social_search

Four years into the Bing era and Microsoft’s still nascent search platform has yet to make a dent in Google’s dominance. But while many have written off Bing as a lost cause, there’s one area where Microsoft is making headway: social search.

Today, we learned that Twitter is testing an in-line Tweet translation feature in partnership with, you guessed it, Bing. Microsoft launched a similar partnership with Facebook in October 2011 – initially with Facebook Pages content, and eventually with content from individual user profiles as well.

While winning the right to power translation for Twitter and Facebook may not appear interesting on the surface, it’s more evidence in a growing trend. These alliances extend existing paid search partnerships with both Facebook and Twitter and mean that Bing is even more deeply embedded into the two leading social platforms, not to mention offering access to LinkedIn, G+, Twitter, Klout, Foursquare, and Quora content within its Social Search Sidebar.

Microsoft received similar prominent placement as a search option with Apple’s Siri intelligent assistant for iOS and as the default search engine in Amazon Kindle Fire tablets. All four partnerships stands in stark contrast to Google, which was cut off from accessing both social network data firehoses and from which Apple and Amazon seem intent on distancing themselves.

Despite its best efforts with Google+ and its controversial Search Plus Your World integration, Google remains on the outside looking in when it comes to social search content. Bing appears to be making a play toward this critical market with its experimental Bing Boards social search product, which debuted just two weeks ago, and by continuing to incorporate a wide range social data into its standard search results. While there is no evidence that Bing is gathering otherwise unavailable data by way of its Facebook or Twitter translation partnerships – or that it has the right to – its a tantalizing possibility that at this point looks far more likely than Google getting the same opportunity.

At the same time, both Facebook and Twitter are each making efforts to boost their own search and discovery credibility. Facebook launched Graph Search in January. What few have mentioned, however, is that Graph Search includes a partnership with Bing to direct those queries not answerable within Facebook to Microsoft’s search platform. This integration gives Microsoft access to searches from the social networks’ more than 1 billion users, which Microsoft claimed would give it access to “five times” the social content it previously crawled. This deal comes on the heels of the earlier social search partnership between the two companies beginning in 2010 which allowed users to like search results, share shopping lists, and integrate locations, among things.

Twitter has also continued to emphasize search by tweaking and emphasizing its Discover tab across all platforms, although to mixed reviews from critics. The company, however, renewed its now two-year-old partnership with Bing in September, giving Microsoft exclusive access to Tweet data from the platform’s more than 500 million global users into Bing’s Real Time Search product.

As social networks become increasingly central to how the world communicates and accesses information, access to this data could become an increasingly important distinction among search competitors. For Microsoft, these simple translation deals add to its existing portfolio of savvy social content partnerships and offer the former beast from Redmond a chance to unclench Google’s iron grip on search.

It’s possible the future will consist of separate categories and category leaders for Web search and social search, the latter of which Google is ill-equipped to dominate. That said, even in terms of standard Web search, social signals can dramatically enhance the effectiveness and targeting of available results.

Microsoft has a long way to go, and things could change very quickly. But one thing that seems unlikely to change is Facebook and Twitter’s hesitation to partner with Google. Given this, don’t count Microsoft out on social search.

[Image source: Nabeeloo]

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