Thanks to its Facebook partnership, Microsoft has been strongly positioned to use social media to enhance its Bing search engine, incorporating the preferences of a person’s friends into the search results that person sees. But this would take it to a whole new level.

A newly surfaced Microsoft patent application describes a “user-following engine” that would analyze a user’s posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to deduce mood, interests, and possibly even the person’s education  level and comprehension of specific topics.

Then the system would automatically adjust the search experience and results to better match those characteristics.

In the case of the person’s mood, for example, the background of the search interface could be changed to a different color. Or if the person has been posting to Facebook about an upcoming trip, the search engine can use that to make the search engine

And then there’s the part about the person’s smarts. Here’s an excerpt describing how that would work.

In addition to skewing the search results to the user’s inferred interests, the user-following engine may further tailor the search results to a user’s comprehension level. For example, an intelligent processing module may be directed to discerning the sophistication and education level of the posts of a user. Based on that inference, the customization engine may vary the sophistication level of the customized search result. The user-following engine is able to make determinations about comprehension level several ways, including from a user’s posts and from a user’s stored profile.

In one example, the user-following engine may discern whether a user is a younger student or an adult professional. In such an example, the user-following engine may tailor the results so that the professional receives results reflecting a higher comprehension level than the results for the student. Any of a wide variety of differentiations may be made. In a further example, the user-following engine may discern a particular specialty of the user, e.g., the user is a marine biologist or an avid cyclist. In such embodiments, a query from a user related to his or her particular area of specialty may return a more sophisticated set of results than the same query from a user not in that area of specialty.

If it sounds a little creepy, rest assured that the system would require the consent of the user. (Right, Microsoft?)

Also, as with most of these patent applications, there’s no indication that the company actually plans to roll this out as part of a product. But it provides a glimpse into the mindset of the company’s researchers, engineers and executives.

The application was filed in October 2010 but was made public by the patent office just this week. One of the inventors is James E. Allard, better known as J Allard, the well-regarded Microsoft executive (known for his role in Xbox and Zune) who left the company that same year.

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  • Guest

    If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

  • Gary

    That’s right up there with going through peoples garbage. That MicroSoft and the Other big tech companies think it’s ok really says it all about their ethics and morality. Anything to make a buck.

  • Guest

    Congratulations to Microsoft for continuing to make the most of their investment in Facebook!

  • sh0cked

    Ya cause… you know…. when you cant return the most relevant results you gotta come up with some gimmick.

  • Andreas Krey

    “But it provides a glimpse into the mindset”

    Well, technically ‘no’. Some people wonder what bad idea I come up with, and I explain to them that thinking up attacks is part of the job of a security engineer. So this can as well be an (unintended by its inventors) use of the patent system to be able to keep other from doing so.

    Given MS’ track record, however, … Also the usual problem here is proving that someone else is doing such things in the first place.

  • Guest

    In e.g. Taiwan public libraries and 24h bookstores are pack full of young people reading and broaden their horizon. This MicroSoft scenario is only applicable in USA, but hey, the whole world already knows how “smart” americans are ;-) hehe can’t get any worse there :-P

    • Linzer


      once upon a time ago, old German philosopher Hegel stated on rubbish sciences: The only thing children should make with their toys break it into pieces.

      I know for sure that the only thing I´m doing with twitter, facebook et tutti quanti is not to use it,


  • Jim

    This whole idea implies that any user is always concerned to make sure his posts match with his level of education. The problem is that it doesn´t make sense to imply such a thing.

    Did you ever heard that a single person lives out different roles in different contexts, Microsoft? Do you? To any intelligent person this is just another reason to avoid Facebook and especially Bing (Google is the better search engine anyway)

    Also implementing cookies to track my whole browsing history is just wrong. This is something a authoritarian government would do and I guess nobody would like to share this lot of information about himself with a company.

    • Guest

      Yeah, your browsing history is safe with Google. LOL.

  • Bob

    While innovation from Bing would be good (is it me or have they slowed their pace considerably over the last year?), maybe they should concentrate of just fixing the remaining obvious deficiencies vs Google.

  • FreeBSD

    Another reason not to use bing…

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