Microsoft is making a very hard push towards social networking in search. Looking at their recent acquisitions (Yammer and Skype), products (Socl, new Bing) and partnerships (Facebook), they could soon change the way search performs. These recent additions to the Microsoft portfolio represent an attempt to integrate social networks into the overall Microsoft experience, and if Microsoft has their way, could take control over the growing social search segment.
Microsoft announced on June 6th the $1.2 Billion acquisition of the enterprise based social network company Yammer. Yammer is a 4 year old company with over 5 million corporate users which provides private social networks for companies. Microsoft made their new social network, Socl, public in May, what many call their direct rival to Google+. They also made available to test, (in the United States) their new version of Bing. Although Bing has a small user base in Germany, it has a noticeable share in the US.
What makes the new Microsoft products threatening to Google is the deep integration of social relationships and networks. Bing’s integration of a social network sidebar directly into the search page, and having results formed directly from your social network is somewhat similar to what we have seen from Google. The advantage Bing has over Google+ is that they have partnered with Facebook to take advantage of a monster sized social network system. Google+ has had to build a base from outside social media. Microsoft expects new Bing to do what no other search engine can manage which is to use your social network to get things done.
Socl is designed to be a research tool that takes advantage of social networks. It looks like most social network sites and users can log in with their existing Facebook or Windows Live accounts. The experience completely destroys the line between posting and searching. Relevant search results (videos, images, website links) pop up for you to attach to your post/search. Other users can then add their ideas or results to the post creating a thread of information based off of the original post. The end result is a socially engineered mix of information from various parts of the Internet. Socl, when used, can seamlessly blend social and search like no other service out there.
The new products make it clear that Microsoft wants to take control of social-search through a very direct integration of social networks. When successful, marketing strategies will evolve to capitalize. It is too early to say for sure what will become of Microsoft’s recent push into social networks, but it is clear they are making a very serious attempt to define the market. How will the recent push from Microsoft affect how other companies do search, and will people really use Microsoft for their searches?