Bing Partners with Twitter, Facebook to Bring Real-Time Updates to Search Capabilities

10/21/09

Microsoft announced the integration of real-time status updates from Twitter and Facebook into its Bing search engine this morning at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. Senior vice president Yusuf Mehdi and Online Services Group president Qi Lu confirmed the company’s non-exclusive partnerships with the two social media networks on stage, followed by a short demo, discussion, and audience Q&A.

According to Mehdi and Lu, the new deals are part of Bing’s ongoing plan to join “the emerging hot area of real-time information” with search engine technology to create a new kind of socially focused reader.

“We think about search holistically,” Lu said. “It’s about user intent…You are trying to build a mind-reader.”

During his speech, Mehdi demoed Bing.com/twitter, which went live in beta form only minutes after the announcement. “We are going to get access to all the Twitter information in real time,” he said, while organizing the tweet index by quality, relevance, and social significance to make searching easier and more efficient.

“We look at the people who are tweeting and we assign a social relevance score,” Mehdi said. The tweets are ranked by relevance, range, popularity, and interest, with stronger emphasis on tweets that are considered to be the most trustworthy and prolific. “If a particular tweet is being re-tweeted several times, you know it’s hot,” he said.

The new Twitter integration also includes a spam filter to improve searchability in the Twitter stream, a “tag cloud” of hottest Twitter topics, tweet ranking abilities, and top tweeted links. Bing will also automatically expand shortened URLs, like bit.ly and tinyurl, so that searchers will be able to see where the links will take them before clicking.

Meanwhile, the Facebook deal will allow Bing access to all publicly shared information from the social network’s users. According to Mehdi, this will launch “at a later date.”

The deals, described by Mehdi as “strategic partnerships,” come at the height of the “real-time search” competition between Microsoft and Google—efforts to help consumers get up-to-the-minute information about the world around them. In the last several months, Bing also has been on a partnership blitz, making a deal with PayScale to edge into the job search market, and signing a 10-year, $150 million agreement with Yahoo that gives Microsoft control of both companies’ search engine technologies.

And this is not Bing’s first attempt at going social, either. With Google now infiltrating what was Microsoft’s core client base—corporations—and dominating personal Web browsing and e-mail, Bing has been running a campaign to outpace the search giant in other areas. Both companies have been actively developing social media capabilities—Google using iGoogle to integrate content sharing, games, and communication tools into its users’ individualized homepages, and Bing utilizing already established social media. Facebook now employs Bing for the site’s search feature, and back in July, Bing began including popular Twitter feeds—like those of Al Gore and Ryan Seacrest—into its search results, in an attempt to get a leg up on the competition.

Google is said to be in similar partnership talks with both Twitter and Facebook. And although Microsoft’s deals are non-exclusive and do not preclude any future deals between the two social media groups and Google, it was clearly a sprint on the part of Microsoft to get in first in the social media race.

Passing over financial and operational details, Lu made it clear that this was not the last we’d hear of Microsoft’s forward-thinking, social media push. “A real-time corpus like Twitter…is still evolving and emerging,” Lu said. “This is just the beginning.”

Thea Chard is a correspondent for Xconomy Seattle. You can e-mail her at theachard@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/theachard. Follow @

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