Here’s a quick review…
With Bing’s new feature, as you enter a search query a sidebar to the right will show related information and photos from your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ networks.
This approach has obvious benefits. After all, if you’re planning a trip to Rome, wouldn’t it be great to get advice from Facebook friends? And if none of them prove helpful, Bing also screens the social networks for “experts” related to your search query (in other words, people who tweet about a specific subject a lot) that could offer a unique perspective on what you’re looking for.
Hard data backs up Microsoft’s strategy, too. As Microsoft says that “90% of people consult with a friend or expert before making a decision – whether it’s something as simple as which train will take you uptown or who is the best dentist in Boulder, other people are often the most trusted source of information.”
And while Google has already integrated a social element in its search engine, it focuses heavily on Google+. So Microsoft’s agnostic approach (although not very functional yet) could be potentially more useful, which doesn’t bode well for Google’s search revenue down the road.
Not to be outdone, though, Google has released a new function of its own for smartphones and desktop browsing that also makes search results more useful.
Search With Fewer Clicks
It’s called “Knowledge Graph,” and it essentially fills up the white space to the right of Google search results with a few things…
First, it gives you immediate information about your search topic, which it digs up by scanning its own data and free info sites like Wikipedia.
So if you type “Abraham Lincoln” into Google, you get some quick biographical info about his life, including a birthdate, assassination date, presidential term, spouse information and children.
Or searching for “Lincoln, Nebraska” pulls up a city map, size, local time, population, and that it’s named after Honest Abe.
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The idea is that the new functionality gives you information you’re probably looking for without having to wait for a new page to load. A nice touch.
The Knowledge Graph section is also supposed to help out with ambiguous search terms…
Google’s blog post uses “Andromeda” as an example, “which could be the galaxy, the TV series, or the Swedish band. The Knowledge Graph distinguishes between each of these meanings and shows me an interactive ribbon at the top of the search results that I can swipe and tap to select just what I’m looking for.”
It’s a bright idea, since it’s never fun to have to re-enter search criteria in order to put Google on the right track.
But just from my Lincoln example above, it could use some tweaking…
Some Necessary Fine-Tuning
Based on the description of Knowledge Graph, you’d think that searching for just the word “Lincoln” should pull up a list of results to the right to clarify what you’re looking for.
In this case, we expected to at least see options for the past president and the capital of Nebraska. Instead, it offered results for the president and a movie called “Lincoln” released this year. Nothing about the city, or, sadly, the other film about him that’s scheduled to release in 2012, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”
So, as it stands, Knowledge Graph needs some work. But to be fair, Google’s been working on this for two years, and I’m betting that it rushed its release in order to steal Microsoft’s social search thunder.
Since neither company’s new feature seems to work that well yet, only time will tell if Google succeeds in keeping search users from defecting to Bing.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Let us know which search engine you use and why, and if you’re thinking of making a switch. Head on down to the comments below, or you can weigh in on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter.