Bing and Facebook, connected

October 13, 2010, 11:08 PM UTC

But there is no meat to the deal.

Image Credit Facebook

At a joint press event today, Microsoft (MSFT) and Facebook unveiled the new Bing search engine that uses social information from Facebook to make decisions. The two companies offered a variety of places where the Facebook results would be integrated into Bings results, just like Bing’s results appear at the bottom of a Facebook search.  And it all seems to be beneficial.

For instance, you can see if any of your friends have liked a page in the search results before you go to it.  Pages that are liked will be promoted in Bing results.  Bing will even use publicly available Facebook connection information to help narrow down results when person search is done.

That’s the key.  “Publicly available information.”

Like a lot of people, I hide most of my Facebook information from the general public and search engines.  That includes Bing and I’m not sharing my Facebook to the world so I can improve search results.

It is what Zuckerberg said in the Q&A makes me think this is all just smoke and mirrors.  When asked if Bing would have access to data that a Facebook user doesn’t make public, he said

“Bing can see no other information about you than any other Facebook user can see. It’s all public information. And Bing sends no information back to Facebook.”.

That also means Google (GOOG) could slurp up this same information and include it in their results as well.

Recent remarks by Eric Schmidt make me think they are doing this exact thing.

“The best thing that would happen is for Facebook to open up its data,” Mr. Schmidt said. “Failing that, there are other ways to get that information.”

Facebook, for its part, was open to offering this type of service to other search engines like Yahoo and Google.  During the Q&A, Zuckerberg  was asked if he was open to doing other search deals. He said, “we want to work with everybody”.

Brett Taylor, Facebook CTO and former Googler, followed that up with a huge caveat.  They weren’t in a huge hurry to do this sort of thing and that as a practical matter, collaboration on this level with other search engines isn’t going to happen any time soon. He said that Facebook wanted to get this right with Bing first before considering implementations with other engines.

Facebook is keeping its social graph to itself.  In this deal, Facebook has just helped Microsoft build tools to get the information that is available to the rest of the world, including Google.