The two biggest threats to Google's dominance of the Internet search market are generally considered to be Facebook - which has effectively created a parallel web - and Bing - which Microsoft seems determined to keep throwing its extensive resources at until it succeeds. Yesterday the two announced their integration.
Right now that's not as momentous as it sounds. The principal consequence of this integration is that, uniquely on Bing, when you enter a search query it will list things ‘liked' by your Facebook friends that are pertinent to that query.
Ooh, whoopee! You might be thinking, and fair point. But the precedent this sets in a technology world that is increasingly obsessed with all things ‘social' is profound. The reason ‘social' it such a big deal is that people are generally far more trusting of, and this influenced by, people they know. This is why viral marketing is so effective, and why it has such enormous commercial potential.
Hence we have Facebook - effectively the Google of social networking -currently valued at ten zillion dollars, and all technology companies jostling and elbowing to get into bed with it. It doesn't come as a surprise that Microsoft has announced a greater integration with Facebook - it's already a shareholder and Google is quietly antagonistic towards it - but it's a coup nonetheless.
As Bing said in its blog post on the announcement, this is just the start. Right now it will only manifest itself when one of your friends has ‘liked' something you search for, and will also display direct Facebook links against searches for people. But this doesn't seem to have come to the UK yet.
I did a search for ‘llave de soul' - a great Chilean rock/latin fusion band with a prodigious drummer - and got the results shown in the screenshots below. While these specific new features didn't come up (apparently you get a pop-out message allowing you to opt out of the feature the first four times it manifests itself), Bing already seems to be more geared towards Facebook.
I also did a search for myself on the two and Twitter is given a lot more prominence on Google than it is on Bing. So maybe that's how we'll end up seeing the social search battle-lines drawn: Google/Twitter on one side and Bing/Facebook on the other. I was going to embed Microsoft's vid on the matter, but it's so much more complicated and annoying trying to do this with Silverlight than from YouTube that I gave up...