Microsoft plans to unveil a question-and-answer social-search tool in the coming months, says Justin Osmer, senior product manager for MSN. The feature will let users direct questions to a specific universe, such as a group of friends, rather than to get automated lists of results from a generic search engine. It's one of the many ways that Web companies, including Yahoo (YHOO) and Google (GOOG), are trying to set themselves apart with social search, a targeted pursuit of information that's influenced by the preferences of a person's peer group. Social search is a method whose time has come, Osmer says. Microsoft research shows that generic search engines can't answer 50% of queries asked, he says. The new tool, whose name he didn't disclose, will be "one of the larger projects for us" this year, Osmer says.