It's not difficult to figure out why Facebook is deepening its ties with a search engine like Microsoft's Bing versus Google. As indicated in previous posts, Facebook wants to become the next Google, and has its sights set on making that happen soon. With Google stepping up their "geolocation" game, Facebook has structured a deal with Bing where it will become the first search engine to show US users which sites Facebook friends like.
This is part of a four-year alliance arrangement between the two companies allowing them to both get a leg up over the search giant. According to a BBC report, the functionality of the "LIKE button" preference will only work when users are logged into Facebook or have "cookies" on their computers that store Facebook data. Zuckerberg confirmed this first step by saying, "this is just the beginning - there is going to be a whole lot more to come over time."
The service makes use of a Facebook feature that allows third-party Web sites to embed a "LIKE" button on their content pages, where when clicked by users, connections are linked to their profiles. These connections are then used to target advertising specific to each user as they visit various sites. At launch, Facebook demonstrated, for instance, how a restaurant with recommendation results will have one's fans avatars visible when users vist their Web site.
While Google would love to be able to access Facebook's Open Graph, its competitor Bing will now have that competitive advantage. According to analyst Charlene Li from the Altimeter Group, this move "hits Google right between the eyes." Long known for building algorithms based on relative links and keywords, what Google's search misses is the social graph data that Facebook is beginning to data-mine from its 500+ million users.
With Bing currently the third most popular search engine, behind Yahoo and Google still garnering the lion's share at approximately 70+ percent (dependent on which report you read) - the new feature takes advantage of the 2007 deal struck between Microsoft and Facebook. At that time, the software firm paid Facebook $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in the social network.
Danny Sullivan, SearchEngineLand's search engine optimization guru however does not see this new search component as a killer feature. He does however believe that Google will ramp up the pressure so that the data could be fully "freed" to them and others where they might strike a deal to pay for it the same way the search giant and Bing are buying Twitter's real-time data.
So, be on the look-out for your Facebook friends' avatars to appear next to a lot of your Bing searches for products, places, restaurants, movies and other connections that you and your FB friends have in common. Some see this an infringement on privacy, while others explain it as the natural evolution of the Internet as we slowing transition toward semantic technology and Web 3.0 (see related post, "Web 3.0, A Witness Protection Program For Artificial Intelligence").