Microsoft is deepening the friendship between Bing and Facebook yet again, with the new ability to tag friends when sharing a search. The feature is an evolution of the Bing social sidebar, which already lets the searcher post questions to Facebook friends. “When searching on Bing, simply enter a question or comment in the sidebar and type the name of a friend on Facebook to tag him or her (you can tag up to five friends at a time),” read a July 30 posting on Bing’s official blog. “With your permission, the question will post on your Facebook timeline, and your tagged friends will be notified so that they can pitch in and help you find what you’re looking for.” If you’re in search of an incredible pie recipe or the best dive bars in Brooklyn (just as an example), you can tag your foodie or barfly friends—and hopefully they’ll offer some sound advice. Bing’s increasing emphasis on Facebook integration is mirrored by Google’s attempts to link its search engine with the Google Plus social network. Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are all competing fiercely for Web-advertising dollars and consumer loyalty. When Microsoft first launched Bing in summer 2009, the company claimed that the volumes of user data filling the company’s data centers would not only help refine the platform’s ability to search, but that the process would help improve Microsoft’s cloud services as a whole. Bing managed to avoid the early doom predicted for it by some naysayers, eventually seizing a healthy minority of the overall search engine market. However, that faint silver lining comes attached to some very big, very black clouds: Microsoft recently announced that its $6.3 billion acquisition of Internet-ad firm aQuantive, designed to boost Bing’s competitive profile against Google, had transformed into a $6.2 billion write-down. And Microsoft’s online services division continues to burn through millions of dollars per quarter. In exchange for massive amounts of cash, Microsoft has bought itself a foothold in search. Can a tighter relationship with Facebook help expand Bing’s presence even further?   Image: Microsoft