We’re here at Microsoft’s Mountain View campus, waiting for news from Bing and Facebook. I’m liveblogging the event; Greg Sterling is sitting next to me ready to provide the color commentary, and Danny Sullivan has written an in-depth analysis of the new features that we’ll link over to as soon as the embargo lifts in a few minutes.
This is big news; I spotted the WSJ’s Walt Mossberg in front of the building with a camera crew; Barron’s Eric Savitz is two seats over, and I can see reporters from the New York Times, Wired and many others furiously prepping their posts.
We’re starting: Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s Senior Vice President, Online Audience Business is talking about how search is going to get better because of your friends.
Yusuf says Microsoft really admires how Facebook has pressed to open up the web. Facebook is allowing the richness of its social graph to now get incorporated into Bing search results. It’s the connections between people that help improve daily life—an example, going to see a movie—is it a movie that I’m going to like? What tour sites on vacation what will be interesting to us?
The answer to those questions aren’t going to come from websites or reviews—they’ll come from people who know something about you. It will be more than just links and information, it will be about how Bing helps people accomplish tasks.
Qi Lu, president of Microsoft’s Online Services Division, is up. We take a fundamentally different approach to search, he says (a nice, subtle dig at Google)—the idea is to discover user intent.
In the future, different forms of capturing user intent will evolve beyond the search box. For Bing, our aspiration is to build the capabilities and experience to help people accomplish their tasks in a better way. The prevailing structure of today’s web is topical in nature—hyperlinks between web pages are the glue that organizes information. Anchor text is the most important signal for today’s search engines. That is why you’ll get good experience for navigational queries, but going beyond that, looking for people, products and so on, the experience isn’t very good.
We’re also seeing the web evolve beyond just documents—we have digital representations of people, places and things—we’re building a digital society online, and as a result the web is also evolving. Of all the forces shaping the web today, the most important is Facebook with all of its hundreds of millions of users doing things.
Today’s web is a topical graph. Facebook has a social graph. You can overlay a person and interest, topics and events, and it’s just the beginning as the structure becomes more meaningful and offers more predictive powers. That’s the central theme about today’s announcement.
We will be able to unlock the tremendous potential of social that Facebook has through search in Bing. This is just the initial step—how people in a social relationship can become “first class citizens” in a search experience. Look at all of your queries for a month: you will find out that by tapping into your friend network on Facebook, your search experience will significantly improve.
Think about a few dimensions to visualize where we’re going. Think name queries—today, results are not generally very good unless you’re looking for public figures. Another classic problem is “who knows what”—using Facebook, we will be in a position to tackle that challenge.
Today’s web gives you access to popular opinions, but we plan to move to getting “trusted” opinions by leveraging your friend network and those of others on Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook is now coming on stage. He’s giving some history—as a computer science major and studying psychology he decided people search would be something really useful.
Next, Facebook started focusing on apps—early on, the only advantage they had were that they were deeply socially integrated. Over the past five years, Facebook worked on filling out features. In 2007, they decided to focus on building a platform, tapping into the expertise of companies that are experts in building apps and integrating it with all of Facebook’s social information.
What we’re really focused on now is working with companies who are really scrappy—underdogs—people who are going to be doing something that others aren’t doing.
Our view is that over the next five years nearly every industry is going to be disrupted by companies developing new things that are deeply socially integrated. We have this great partnership with Microsoft dating back to 2006 when Facebook had only 7 million users. Facebook has worked with Microsoft since then on ads, search, maps, etc.
Today, Microsoft is the underdog in search and has the incentive to do things that nobody else has—they’re willing to take risks and that makes them a great partner. “I couldn’t think of anyone better to be working with to build the next generation of search.”
There’s a few things we’re launching today, but a lot more to come.
Yusuf is back, now doing a demo. What’s the opportunity in social search? Bing Social shows the hottest topics happening on Facebook, linking the new content posted on Facebook with search queries, but it’s general, not specific.
Today, more personal context is being added to Bing search results. For the query “toyota prius” results include reviews, photos, news, images etc.—but oftentimes what I really want to know is what do my friends think about that. A new module now appearing in Bing results is called “liked by your Facebook friends” for a search query. It displays photos of friends, posts and content they’ve “liked” related to your query.
The module is also relevancy ranked, so it can appear in any position on the search result page. It’s also totally personalized based your unique Facebook network. This is going to “profoundly change” the way we think about search.
Next example: steakhouse in san francisco. In local search results for this query, you see “what the web likes,” but in your Facebook module you’ll see results that may not appear above, but four of your friends love it so it moves up into the focus of top results.
Query for the film “waiting for superman” shows local theater results at the top, but also pulls in your friends opinions about the movie.
These examples show how the core result page will change going forward with the help of your friends.
Today’s next big change: people search. About 4%, or a billion queries per month, are people related. Today, a people search returns popular people rather than people you know. That changes today by bringing in Facebook profiles into search results. This creates a number of new relevancy signals—one is social proximity (a friend or a friend of friend). Clicking on the “mutual friends” link takes you to Facebook and lets you zoom in on the person you’re looking for, and then with one click you can send that person a message or friend them.
So the two things new today are pulling Facebook content into general web search results, and your friends into people search results.
Finally, a word about privacy—this will only work if you explicitly link your Facebook account with Bing. You need to be logged into Facebook, and when there are Facebook results available you need to explicitly give permission to create the link. Bing also asks you for permission five different times before it makes the change permanent.
Future plans: bringing Facebook results into any query, and also trying to identify who are the real experts on particular topics based on trust networks that Bing is just starting to identify.
Next up, Dan Rose VP of Business Development and Monetization at Facebook.
More history of the relationship between Microsoft and Facebook. Initially, advertising was a key focus. Microsoft then invested in Facebook, and later started integrating Facebook into various other Microsoft properties—Hotmail, Outlook, XBox, Maps, etc.
From the beginning we thought could we potentially do something cool around web search. In the early days, we were too small, but we started down the path when we integrated Bing search results into Facebook. We started to talk with Bing about how we could bring your friends into search results. We thought we should do it on Facebook, but there are far more users who are searching on Bing, so that’s why the integration being demonstrated today is appearing on Bing rather than Facebook.
Interesting tidbit: this integration between Bing and Facebook began just two months ago, so they’re really excited about potential rapid fire development going forward.
Now we have Q&A with the whole gang.
Question: is this just another app, or is it something unique?
Zuck: what we’re doing with social is a bit different than the other signals you put into machine learning algorithms. We’re impressed with how much Bing has innovated on the search interface.
Li: We’re adding “more surface area” to search results. A lot more power to increase engagement with users with this integration.
Q: What information is Bing receiving from your Facebook profile, and what is Bing giving back to Facebook?
Zuck: Lot of misconceptions around “instant personalization” that Facebook offers. If you have it turned on, a site knows who you are, but no other information, but Facebook allows a site or app to query Facebook about your public interests. Bing can see no other information about you than any other Facebook user can see. It’s all public information. And Bing sends no information back to Facebook.
Bing is not storing a user’s specific information against a specific search.
Q: If I search for a famous person who has the same name as one of my friends, which takes precedence?
Li: We need to understand the intent of the query. The search product is data driven, so we get feedback loops. We continually use this data to improve all search results.
Q: Are all “likes” available to Bing search?
Zuck: No, you have control over that. Third party apps have to explicitly ask for information, and if you haven’t enabled permissions they can’t get it. So if you create private “likes” no third-party apps can access those.
Q: What percentage of queries get relevant results from Facebook content?
Li: No exact number, but it’s “substantial.” But we also believe that if we improve the experience more people will be doing queries that increasingly leverage Facebook data.
Q: Will this extend to other social networks such as LinkedIn, and will Facebook work with other search engines?
Mehdi: We’re just working with Facebook at this point.
Zuck: We think Microsoft is the best partner right now. We’re open to working with others, but if you look at the great companies that are disruptive, they tend to be the underdog. So no real answers about whether we’ll see Google getting any Facebook data any time soon.
And that’s it!
For a deep dive into how the Bing/Facebook integration works, see Danny’s Bing, Now With Extra Facebook: See What Your Friends Like & People Search Results.
- Bing Gets More Social with Facebook from the Bing Search Blog
- New Signals in Search: The Bing Social Layer from Microsoft’s Satya Nadella