help create a more personal and relevant user experience, but may ultimately compromise a user’s privacy. At the moment Google give users the option to share privately or publicly. Personalised search has become a hot topic for debate though, with some engines – such as DuckDuckGo – abandoning it entirely [See: How Vital is Private Search? ‘Very Say DuckDuckGo]. Therefore further intrusions may not prove universally popular.
It’s early days when it comes to the fusion of social search, and Google’s updates are merely seen as the foundations to their much bigger Google +1 toolbar service which provides a detailed integration of social layers across all of their services. In this respect the future does seem to be inevitably heading in this direction, however its success will largely depend on how users feel about publicising their shared content (or whether they will even know or care). As they keep a watchful eye on us, we’ll be keeping a watchful eye on their social integration developments.
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