Communities of Intent: The New Bing Tries to Resuscitate the Web

THE WEB IS BACK. Or at least Bing, with its new social-focused interface, is trying to make the Web relevant again – while making Google less relevant in the process.

Over the coming weeks, Bing users will not only get search results, but social recommendations from multiple sources including Facebook and Twitter (and yes, Google Plus.) Search will transform into conversation, tapping your friends and other “influencers” to guide your actions. So for example, if I’m looking for a good sushi restaurant in Los Angeles, Bing will find Facebook friends who posted about sushi in LA and may have a recommendation for me.

It’s search with a pulse. It’s not even a search anymore – it’s discovery.

But most of all, the new Bing is a call to arms against the modern, siloed, fragmented Web.

Planet of the Apps
The World Wide Web is now the Planet of the Apps. Bing wants to be the unifier, to break down the silicon walls and be the one-stop shop for people, places and ideas. There are still some blind spots, but Bing is at least trying to be the Master Curator of All Things Social online.

And let’s also be honest – Bing, meaning Microsoft, wants to kick Google’s ass in the process.

Google’s “Search Plus Your World” approach delivers results from its own Google Plus social network pages more prominently than other Web properties like Wikipedia. This is supposed to make search more personal and relevant – who you know and what your friends like, or share, or do, will have a greater influence on what you see in your search results.

The problem, at least for now, is Google focuses primarily on Google Plus, and even then still delivers results as part of a list entwined with static pages. Google provides links but doesn’t necessarily spur conversations. And it’s still a walled garden at least in term of the broader social web – Google in fact is becoming less like the web and more like an app.

Communities of Intent
Bing isn’t perfect either and still has a long way to go to catch Google in terms of market share and ad dollars. Bing merely won a battle in what will be a long war.

But this battle also represents a significant shift. What true social or conversational search does is move us from interest to intent.

Facebook is great at revealing interest – whether I like cars, for example. Seeing this, an advertiser may target me with car ads. But just because I “liked” the Mercedes page doesn’t mean I want to buy one. I may already own a Mercedes, or maybe I just liked a video they posted. I have an interest in the brand, but uncovering my intent is a far more difficult proposition.

But what if advertisers knew I was looking to buy a Mercedes very soon, and could target me at the very moment I expressed that interest? I’d be a more valuable lead, and therefore media or search properties like Bing could charge a lot more for the pleasure of reaching me.

Communities of Interest are broad and largely static, but “Communities of Intent” are specific, focused, and fleeting. The more that search moves away from providing static results and toward providing fluid conversations that lead to identifiable actions, the more that Communities of Intent will give advertisers quality prospects – and give people ads that they may actually want to receive.

(Disclaimer: Microsoft, which owns Bing, is a client, however I don’t work or communicate with the Bing team.)

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