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Search can't scale without social, and Bing has Facebook and Twitter on its side

The human race will create 1.8 zettabytes of data in 2011. Web search can't keep up. See why social is the answer and how Bing is well-positioned.

Web search remains the heart of the Internet. It's our near-universal homepage. But, increasingly, it fails to deliver results that were as useful as they once were, for two reasons:

  1. The shear volume of web data continues to rise at a brutally quick pace
  2. SEO is being used to manipulate search results with subpar content to turn a quick buck

Google has been flailing throughout 2011 to try to fix the second issue (see Panda fiasco). As for the data volume issue, Bing director Stefan Weitz insists that there's one big answer for solving it: tapping social.

"The infusion of the social signals into search is the next generation of search," said Weitz.

That won't surprise anyone. In fact, Google finally recognized this in 2011 with the launch of Google+ and its tight integration into Google search. However, while Google views social as a layer that adds value on top of its search, Weitz and Bing view it as an central element of the future of search. And, what most people don't realize is that Bing already has more and better social data than Google because of Bing's strategic partnerships with Facebook and Twitter.

"The infusion of social data is not a gimmick," Weitz said. "Literally, without it, search is not going to scale."

Weitz cited the oft-quoted statistic that throughout all of human history up until 2003 we created 5 exabytes of data (five billion gigabytes). We now create that much every day. In 2011, we'll create 1.8 zettabytes of data (a zettabyte is a 1000 exabytes). That's up from 1.2 zettabytes in 2010, and we'll be creating over 20 times that by 2020.

In trying to scale to meet this data explosion, "our search engines themselves as getting creaky" said Weitz. "We rely on people to do things every day. Today's search simply doesn't take that into account. It's completely mathematical... It's been in the current stagnation for the past 12 years."

While Google has been busy working on building Google+ as its social tool, Microsoft has quietly gone out and cut partnership deals with Facebook and Twitter and started integrating their social data into Bing search results. For example, if you do a search on Bing and you're logged into Facebook in the same browser then the search results will show which of your friends have liked a certain page. See the example below:

"The Facebook integration is pretty cool. It brings in your friends to every query," said Weitz. "We built Bing as this 'decision engine' thing." Right now, the endgame for social on Bing involves taking Twitter and Facebook and "embedding those people into the decision flow," Weitz noted. This is becoming more important as people turn to social networks more often for asking questions, as illustrated in the chart below, which is based on a Bing survey.

Weitz didn't hesitate in stating that Bing is ahead of Google in terms of powering search with social. He said that Bing has better social data and is more deliberate about integrating it. He also said that Bing has a lot more social integration coming soon. Inside Microsoft, the Bing division now has a new headquarters at the company's Bellevue campus, has an international team working on refining search, and has a special team working on social integration right in Google's backyard in Mountain View, California.

Earlier this year, Bing reached 30% market share of all web searches among U.S. users. Will social be the key to unlock more gains against Google?

Sanity check

Bing may have a leg up on Google in social today because of the Microsoft deals with Facebook and Twitter, but you also have to keep in mind that Google is going to have more control over its social-search destiny by building its own product. It won't have to worry about partnership deals going bad or having to ask its social partners for additional API access. Google can just make it happen.

On the other hand, social is all about the people. And while Google+ is off to a great start, Facebook and Twitter still own the social graph today and will for years to come. That gives Bing a strategic advantage for the next stage of web search, for now.

Sidebar: Bing's Twitter and Facebook deals

Here's the timeline of Microsoft's Twitter and Facebook deals involving Bing, based on information from Microsoft:

Oct. 21, 2009: At Web 2.0, Qi Lu, president of Microsoft's Online Services Division, announces a new beta feature that enables people to easily search Twitter's real-time information feed within Bing. The feature helps customers to more fully understand the conversations taking place in Twitter by showing the most popular links people are sharing via Twitter and revealing the comments from the most authoritative users about those links. The feature refines the real-time feed by removing duplicates, links to adult content and tweets containing spam. Feb. 5, 2010: Bing announces an expansion of its global search alliance with Facebook. As part of the new global agreement, Facebook customers searching for Web content on the site are presented with a fully integrated Bing experience, allowing them to more easily search the Web and make better decisions. Microsoft also no longer represents Facebook display advertising sales in the U.S. as part of its ad network offering. April 13, 2010: Bing announces the limited release of Twitter integration into Bing search results. More specifically, Bing pulls in social content generated on Twitter to surface the most relevant updates quickly following a breaking news event. Bing analyzes what topics are generating the most interest on Twitter and surfaces the latest and most interesting content. It also utilizes Twitter data to bring customers the most popular shared links for navigational queries. Oct. 13, 2010: Bing announces a deeper alliance with Facebook, offering a more a personalized search experience for people who use Facebook and Bing. The new features are available when an individual is logged into Facebook while searching on Bing and include Facebook profile search and "Like" results. Bing is the only major search engine that can search public "Like" information and surface it to friends, providing a personalized search experience for each customer.  We intend to build upon this alliance to provide a more personalized and improved search experience in the future. May 17, 2011: Bing announces an expansion of the integration of "Like" results to include not only pages and links liked by a person's Facebook friends, but also results related to trending topics, articles and Facebook fan pages. Facebook Profile Search capabilities are enhanced to return more detailed information when searching for a specific person on Bing. Additionally, social results are integrated into Bing travel and Bing shopping, allowing people to get help from their trusted friends when making decisions online. Sept. 6, 2011: Bing and Twitter announce they will extend their alliance, allowing Twitter's fire-hose to feed into the Bing real-time search feature.

Also read

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

59 comments
Kaliolio
Kaliolio

Most people don't know how to interpret relevant results from a search anyway. If you really want valid information, you have to learn to quickly evaluate the validity of each result. Most people just take the first few results and get a bunch of unrelated BS. This won't change, ever. If you are sharp, you can get good results from any search engine.

Shamonk
Shamonk

Check out the difference in the definitions of shear and sheer; one's about hair and fur and load bearing walls, the other can be applied to wonderment. Thought you might want to know.

Slartibartfast
Slartibartfast

I spend a significant part of my work week fending off people who've read this kind of article, or the legions of recently self procalimed social media experts desperately trying to sell lame strategies to unwitting executives. I have come up with a method, and it applies to this article, and it works. I will share it for the good of mankind: I ask myself this question - "does the person making this statement stand to profit from me believing what they tell me, either directly or indirectly?" and if the answer is yes then as assertion needs careful vetting. In this case, fundamentally Bing is saying that what they're doing is great and implying that their largest competitor is not going to be able to cope. Hm. Would Bing profit from us believing that? Check. Does their assertion make any logical or technical sense? I would say not, and most people who've commented here seem to agree. I would suggest we should move on and consign this one to the big PR dustbin in the sky - sorry, 'Cloud'

CFWhitman
CFWhitman

To me the notion that social networking will help search scale is rather ridiculous. I don't have a Facebook account. I not only don't have a Twitter account, but I also fail to see the point of Twitter. I don't have a Google+ account. The closest I currently come to being part of a social network is DeviantArt and Artician, as well as being a member on a couple of photography forums, hiking forums, and hackable hardware forums. Even if I were on Facebook or Google+, I don't see where the perhaps twenty people I would theoretically have on my friends list would help search scale in any significant way. People who have hundreds of people on their friends list haven't really screened their friends in any meaningful way, so the list doesn't really help any more than a page hit ranking helps. If search needs help scaling to the greater amount of information, I think in the long run social networking will not be any kind of answer.

Tonydid
Tonydid

I can't help wondering if these masses of data are all useful or largely repeated rubbish that very few would consider of any use to themselves....let alone the rest of the world. When searching Google or Bing the repetition of the available information between different sites is notable.....and annoying.

GR8BigCheese
GR8BigCheese

So the future of Bing is to give up on searching the web and present what tour Facebook and Twitter friends say as the answer? Heaven help us if people do this. I shudder when I hear people say they know something is the truth because they saw a posting on Facebook or Twitter.

seanferd
seanferd

And 99% is dreck. "Social", which is apparently a noun now, isn't going to help searching for information. I don't care what anyone likes, I'll decide for myself. No, I don't need a "decision engine" - who does? Never mind that most people still don't know how to execute a simple search anyway. I've got a better idea: How about eliminating all the social junk from a search? So we can get actual relevant results. That would be a nice filter. Inverted, all the social/business types can search for whatever they want to know about what some other social/business type thinks. But it shouldn't be necessary, because they are all sooo connected already, right?

btoomey
btoomey

Half of Americans believe there are aliens coming to earth and nearly 40% believe there are ghosts and evil spirits. Why would I want their opinion. I'd like to see an internet where I can get scientific "facts" and skip the mumbo jumbo. I realize the word fact can be controversial so what I mean is, things that have been shown by experiment to be true or through careful observation by multiple sources shown to be consistent. I don't think researching something should be a popularity contest. Most people I know operate on belief and ignore knowlege. So they don't get flu shots because they cause the flu, they only drink bottled water, because other water is dangerous, and only use Sea Salt because other salts aren't as healthy. Right now almost any word or phrase you type could get a hit linked to amazon. When friends start recommending sites we will be in even more trouble. By the way, do I really need 13,800,000 results for Ben Franklin?

GreyGeek77
GreyGeek77

Google is far and away the most powerful search engine on the web. An increase in the number of web pages its spiders search through merely means an increase in the number of servers necessary to hold the additional retrieved information, and several years ago Google had already had more than 100,000 servers under its control. Indexes on the database that holds the information supplies the necessary search speed, and only an improvement in the indexing algorithm will increase that search speed. That is the kind of scaling which is necessary, and which brought Google to the pinnacle of its success. Apparently Microsoft thought the Google search was better than its own Bing results, but masked the Google results behind its own Bing window dressing, although they deny it. As far is claiming that social web sites are necessary to scale, that too is ridiculous. I often search for information which hasn't been and usually isn't linked by ANY social page "Like" button, for neither Facebook or Google+ links appears in beneath the ad listings on most of my searches. To link search results to only what folks on Social pages are interested in would be like teaching in school only subjects that are interesting to social gadflies, and would be like running a Formula One racer in only 1st gear. In fact, most links on Social pages were made by folks who found what they were looking for during a Google search, or were passed a link by someone who used a search engine to find it. To claim that a Social page would help "scale" the search is the kind of circular argument that some folks here commented about. The number of times a specific subject is searched for, or linked to on a Social page, may be of interest to demographers, but the search targets are listed in the database only once, for one listing is all that is needed, just like an inventory item needs to be in the inventory data base only once, or a customer in the customer database only once. This whole article reeks of a Microsoft/Facebook attack ad. It reminds me of the many articles highly favorable to VISTA that were written by supposedly "independent" journalists and influential IT folks just before and during VISTA's initial release. It was only when ONE ethical journalist blew the whistle on the whole sordid affair did we learn that these "journalists" received expensive high-end laptops with VISTA installed on them as a "gift", as the letter that came with them described it, in exchange for favorable articles (they should have been called stories) about VISTA. Only AFTER the bribes were made public were face saving announcements made that the laptops were being donated to charity made. A few, however, brazenly kept the laptops.

Gudufl
Gudufl

I agree with dogknees. I search for very specific pieces of information and as much as I like my friends their social activities are not going to help me with e.g. finding information on an IP Network related issue. Chances are good that it will simply lead me on a wild goose chase. The idea of using visited page ranking or "I like" ranking is not conducive to any search for detailed specific information. What is lacking in all the search tools are well designed drill down options enabling the searcher to sift from generalised to specifics. With that in place it would make little difference if the social network data was taped as the choice and decisions would be in the hands of the one executing the search.

TAPhilo
TAPhilo

If Google & Bing goes with ALWAYS using you social network to "refine" results you will soon get a filter bubble wrapped around all searches that you do if it reconizes you. It will, in effect, act as a complete block on items outside your calculated (by them) social / search history and never show up anything else that falls outside the statistical "norm" it has deteremined as to what you like. All this happens in the background. 99.9% of the people (my guess) would not even be aware of it, and thus their actual views of the world would naturally be skewed to what they already think. This goes back to the old days when people only got 1 newspaper and that was the sole source of information. That really determines what you think is happenning in the world. The editors picked what stories to run and how they were written so it does change a person's view of the world. Google / Bing is being that "single" newspaper and determing what you will see when searching. It would make sure you see items which you like which in turn make you think they are doing a good job since you LIKE the results what you are seeing and thus a positive feedback loop.

manwe
manwe

If you are looking for real information it should be from a source that is minimally biased, and has useful content. If the searching is for commercial purposes, then perhaps the 'liked' sources are fine. The risk is making everyone satisfied with what they think is true, and missing reality. For example, science is not based on voting. Consensus science is an oxymoron. Of course, one wonders whether any science should be web-based. Multi-disciplinary work may benefit from broad searching for connections. Policy work could certainly benefit from broad searching of unbiased sources. Social bias is risky, along the lines of 'the blind leading the blind'.

jlambert
jlambert

The thing that's wrong with Google is that they keep too much personal information. The thing that's wrong with facebook is that they keep and share tooooo much personal information. None of the search engines will work well as long as the site with the most money will get listed higher up. I too have seen ads on every page I visit for a product that I had purchased online several months earlier. Sorry but all the ads in the world can't make me buy a product again that I have just purchased. All these ads seem to originate from Google and I don't even use Google search. Somehow Google can keep up with what you do online whether you use their search or not. Bottom line your life is being sold to the highest bidder.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

(Aside from my usual failure to comprehend social networking, that is. :-) ) If the amount of data is getting too big to effectively search, how will integrating even MORE data (in the form of social pages) resolve the problem?

ManWithCamera
ManWithCamera

I used all the different popular search engines until Google came along. I've used Google exclusively since and I haven't seen any problem finding the information I'm looking for. Perhaps people just don't know how to come up with a good combination of keywords, but I've seen Google do a good job even when people enter their search criteria in the form of a question.

swerson
swerson

"All's Social" fever will just follow Orkut's path, Or did something radically changed in the world since them and we didn't notice ???

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

Considering how frigging stupid a lot of people are on highly technical and so-called professional sites I can't wait till extensive mining of "social" sites for data. Oh boy!

codepoke
codepoke

Wow. Google's swamped. They're looking for a way to quantify relevance, and they're going social. It guess it's the obvious choice, but it's fraught with risks. The problem is not immediately obvious, but it's real. Picture the social Internet in 1964. You're a white guy researching Martin Luther King Jr.'s attempt to change America in a very good way, and Google keeps returning results from within your social bubble, results your friends like. You, very naturally, hear your own pre-curiosity opinion echoing back to you. Your neighbors and friends keep +1'ing articles pointing out how King's a womanizer and commie-sympathizer, so you search and keep learning what you already know. Apply the same formula for relevance to Iraqi WMD, or Palestinian statehood, or the recent riots in Britain and you have a world-changing issue. The problem is one of relevance, though. How does Google know which articles are "real", much less relevant, strictly from internal content and external links. Google's algorithm worked magic back in the '0X's, but in the second decade of our century the haystack is too large even for Google. And there are too many infectious hypodermics hidden alongside the nice little needles we all seek. I wish them luck. We're all going to need it.

delf20k
delf20k

Bing would have a hard time with me as I have never had a Facebook or Twitter account. What does it do then ,match Hotmail contacts to other peoples accounts?

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

In the spirit of Santeewelding: careful - or yourself you might be gelding.

Gisabun
Gisabun

The same could be said for Amazon. You search for something. Let's say a book on Google. You then exit your browser. You return to Amazon a day later and your defauilt Amazon page is littered with Google related items and then you get some items that cause you to scratch your head and ask WT? is this doing here? Even worse, when you do a search on Google, your search also shows other stuff that has nothing to do with Google at all. I once did a search on a hard rock band and a Celine Dion showed up in the search. Go figure. It shows that no matter what you look for - whether Bing, Yahoo, Google or whatever - that the results you get will either be irrelevant, rediculous or actually accurate. I use Google as my primary search engine and I laugh at some of the results I get.

ElijahKam
ElijahKam

I completely agree with Seanferd. Dreck it is.

sehamon
sehamon

that saying anything is true through experiment is a falsehood. Only the second part of what you said is true, through science we can show consistency, never prove anything. And the three things you listed, people believe because people with "scientific backgrounds" are trying to make a quick buck, not because their personal beliefs tell them so, so maybe you're complaining at the wrong crowd. The concept of social search is one of those sound in principle but difficult in execution, because as you pointed out, general consensus is one of those means by which we validate "facts". The issue at hand is not whether we want our peers voting what information is most relevant, the issue is whether the glut of information on the net can be trusted anyways.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Considering the vastness of the universe, and the potential for more than one verse, it seems very arrogant to believe we are the only ones out here.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

unless you enjoy receiving spam. Instead, enable your TR account to receive e-mail from your TR contacts.

james
james

Not just one person, but all the people in your circle will get the same message too.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

A (perceived?) lack of security is the strongest factor in my decision to avoid social networking. (Learning more than I want to know about friends and family is a close second.) I don't perceive the potential benefits as outweighing the potential damage. Just me, I guess.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

There are a billion SEO-jacking sites out there, but how many of them will have "likes" from people the person searching has placed trust in, via "frending" or other? That could work. There will be new work for shills, of course, but that's perhaps still preferable to spammers.

james
james

This sounds like it will be susceptible to a lot of circular logic and mob mentality. I could see someone posting an incorrect or partial truth and then many people latching on to it as true just because, "well look at all the other people who are linking to it - it must be true.!"

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It looks to see if you're on E-Harmony. If you're not there either, it checks 'CougarLife.com' :D

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

Check this week's TR newsletter 'Community Central', Gisabun. There may be something of personal interest there..... ;)

GreyGeek77
GreyGeek77

Good points. Regardless of the number of experiments tried, none can prove an hypothesis right, but it takes only one to prove it wrong. The "Laws" of science are merely those hypotheses which repeated experiments have failed to prove wrong. Physicists continually devise new kinds of experiments to test various laws, such as "Is the force between two objects related to an exact power of 2 of the distance between them, or is it 2.000...0000n?" Remember, it was "settled science" by the Middle Ages that the Earth was the center of the Universe and the Sun and the five observable planets rotated around it. After all, it was reasoned, anyone with eyes and a brain could see the Sun rose in the East and set in the West, and did all the moving across the flat Earth. This despite the fact that centuries before the Greeks and others had produced strong physical evidence that the Earth was round and computed a fairly accurate value for its diameter. Both religious and scientific dogmatism have led Man down primrose paths before, are now, and will in the future. But, in the end, the only Truth that wins out is that which cannot be proven wrong.

GreyGeek77
GreyGeek77

Anything that requires "belief" to accept is a matter of Faith, not science. It doesn't matter what anyone "believes" about the existence, or not, of aliens. The only question of interest is, IF they exist, could they cross the vast interstellar distances to visit us? It has been shown that the laws of Physics are the same everywhere in the observable universe. Since we've been transmitting radio signals for only the last 110 years, only those civilizations closer than that, if they exist and their technology is advanced enough, could hear us and know we are here. Since travel by a macro object faster than the speed of light is not physically possible, it would take hundreds to thousands of years for an alien spacecraft to travel the tens to hundreds of light years to arrive here. The possibility that they would expend the necessary costs in time, energy and resources to fly all the way here, just to give some drunk from Arkansas a ride to Venus, is about as plausible as an F22 pilot picking up a resident of the Amazon jungle and giving them a ride to Hollywood. The USA is (was?) the most wealthy and scientifically advanced nation on this planet, yet we could not muster up enough support for either a permanent Moon base or a mission to Mars. In fact, we now lack a significant presence in space or the ability to get there regularly. Our astronauts have to hitch rides aboard Russian rockets in steel balls that don't even come close to the sophistication or ability of our Apollo capsules. The Chinese will have bases on the Moon before we can break our attention away from video games, reality TV, drugs or porn long enough to wake up and realize we've become a 2nd class nation.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Half of Americans believe there are aliens COMING TO EARTH..." (My CAPS for emphasis) If aliens are traveling here just to stomp patterns in cornfields or draw hieroglyphs on the South American mountainsides, then screw 'em. We've enough idjits here already.

K_Green
K_Green

What is to keep an eHow-like enterprise from creating millions of sock puppet accounts on social sites and +1, Like and whatever else? Instead of SEO (search engine optimization) will be trading it in for SEO (social engineering optimization). Integration of social rankings is going to be just as useless eventually.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

but they would become the equivalent of a photon... and if whatever propels the person is traveling along, once they hit "the high c", the passage of time will stop from their point of view... so they can't engage any reverse thrusters or whatever; getting to the speed of light would be a one-way ride.

Slayer_
Slayer_

It could be a new dark age...

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

Scaling web search to social can easily bring back such 'facts' as the flat Earth! Anything a preponderance of one's drinking buddies believes will perforce gain traction in web re-search, and grow into what they used to call The Big Lie (the one enough people repeated enough times). "It MUST be true; my e-friends promoted its ascendency on the internet............"

Slayer_
Slayer_

Besides, if you could move at the speed of light, wouldn't you get torn apart because the particles in your body can't move that fast.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Most of these smarter societies got wiped out by war, drought or famine. Otherwise we'd probably be 1000 years more advanced.

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

Obviously those among the ancients who could predict lunar and solar eclipses were aware of the Earth's spherical shape and its position in the solar system. Your flat Earth was not science; it was a result of the Dark Ages' obescience to Roman Catholic dogma. The facts never changed, but peoples' right to (and safety in) subscribing to them changed and changed again.

Slayer_
Slayer_

While you're at it, why not argue that the Earth is flat and is the centre of the universe. Both were Facts until someone proved them wrong.

GreyGeek77
GreyGeek77

"We" haven't broken the speed of Light, and the question of IF a Neutrino can travel faster than Light isn't settled science. Those who reported it the first time have redone their experiment and found the same result. It remains to be seen what the cause of the 10% actually is. My bet is that it will be the result of experimental or calibration errors. Regardless, a Neutrino is not a macro object, and is certainly not something "we" built or can utilize to create a FTL vehicle. C still reigns as the maximum allowable speed for light, or any other object with mass, through a vacuum.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

All these experiments always mention "sending information back in time"... but that's NEVER what they actually entail. These experiments NEVER challenge the illusion of absolute time. No such experiment suggests that the message can arrive BEFORE IT IS SENT, so they are no more time travel than is traveling east over a time zone border. We all travel through time, at an average rate of 1 second per second :p All the so-called "time travel" experiments involve changing that ratio, either making it lower than 1 (approaching zero at the lower limit), or making it higher than 1. Neither constitutes a challenge to the illusory absolute time, which would require negative ratios.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Either there are other life forms out there, or we are alone. Both are mind-boggling." My apologies for mangling the quotation, but I've managed the gist of the message.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Or it could be an alien prank.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Although, it could turn out they feel we're all idjits, in which case, screw 'em ;) They'd be right, but hey, we don't need no steeenking aliens telling us that :p