REDMOND: Microsoft has signalled the next phase of its partnership with Facebook by expanding the amount of personalised social media data that appears on Bing search results pages.
Visitors to Bing with a linked Facebook account can see which of their friends liked a certain brand or film if they search for this film or brand's name.
If a user searches for "amazon.com", a list of products recommended on Amazon by friends will now appear on the results pages, and searches for certain locations automatically flag up Facebook friends who are based close to this location.
A new "Bing Bar" - a toolbar appearing on users' web browsers - will also make it more convenient to "like" things found on web pages.
Results of a poll conducted by Bing and Impulse Research suggest that "social search" of this kind will prove popular.
According to the poll, 80% of people delay making purchase decisions until they consult people they know.
Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president at Bing, said: "The best decisions are not just fuelled by facts, they require the opinions and emotions of your friends."
Microsoft bought a 1.6% stake in Facebook in 2007 for $240m (€169m, £148m).
Bing and Facebook originally announced their "social search" plans in October 2010.
The initiative was also discussed at Social Media Week London earlier this year. "You can only go so far with algorithms," Dave Coplin, director of search at Bing, told delegates.
"People have got so good at knowing how algorithms work that it makes it easier and easier to generate spam content ... What we really need is a way of bringing in the social signal."
Any improvement to the usefulness of search results is likely to be welcomed by marketers - search ads being by far the most efficiently monetised type of online advertising.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Chad Stoller at BBDO North America added: "Anything that can give people greater confidence shopping online is a good thing, and social search can give people that level of confidence."
Latest figures from comScore show that Microsoft search sites, including Bing, captured 14% of the US search market in April 2011.
Google remained the market leader with a share of 65%.
Data sourced from Microsoft/AFP/Bloomberg/Warc; additional content by Warc staff