Microsoft has updated its Bing search engine with new features, as the company seeks to shorten Google's market lead.
Microsoft unveiled some updates to its Bing search engine
Dec. 15, as the company rounds out another year of heightened competition with
Google in the worldwide search market.
Those updates include new features for its Bing for Mobile
app for iPhone and Android, notably integration of OpenTable and Grubhub.
Microsoft is also promising street-level imagery, real-time public transit
info, and "check in" functionality.
Microsoft used the announcement to highlight its
previously-announced deeper integration with Facebook. "Starting today, if your
search results include a specific link that has also been -liked' by someone in
your Facebook network the link will be highlighted as -Liked' within Bing,"
Paul Yiu, Bing's Group Program Manager, wrote
in a Dec. 15 posting on the Bing Community blog
. The feature is currently
available only to those users in the United States.
Bing Maps have also undergone a tweaking, mostly related to
aesthetics: in addition to improved highway symbols and greater color contrast
for streets, the application now differentiates more starkly between major and
In order to adjust Bing Maps, along with the overall search
engine, Microsoft's teams broke down what constitutes a "quality" search
result, eventually deciding that such a creature is dependent on four factors:
a visually organized experience, a focus on tasks, social relevance, and device
"The core of our work addresses the fact that the Web is
getting more complex and faceted-not less," Online Services Division senior
vice president Satya Nadella wrote in a
Dec. 15 posting on the Bing Community blog
. "This evolution challenges us
and the industry to more thoughtfully define search quality as more than just
speed or how well we've matched links to your query."
In the name of social relevance, Bing is now offering
integration with FanSnap, to purchase tickets to concerts and sporting events
through the event-details page in Bing, and-for desktop users-the ability to
"walk inside" restaurants and other venues using 360-degree panoramic views. In
the latter case, a "Step Inside" icon will allow people to walk through 3D
renderings of those local businesses. Technology from startup EveryScape will
help power this Bing feature.
According to research firm comScore, Bing occupied some 11.8
percent of the search-engine market in November, dwarfed by Google's 66.2
percent but still good for a year-over-year increase of 31 percent. That might
hearten Microsoft executives, who have burned millions of dollars in losses in order
for the company to establish a toehold in that market.
However, Bing's continued survival is a slap to early
critics who believed the search engine would die in short order. In addition,
Bing now powers Yahoo's back-end searches, under the terms of a 2009
search-and-advertising agreement, which in theory will give Microsoft scale as
it seeks to shrink Google's lead. But numbers-wise, Bing still has a long way
to go if it wishes to threaten Google's dominance of the market.