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Facebook, Bing Integration No Game Changer

The addition of friends' recommendations to search results is nifty but won't help Microsoft catch Google, according to Gartner.

Microsoft's deal with Facebook to integrate content from the social networking site into its Bing search results adds some slick new features to Bing, but it won't do much in the near term to help Microsoft close the gap with rival Google in terms of search traffic, an analyst said.

The deal "represents a worthwhile enhancement for Bing. Users will definitely see an improved search experience, especially in the 4% of searches that involve a person's name" said Gartner's Ray Valdes, in a blog post Wednesday.

But Valdes dismissed notions that the Facebook deal alone would help Microsoft cut into Google's commanding lead in U.S. search traffic.

"Although these improvements are valuable for users and add polish to the innovation facet of Bing's brand, this does not seem to be a game-changer in the search sector," said Valdes. "I don't think these improvements will fundamentally change the dynamics of competition between Bing and Google," Valdes added.

According to the latest data from market watcher Comscore, Google leads the search market with 65.4% of traffic , while Microsoft holds an 11.1% share.

Microsoft also draws traffic from Yahoo sites, which command 17.4% of traffic, under a deal in which Yahoo farmed out search on its pages to Bing. But even combined, Microsoft and Yahoo's share of the market is less than half of Google's.

"I do think that Bing will gain some share (perhaps even 5%)—especially if it keeps following up with additional improvements. However, Google's dominant position … is a high bar to reach, in the short term," wrote Valdes.

For their part, Microsoft officials are confident that the addition of Facebook content to Bing makes the search engine instantly more competitive.

"This is just the first step in ensuring that people are a first-class entity in Bing," said Microsoft senior VP Satya Nadella, in a blog post of his own. "We will build more exciting experiences on top of this social layer, as the Web continues its journey from a collection of documents to a more full-blown digital society, where people matter as much as pages," said Nadella.

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