I have been waiting for this to happen for a long time
and I think people are starting to see why I have been harping on about the importance of Facebook Likes for the last 6 months. Why? Well Facebook and Bing (Microsoft's search engine) have just turned up the pressure on Google by starting to fix one of the big areas that will see huge growth in the coming years...social search.
Likes Within Search Results
Likes feel as if they have been around for years but they were actually only launched in spring of this year and they really are the power behind this announcement today. Likes will now start to appear in your Bing results making social search a far more powerful experience and showing results that your friends actually like. I've felt that search has been broken for a while now and a more personalized experience has been needed and this could be the very start of it. Search results that include personal recommendations from your own personal network are far more powerful than a collection of websites that can be gamed through SEO and incoming links.
This is very much only the first step and the likes will only appear in a "module" near the top of the page. The long term plan sounds like it is to get Likes incorporated in to all search results butÃ‚ a lot of testing needs to done with users to see if this is something that users are going to embrace before it is rolled out further.
Personal Search Rather Than One Size Fits All
So rather than having a one size fits all search result (we all currently see the same pages when we search) Bing will include likes and other Facebook information to personalize the search experience. You can think of it as your own personal search engine that displays results only for you depending on the content that you and your friends have liked on either Facebook or by clicking likes around the web. For the first time you have your own personal search engine.
Improved People Search
With over 4% of all web searches relating to people this is an area of search that is clearly broken (easy to find famous people but not normal Joes) but Bing are using "social proximity" to help find the actual person. You'll now be much more likely to find the person you were actually looking for rather than a generic collection of 100s of Joe Bloggs.
Best $250 Million Microsoft Ever Spent?
When Microsoft spent $250 acquiring 1.5% of Facebook in 2007 when Facebook only had 7 million members everybody thought they had lost their mind but it now looks like one of the shrewdest investments they have ever made not only from a financial view but also from a strategic partnership perspective because there will be plenty more products rolled out between these two companies and this really feels like the biggest challenge to Google that I have seen to date. This will seriously shake up the search market.