Microsoft's Visual Search feature for Bing allows users to navigate through galleries of images in order to find a desired result, instead of typing in a search query. Since its launch over the summer, Bing has managed to incrementally gain market share, although the recent deal between Microsoft and Yahoo to power Yahoo's search with Bing may be what will finally allow Microsoft to compete more heartily against its archrival, Google.
rolled out Visual Search for Bing, its search engine, on Sept. 14. The beta
feature allows users to search for information visually by clicking through
image options, as opposed to typing in a search query.
Bing's Visual Search is accessible
Visual Search presents dozens of searchable image galleries. If users want
to search for, say, a particular movie star, they can click on the
"Popular celebrities" gallery and then scroll through the offered
faces until they find the right one. In that particular example, users can
refine the search by clicking on categories such as "Popular actors,"
"Popular musicians," "Achievements," "Gender" or
"Age." Hovering your mouse cursor over the image results in pop-up
information ("Zooey Deschanel, Singer/Musician/Age: 29").
Clicking on the image takes the user to a page of traditional search
results, consisting of hyperlinks, Website summaries and images.
As announced at TechCrunch50,
Microsoft plans on
expanding the number of searchable image galleries in the future. Microsoft has
also hinted that a larger revamp of Bing is slated to roll out later in
"A study conducted by Microsoft Research shows that consumers can
process results with images 20 percent faster than text-only results,"
Todd Schwartz, group product manager for Bing, wrote in a Sept. 14 Bing
post. "Visual Search is a new way to formulate and refine your
search queries through imagery, particularly for sets of results that tend to
be more structured."
Bing's Visual Search seems in many ways an answer to Google's
Similar Images feature,
appeared in Google Labs in April. Similar Images, which can be found here,
allows users to search
using images rather than typing in successive queries. For example, typing in
the term "Jaguar" will produce images of both the jungle cat and the
"Using visual similarity, you don't have to refine the text of your
search; instead, you can just click on the link of an image you like,"
said an official
Google blog post
at the time the feature became available.
Although Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz opined
during a conference in June that interest
in Bing would be "temporary,"
the search engine managed to
survive its first summer with incremental market-share gains. According to
research company StatCounter, Microsoft's share of the U.S.
search market increased to 9.41 percent in July, days before the announcement
of a search
and advertising deal between Microsoft and Yahoo.
That partnership agreement, inked on July 29, stipulated that Bing would
power search on Yahoo's sites; once the deal is completed, that should
translate into nearly 30 percent of the U.S.
search-engine market for Microsoft, versus roughly 65 percent for Google. For
its part, Microsoft has said it regards the recent partnership agreement as a
chance to flood Bing's backroom operations with data from Yahoo's user base,
allowing the search engine to refine its processes and produce more useful
Previous to the Yahoo deal, pundits had wondered how Bing would fare once
Microsoft's massive ad campaign-estimated at between $80 million and $100
million-subsided in the wake of the search engine's rollout.
Microsoft has indicated that it intends to back Bing for the long haul.
During the National Summit in Detroit
on June 17, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said
Bing had "very good initial response" and that Microsoft
would "have to be tenacious and keep up the pace of innovation over a long
period of time."