Microsoft's Bing search engines to use Facebook tips

image captionThe new social results will appear in a grey column on the right-hand side of Bing's results page

Microsoft is revamping its Bing search engine to include advice from Facebook and other social media platforms.

The move involves the introduction of a new sidebar which seeks to connect users with friends and other enthusiasts who can provide help.

The firm says it is based on the fact "90% of people consult with a friend or expert before making a decision".

Surveys suggest Bing has about a 15% share of the US search market, lagging behind Google's 66% portion.

The new service appears on the right-hand side of all results and includes a feature dubbed Friends Who Might Know.

"Bing suggests friends on Facebook who might know about the topic - based on what they 'like', their Facebook profile information, or photos they have shared so you can easily ask them about relevant experiences and opinions," said Microsoft on its blog .

"For example, if you're searching for diving spots in Costa Rica... you may discover that one of your friends knows a great spot, based on photos from their last trip."

'Holy Grail'

Beyond Facebook the firm said it would also flag up other experts identified from their posts on Google's social network Google+ as well as Twitter, Foursquare, Quora and Linkedin.

Microsoft said that the service would roll out "in the coming days" in the US, but did not mention other locations.

"Using social signals for search results is obviously the Holy Grail as people tend to trust each other more and can help with the whole discovery process," Sameet Sinha, an internet analyst at the investment bank B Riley & Co told the BBC.

image captionUsers can post questions to flagged-up friends through the search site's results page

"This wlll help Microsoft compete against Google and may encourage people to try switching to Bing."

The move builds on a partnership between Microsoft and Facebook created when the Windows-maker paid $240m for a 1.6% stake in the social network in 2007.

When Facebook goes public soon, that stake will be worth more than $1bn.

However, Microsoft runs the risk that if the latest tie-up proves successful it could encourage Facebook to launch its own search service.

"Facebook could capture around 22% of the global search market by simply launching its own search engine tomorrow," suggested the London-based digital marketing agency Greenlight which has carried out a study into the matter.

"It wouldn't need to be a spectacular engine either, just well integrated into the Facebook experience."

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