Following yesterday's update to Snapshots, Bing cleaned up their social sidebar today. The background has been switched from dark grey to white and the "hover cards" have disappeared - making the whole page look more uniform and less segmented. Two new section headers display now distinguishing between content from friends or experts and general content found within social media sites. Images appear directly in the sidebar feed which is probably designed to make that section more attention grabbing.
If you are in the US you will soon start to see friends, experts and enthusiasts from leading networks including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Klout have shared at a glance.
The neatest part of this feature is that the integration searches at pretty far back into your Facebook history so you can see what you and your friends were saying in the past. For example, you can click back to the original Facebook post. Potentially relevant comments from "friends of friends" on a friend's post are also factored into the results.
Also, it seems to be a useful way of finding trending content from social networks on specific topics. It's useful to see what other writers and experts have shared on a topic - which is sometimes more timely than the natural results. However, it would be nice to see more content from brands I have "liked" on Facebook - that seems like a useful feature both from a user and marketers perspective.
My only gripe is that it is a shame you cannot toggle easily between results from friends and results from social networks - quite often the 'expert results' get swamped by all the updates from friends. So far, my favorite results from social networks have proved to be from Quora which appeared for some very generic searches.
However, being perfectly honest, I can't see this design staying for very long. It's almost too many blue links now and with the more visual social sidebar winning the competition for attention, the ads are now too easy to miss - you can just skip over that middle block.
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