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14th October 2010 |  Written by Justin Butcher

The Future Of Search: ‘Likes’ To be More Valuable Than Links?

In an interesting joint announcement yesterday with Facebook, Bing have announced that they are to start showing users the products, businesses and films that their Facebook friends like in the search results. Bing are hailing this development as the start of their new ‘social search’ in which a section of the search results are influenced by the opinions of their peers rather than search engine’s algorithm which gives a best guess as to the worth of different websites.

The Changes

The new feature will be introduced to Bing users with a message greeting them by their Facebook user name and letting them know that their search experience has been improved with information about things their friend’s like. Users will also have the opportunity to opt out of the new feature at this point and in the interests of privacy only ‘likes’ that have been set to be displayed publicly will be used by the search engine.

The new feature will kick in if users are logged into Facebook when they visit Bing or if the user has Facebook cookies stored on their PC. At present the Facebook search results will appear in a small box containing one or two links in the middle or at the bottom of the page with an indication beside each link indicating how many friends have ‘liked’ it as well as some of their names.

Potential Implications Of Social Search

This development is potentially very interesting indeed and if it really takes off has big implications for the search industry. In the event that this feature proves to be popular, surely Google will follow suit and introduce their own section of results which use some kind of ‘social’ indicator rather than their algorithm. For a search feature like this to become very popular is not totally beyond the realms of possibility considering that people value the opinions of their peers above all else when it comes to choosing products and services.

Perhaps even, the search engines will incorporate ‘likes’ or something similar into their algorithm and they will eventually become more valuable than links. Or perhaps we will all become ‘Facebook optimisers’ in the future. In any case it may be time for internet marketers to start thinking about how they can influence ‘likes’. Imagine, the search industry debates of the future could be about the practice of buying ‘likes’ rather than buying links. Just a thought.

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