Following Google's unsuccessful rollout of its Google+-integrated social search at the beginning of the year, Bing has announced its own version of the same idea, which, interestingly, does not involve Google+. The one thing people really didn't like about Google's Search Plus Your World, Bing has made sure not to do. When Google rolled out its social search, the most popular social networks were nowhere to be found. Instead, Google favored its own, less popular network, Google+. Bing, on the other hand, has integrated both Facebook and Twitter, leaving Google+ to Google. And that's just one pointer Bing took from the more popular search engine, which botched its social integration.
The biggest change to Bing's new model comes in the form of a sidebar, which shows results from Facebook and Twitter. It also lets users posts their inquiries on these social networks via that little "As friends..." widget over there. Basically the social goes both ways. Users can see what others like and they can also share what they're Binging.
Google received direct criticism from Twitter for not including other social networks like it and Facebook in its effort. Users got mad not only because it looked like Google favoritism -- of which it has been doing a lot of lately -- but also because that didn't feel very useful. Google+ hasn't seen the success of Facebook or Twitter (or Tumblr or Pinterest). When we tried out the social search results, as someone who does not have very many active Google+ friendships, the results were not very helpful.
The utility of any social network not only comes from the design and algorithm, but the value of our friends Internet social networking. We did not have many Google+ contacts with much useful information, we imagine Bing will provide better stuff. Though, when Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan tested it out in a smackdown with Google, he found Bing's social sidebox didn't prove as useful as he'd hoped. "Bing really falls down in the Sidebar are, where it should really shine," he writes after performing a search for New Girl. "I follow the Facebook New Girl page, but that’s not shown. I do get the Twitter account of Zooey Deschanel, the main character [sic.] of the series. But why not show me at least the Twitter account for the New Girl show itself?" Where Google shines (the algorithm department), Bing fails, it seems. And where Bing shines -- actually integrating one's online social life -- Google fails.
Though, Slate's Farhaad Manjoo, gave up Google for a week and has come back raving about Bing. "The new Bing is like the old Google—your results are presented on a clean, uncluttered page consisting of a lot of links and a few unobtrusive ads," he writes. Though, this was before the social integration was announced. He seems excited about the newest Bing ad on, in this Tweet, though. Even the new, new design leaves things uncluttered. That sidebar sits off to the side. And the only other social stuff in the stream is an unobtrusive thumbs up next to results other friends "like" and a "trending arrow" that shows what others have searched.
For those looking to get away from Google for moral reasons, Bing and new social, all-inclusive Bing, should do the trick. But there's one thing that's clear from both Manjoo and Sullivan's experiences: Google still does regular old search better. "Google is unquestionably the better search engine," Manjoo writes. "Of the hundreds of searches I conducted in the last week, there were a handful of times that Bing just didn’t seem to be giving me the answer I was looking for. When I turned to Google with the same query, I got better results." And Google does a better job parsing its version of social, too. If only it would include social that matters.
Otherwise, Bing provides a much cleaner social experience than Google's more intrusive one.