Microsoft adds features to its Bing search engine, including localized news and weather, an expanded video page, and search results from Wolfram Alpha, a so-called computational engine designed to provide users with a definitive answer to a search query. Although Wolfram Alpha specializes in offering answers to mathematical queries, its ability to display other types of answers such as nutritional information could appeal to Bing's core consumer audience.
announced new functionality for its search engine, Bing, on Nov. 11, including augmented
search results and an expanded video page.
"Expanded" may actually be something of an understatement, as
Microsoft seems to want to turn Bing's video page
into a robust
destination that can compete with Google's YouTube. In fact, YouTube will be
one provider of videos on Bing's revamped page, along with Hulu, MSN
Video and ABC.
"This change will combine the powerful search experience of Bing with
the expertise of MSN video, all in one
destination," Kristin Meldahl, a member of the Bing team, wrote in a Nov.
10 post on the official
Meldahl claimed that Bing Videos will offer over 900 television
Those who need to find information as opposed to seeing who dies next on
"Lost" may be more interested in Bing's other new features, which
include localized results for weather and events, hover preview and tweaks to
Bing Shopping. These new features, which will roll out to the entire customer
base over the next few weeks, bear echoes of Microsoft's
revamped MSN homepage, which also uses Bing to ferret out local information.
In addition to more granular weather and news options, Bing will begin
displaying results from another search engine that, while not a rival, made
waves over the summer for its unique approach to data mining.
"Today we are excited to unveil some work we have been doing with
Wolfram Alpha," Tracey Yao, Bing program manager, and Pedro Silva, Bing
product manager, wrote in a Nov. 11 post on the official
"We'll be providing access to Wolfram Alpha's advanced
algorithms and expertly curated data within the Bing experience."
For example, Wolfram Alpha displays nutritional information for specific
products typed into its search bar, such as "chicken breast." Bing
will now port that functionality onto its site, so that anyone typing
"chicken breast" will receive Wolfram Alpha's nutritional
data-conveniently laid out in a manner similar to the labels on food packages.
Chicken breast, by the way, has 115mg of cholesterol (52 percent daily value)
and 57g of protein (113 percent daily value) for a 212-gram serving.
The added Wolfram Alpha functionality will appear on Bing "over the
next several days," Yao and
Originally launched on May 18, Wolfram
Alpha differs from traditional search engines by offering itself as a
providing a definitive answer to a
question rather than a page of hyperlinked search results. Of particular
interest to engineers and others in math-heavy professions is the ability to
type an equation into the search bar and receive results in return.
On June 9, Wolfram Alpha incorporated additional linguistic forms, more
comparisons of composite properties (such as "U.S.
military versus UK")
and updates to time zones and currencies. In total, some 1.1 million data
values were touched "in some way" by the update, according to the
search engine's official blog.
Wolfram Alpha is the brainchild of Stephen Wolfram, founder and CEO
of Wolfram Research and creator of Mathematica, a computation platform the
symbolic code of which forms the core code base of Wolfram Alpha. Google
co-founder Sergey Brin supposedly interned with Wolfram in the 1990s.
Although Wolfram Alpha seemed unlikely from the outset to challenge Google's
dominant position in the search marketplace, Google may have been inspired or
spooked enough by some
of the computational engine's functionality to roll out Google Squared,
search application through Google Labs that structures information into
customized tables. For example, typing "dogs" into the Squared search
bar will return a table of information listing different breeds.
With regard to Bing, the improvements may help the search engine continue to
slowly increase its share of the search engine space. A Nov. 11 research note
by Experian Hitwise indicated that Bing occupied about 9.6 percent of that
market in October, while Google dipped by 1 percent to 70.6 percent. That study
also suggested that Yahoo's market share had slipped by 1 percent, to 16.1
percent. A search advertising deal between Microsoft and Yahoo, signed in July,
may cause Bing's market share to rise in 2010, once it begins powering back-end
search on Yahoo's sites.