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Facebook, Microsoft Add Social Features to Searches

Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of online business audience for Microsoft Corp. Photographer: Noah Berger/Bloomberg
Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of online business audience for Microsoft Corp. Photographer: Noah Berger/Bloomberg

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. expanded its partnership with Microsoft Corp.’s Bing search engine, letting people automatically see what their Facebook friends think about the topics they’re seeking information on.

Bing’s new search screen also will let users become a person’s friend on Facebook or send a message to the social-networking service, Microsoft and Facebook said today at a media event in Mountain View, California. Searches for restaurants or movies will spotlight the ones that a user’s friends like. Terms of the partnership weren’t disclosed.

“This is a new era,” Qi Lu, president of online services at Microsoft, said at the event. “Can the search experience be better if all the people you trust are part of that experience? You will find that the experience will be much better.”

Microsoft is counting on traffic from Facebook, the world’s most popular social network, as it steps up competition with Google Inc. Microsoft is merging its search operations with Yahoo! Inc. this year in a bid to challenge Google’s dominance in the market. The new features “offer a lot of promise,” said Danny Sullivan, who runs the search-analysis website Search Engine Land.

“This opens the idea that your friends can somewhat mind-meld with your search engine,” he said. “But there’s still more to be done. The early implementation shows a lot of gaps so far to me.”

Better Results?

The queries from Facebook users will help Microsoft refine its searches, said Yusuf Mehdi, a senior vice president at the Redmond, Washington-based company. Bing users can opt out of being integrated with Facebook, he said.

Microsoft aims to get an edge on Google, which is making its own search-engine refinements. Last month, Google unveiled a faster search feature called Instant that gives users results as they type in a query. Advertisers will spend $12.4 billion on search ads this year, up from $10.7 billion in 2009, EMarketer Inc. estimates.

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Palo Alto, California-based Facebook, credited Bing with spurring innovation in search, saying at the event that search user interface hadn’t changed for eight years before Bing.

“The thing that makes Microsoft a great partner for us is that they really are the underdog here,” he said at the event. “Because of that, they’re in a structural position where they’re incentivized to just go all out and innovate.”

Ad Partnership

Microsoft, the world’s biggest software maker, paid $240 million for a stake in Facebook in 2007. Facebook uses Microsoft for search-linked advertisements, though it stopped running its partner’s banner ads this year. Facebook opted to focus on its own efforts in that area.

Google’s share of U.S. Internet search rose to 66.1 percent last month from 65.4 in August, according to Reston, Virginia-based ComScore Inc. Microsoft’s share edged up to 11.2 percent from 11.1 percent. Yahoo, which has begun using Bing for search, dropped to 16.7 percent from 17.4 percent, ComScore said.

Microsoft rose 51 cents to $25.34 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have dropped 17 percent this year.

To contact the reporters on this story: Dina Bass in Seattle at dbass2@bloomberg.net; Peter Burrows in San Francisco at pburrows@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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