Google ready to fight Facebook, Microsoft in social search

Google is preparing to pick up the gauntlet Microsoft Bing and Facebook threw down with their social search arrangement. Google CEO Eric Schmidt doesn’t like private data deals.

Microsoft and Facebook have temporarily one-upped Google in social search with their new integration but, Google isn’t going quietly.

Facebook Oct. 13 agreed to open its data feeds to let Microsoft’s Bing search engine index and serve profile information and Liked Results in relevant situations.

The integration goes well beyond what Google has done with its own Social Search functionality, which lacks a large, cohesive network of user data.

The Facebook-Bing deal, then, is a big stepping stone to boosting social advertising, IDC analyst Hadley Reynolds told eWEEK.

“[Bing] can leverage the social info it lacked to keep people on their sites longer, with more exposure to ad inventory and the business it generates.”

Google recognizes this as much as any other company. On Google’s third-quarter earnings call Oct. 14, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was asked about how Google will capture signals in social search without accessing to data feeds similar to the deal Bing has struck with Facebook.

Schmidt paused a few seconds and noted that Google is careful about how its signals are assembled, but said there “are ways in which we could do that.”

“We also have in development other ways in which people can give us that sort of information that can make it even more personal,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt was clearly referring to Google’s supposed Google Me project to socialize its search and Web service properties in many layers.

If that sounds like a veiled challenge to Bing and Facebook, it is. Schmidt has made no secret about Google’s disdain for one-to-one arrangements where one company cedes data to another but not to the Web at large. He’s also intimated he would like access to Facebook’s data.

“There is always a concern that large, private collections of the data are not accessible to Web search engines,” Schmidt said.

“We’ve take the position in a religious and business perspective that the world is better off if you take the info you’re assemlbing and make it searchable, it provides a larger audience and drives more traffic to your site.”

Unfortunately for Google, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is hardly in a rush to release Facebook data to any more search engines at this point.

That puts Google on the outside looking in, Altimer Group analyst Charlene Li told eWEEK.

“This is not a knock-out punch to Google, but it is significant that they are not the leaders in social search – Bing + Facebook are,” Li said.

“Although [Bing] don’t have the mass and scale to have an impact on Google, the fact that they have already gained ground over the past year is indicative that Google has vulnerabilities.”

Another scary prospect for Google about the Facebook-Bing thing: Both Bing officials and Zuckerberg himself noted this new social search functionality is just a first step toward making search more useful, personalized and relevant using searcher’s social graphs.

“As more people collect, post, share and add more “likes” and social content, the value of social search will improve,” Forrester Research analyst Augie Ray told eWEEK.

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