Microsoft's made a major upgrade to Bing, adding much more integration with Facebook, in a move that could perhaps see it taking on Google properly for the first time.
"Today's launch is only a start of this journey but it reflects an important milestone in evolving search into something more than a collection of machines and algorithms," says Satya Nadella - senior vice president of Microsoft's Online Services Division.
"It shows the promise of what can happen when we take the greatest decision engine - the people you trust - and combine that with the world's greatest resource for information - the world wide web."
A new Liked Results feature in Bing shows Facebook users the websites and links liked by their friends. "So, you can lean on friends to figure out the best websites for your search," says chief technology officer Bret Taylor on the Facebook blog.
Meanwhile, Facebook Profile Search is aimed at making it easier to find the person you're looking for through search. "Now, when you search on Bing, rather than showing you all the Matthew Kims out there, Bing finds and provides the results most relevant to you based on your Facebook connections — those with whom you have mutual friends will now show up first," says Taylor.
"Bing is also making more prominent the ability to add these people as friends on Facebook directly from Bing."
Microsoft's been working with Facebook for some time, investing $240 million in the company back in 2007. Google, too, has been attempting to get into the social web, albeit through a series of smallish acquisitions and the problematic, to say the least, launch of Buzz.
While at face value, neither of the new Bing functions is particularly earth-shattering, says Forrester analyst Augie Ray, it represents a completely new starting point for search.
"Back in the dark ages of search, results were gathered and ranked based on very few data points, such as page titles and meta data. Those were poor sources for search engine relevance and were prone to being gamed using 'Black Hat SEO' tactics, so the back-end of search became ever more complex in order to furnish users with ever more relevant search results," he says.
"While today's Bing social search functionality may seem relatively crude, it is just a starting point on a journey toward far more complex parsing of social data into useful, pertinent search results."
The features will start appearing in the US over the next few weeks.