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Microsoft brags: Bing is better at Facebook searching

The number-two search engine boasts that it returns way more stuff from your Facebook friends than it used to.

The social sidebar now displays more stuff posted by your Facebook friends.

Two days after the limited beta release of Facebook Graph Search, Microsoft's Bing search engine has provided people with a more accessible and straightforward way to uncover the status updates of their Facebook friends.

Thursday, the number two search engine announced that it has expanded its ability to display Facebook status updates and other information from friends in its social sidebar. Microsoft somewhat incoherently claims that "[f]ive times more of your friend's Facebook is now searchable on Bing," although it's not entirely clear what that means.

The social sidebar is the right-hand area that displays material related to queries from social networks such as Twitter, Foursquare, and Klout. The bar has been beefed up to return status updates, shared links, and comments from Facebook friends related to your searches. The bar also emphasizes friends' Facebook photos in greater detail.

"Initially, Bing only pulled in data from Facebook friends related to a query based on what they 'like,' and information in their Facebook profiles such as where they live, work, and went to school," Bing's corporate vice president Derrick Connell told CNET. "Now, Bing pulls content including status updates, shared links, photos they've shared, and comments related to a query. All of these new signals add up to about five times more information Bing can index per user."

Until Facebook's new Graph Search rolls out to more people and starts returning status updates -- the product is limited to photos, places, people, and interests -- Bing's search engine just might be the best way to surf through your friends' old Facebook posts. Seems a little backward, doesn't it?

The additional Facebook material in Bing further corrects an early shortcoming in the social sidebar. When Microsoft first launched the bar last May, its focus was on connecting searchers to potential "experts" among your friends who might help answer a query. The connect-to-experts intention is still a part of the sidebar experience, but it's more implied than expressed now. Bing seems to have finally recognized the obvious: showing is better than telling.

The addition of more Facebook content may well make Bing more attractive to some searchers, who could find the updates a compelling reason to pick it over Google.

Update, 4:49 p.m. PT:This post was updated with a statement from Bing.