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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.