In the next round of the highly-anticipated battle between Microsoft and Google, it appears that both IT giants will be taking the fight over to where it really counts: the social media field. And with Google already having drawn first blood with an update to its social search, what does Microsoft have up its sleeves to take the thunder out of Google's…erm, Google?
Barely five days ago, Google made a little announcement regarding a slight tweak to its current search algorithms. By all accounts, there were no major changes taking place over at the California search giant's headquarters: all the company did was to refine its search service a little by mixing. results from its Social Search service into that of the standard Google search.
Needless to say, Google wanted to make sure that the combined results did not end up confusing the user. But at the same time, it did not want to fall back to its previous tactic of having all social-related searches relegated to the bottom of the search page. The eventual decision was to display the results based on relevance, as shown in the images below.
But once again, one can always count on a little friendly intervention from the likes of Microsoft to upstage Google's show with another formidable offering of its own. Enter the new Microsoft Bing Bar, which integrates the functionality of Facebook so tightly within the browser that users can essentially perform all their Facebook-ing from the comfort of the Bing Bar without having to move around tabs on Microsoft Internet Explorer. As IT website eWeek puts it, Bing Bar is almost like a miniaturized version of the RockMelt browser in toolbar form.
At first glance, it might appear that Google's Social Search and Microsoft's Bing Bar are offering the same feature: the ability to integrate social networking features into the conventional browser. However, it is also clear that this is one of the few cases where Microsoft simply has the better offering for users: unlike Social Search which merely integrates social networking results into Google search, the Bing Bar takes this notion one step further by putting the user in complete control of Facebook's services from within the toolbar. For example, Microsoft claims that users can receive Facebook feeds, alerts and even comment or 'Like' any update from the comfort of the Bing Bar. Needless to say, this feature will be very useful to PC users who feel the need for Facebook-ing on the sly without having to open a new browser tab and getting called out on doing so during official working hours.
However, that does leave one major question unanswered. With Google's Social Search integration all but soundly trounced by Microsoft's Bing Bar, what does the search giant have in store in order to turn the tide around? Well, according to eWeek, speculation is rife that this latest step from Google is but a stepping stone to a much larger ecosystem known internally as Google +1, which will see even greater levels of integration between typical web content and social networking content.
Of course, that sounds nice and all, but one should also keep in mind that Google +1 is only slated to come into existence later this year. And until the Californian search giant can roll out an actual working service that users from all geographic regions are able to use (Social Search integration is not available here yet), Microsoft's Bing Bar will probably be the choice for the online social networker in all of us. That is, if you don't mind installing Windows on your Mac, since Bing Bar is an Internet Explorer-only add-on.