We have all come across the frustrating scenario in which a website’s built-in search functionality is so poor that we have to “Google it” in order to find the page we are looking for. Frustrating as it may be sometimes, the point is that we are eventually able to find what we are looking after performing an extra step.

Friends' Photos on BingAnybody who has tried searching his or her Facebook photos has probably come to a similar realization; it’s very difficult to do so from within Facebook itself. To date, there has been no “Google it” work-around for searching Facebook photos.  That changed with the beta release of Friends’ Photos on Bing, a new update to the “other” search engine that allows users to search Facebook photos in a deeper and more effective way than ever before.

Facebook Search Stinks

While the title of this section mostly speaks for itself, it’s important to note exactly how terrible the photo searching experience is on Facebook. In reality, there is no ability to search photos, only to browse them by memory of the person who uploaded the photo. To the best of my knowledge, the current ways to discover photos on Facebook are limited to the following:

  • Photos that you upload yourself
  • Photos that appear in your newsfeed
  • Photos that you are tagged in by others
  • Photos within photo albums that you have permission to view

The above limitations mean that users cannot discover photos by searching in any way; further, they cannot even search their own photos. This is a massive fail on Facebook’s part.

Pinterest-Style Viewing Rules

No site has exemplified the sheer dominance of visual content better than Pinterest. Bing has taken a cue from this success and implemented a visual browsing style that is very similar to that of Pinterest. Users can scroll through several photos at once to quickly find what they are looking for. The results also display the number of Likes and comments a photo has.

The ability to search Facebook photos presents some interesting opportunities to see overlaps between you and your Facebook friends. For example, a search for “pong” will probably bring up pictures of everybody’s favorite college table game, some of which you might want to untag. Other search ideas include people’s names, occupations, and interests, all of which can be browsed in the same way.

Bing is Breaking Ground

Recently, Bing launched its Bing It On campaign that pits search results from Google and Bing in a side-by-side window without any branding. After conducting 5 searches and selecting the preferred results, the app reveals the search engines behind each choice. It is a bold and brilliant idea that expresses the confidence Bing has in the quality of its products.

Bing’s integration with Facebook has grown increasingly deep over the past two and a half years. Bing began indexing Facebook pages and public updates in 2010 and incorporated Facebook’s instant personalization technology later the same year. In the time since then, Bing has expanded its search offering to include input from Facebook friends directly via a sidebar on the right of its search results. With such well-executed advancements in social search, Bing just might be able to gain an advantage in one category as it continues to make its case for relevance.

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