The Next Leap Forward in Search

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Bing is good, but it should be better.

Specifically, it should be more social. Bing ought to be able to show you what others think of the content you're searching for -- whether they have saved it, how they rate it, and how they use tags to categorize it.

This isn't as demanding as it sounds. Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) Delicious is a social bookmarking tool that aggregates user interests into searchable categories via tags. Users can also share or add comments when they make a find. Now that Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) and Yahoo! are search partners, doesn't it make sense to integrate Delicious data into the Bing experience?

Bing: not so magically Delicious
I asked Microsoft, but Mr. Softy isn't talking. "It is too early to discuss any possible implementation details," a spokesperson wrote in response to my query.

Does that mean an implementation is under way? Possibly, but after this week's Yahoo! press event, I'm not so sure. Consider these comments from Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president of Yahoo Labs and Search Strategy:

The agreement calls for Microsoft to supply us with algorithmic Web search results, images, and video. Just as their front-end team is free to innovate on top of that layer, we will be free to innovate on top of that layer. So, it's not that it calls for any specific collaboration beyond that. In fact, I fully anticipate that our front-end experience will evolve differently from that of Bing. [Emphasis added.]

Reading that, I wonder if Yahoo! has its own plans for Delicious. Social bookmarking is well above the algorithmic layer where Bing and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) operate. Essentially, it's a collection of what techies call meta-data -- i.e., data about data -- that could be pulled into Yahoo! search pages.

A social search engine worth yodeling about
Say you use Yahoo! to search for "The Motley Fool." You'd see what you see today -- pages ordered by ranking, as well as related searches -- plus information about how those pages were tagged, how many times, and by which Delicious users in your network. Beyond that, adding ratings or exposing comments wouldn't be difficult.

Vendors whose businesses are built to leverage personal data might appreciate the added context. Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) and Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) come immediately to mind, but any vendor could benefit. For example, what if Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) found that the majority of pages tagged "PS3" were at Amazon? Or what if Ford (NYSE: F  ) found that pages tagged "Focus" often linked to an awful review of its latest model?

Social search is a way of sharpening what has classically been a blunt instrument -- the give-me-everything-you-can-find-as-fast-as-you-can search engine. Both Bing and Google are like this today, but won't be forever. Facebook and Twitter are already making sure of that.

Google's belly flop, and what it might mean
Meanwhile, Google is creeping closer to social search nirvana via Google Wave. If that sounds odd, it's because Wave is meant as a platform where email, instant messages, tweets, status updates, and document-sharing requests are rolled into collaborative streams. But Google rarely aggregates data just because it can; it aggregates to enrich its universe of searchable data. The larger the database is, the more ad revenue The Big G stands to earn.

Still, it's Yahoo!, thanks to Delicious, that could cross the social-search finish line first. Think I'm wrong? I want to hear from you. Please take a moment to vote in the poll below and then leave a comment explaining your rationale.

Amazon and Netflix are Stock Advisor selections. Microsoft is an Inside Value pick. Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy is ready to go. Bing!

Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 27, 2009, at 11:11 AM, TMFKris wrote:

    What exactly is a "decision engine"? Thanks for any insight.

    Kris -- Motley Fool copyeditor

  • Report this Comment On August 27, 2009, at 11:28 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    Hi Kris,

    "What exactly is a "decision engine"? Thanks for any insight."

    A buzzphrase that Microsoft made up. But some have come to use the term to refer to search engines that do more than present results, but which also answer questions. Wolfram Alpha has been described this way., too.

    Thanks for the question,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

  • Report this Comment On August 27, 2009, at 12:02 PM, jansegers wrote:

    I'm still amazed people aren't talking and buzzing about the excellent service collecting the information of Twitter mentionning of links of the people subscribed to the service and all their friends ...

  • Report this Comment On August 27, 2009, at 12:30 PM, tgauchat wrote:

    One word (or two?): Facebook

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