Lost in the shuffle of the pre and post Facebook IPO madness is a potentially interesting news item about Microsoft’s relationship with the social networking giant Facebook. Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, has gone through some pretty substantial changes over the past few months. One of the more noteworthy changes is the deep Facebook integration that the Bing plans to utilize to make the search experience more “social.” The announcement came just before Microsoft let it be known that the newest version of their browser, Internet Explorer 10, would default to “Do Not Track.” Hey Microsoft, conflicted much?
Clearly, Microsoft is concerned about how social media will impact their business going forward. On the one hand they realize that “social searching” could be a powerful tool that attracts people to their typically overshadowed (hi Google) search engine. Using your contacts as resources, Bing plans to highlight results that your friends have been talking about on Facebook. Theoretically, this would make ad-targeting a little bit easier for both Bing and Facebook. However, Microsoft is obviously aware of growing privacy concerns when it comes to gathering data via the internet.
Using Your Friends as Tools
Given that Microsoft plans to integrate Facebook into their search engine, it’s more than a little curious that they would then take the major steps of having Internet Explorer 10 default to “Do Not Track,” a feature that is something akin to Facebook’s mortal enemy. The “Do Not Track” feature prevents websites and web tools from gathering information about your browsing habits, sites you’ve visited and other pertinent demographic information. Obviously, this is the type of data that Facebook thrives on. Microsoft, knows that they have to keep an eye on this issue. With the incredible surge in popularity for browsers like Chrome and Firefox, Microsoft is trying to make inroads by creating a “private browser.”
Privacy Concerns Loom
The seemingly disjointed message that Microsoft is putting forth on the surface, makes sense when you examine it a little closer. Microsoft wants Bing to do well and they see social searching as one of the ways to potentially enhance the service. Microsoft also realizes if they offer a browser that easily disallows third-party advertisers the ability to gather your data, they might be seen as something of a privacy champion. Microsoft has the capital to hedge their bets and that’s exactly what they’re doing. Whether either of these two initiatives pays off is, of course, an entirely different matter.