Microsoft Refreshes Bing With Mobile and Map Updates

By Pedro Hernandez  |  Posted 2014-11-21 Print this article Print
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A batch of Bing updates promises more accurate travel times and a more mobile-focused experience on smartphones.

After a recent update, users will notice that mobile and desktop search results differ in some significant ways, according to Mir Rosenberg, a principal program manager with the Bing Mobile Relevance Team. Simply shrinking desktop results doesn't cut it in a "mobile-first," "cloud-first" world, she suggested in a blog post.

"Most of you search from your mobile device more frequently than a year ago; some of you almost exclusively search from your phones. What's more, ComScore expects the number of mobile Web users to surpass desktop users for the first time this year," wrote Rosenberg.

To help smartphone users better navigate the Web, Bing's new update ranks mobile-friendly results higher.

Rosenberg explained, "we know which pages are mobile-friendly so [we] automatically rank them higher with the new update, whereas previously the searcher would have had a much bigger [chance] of landing on a non-mobile-friendly page or possibly had to wait for a redirect to a mobile-friendly page." Similarly, Bing's new-found mobile-awareness helps steer users clear of sites that contain content that may not display on a user's device, as is the case with Adobe Flash, which does not run natively on iOS.

There are steps webmasters can take to cater to mobile users, she added. Bing recommends Website owners "use responsive designs over separate mobile (m.*) sites and ensure a great experience for users on all devices and avoid compatibility, readability and functionality issues."

Google takes a slightly different approach in dealing with non-mobile sites.

In July, the search giant launched a service that alerts mobile device users of incompatible Websites. The alerts, delivered text notices in Google Search, warn users that a site may not render properly and the reasons why, along with the option to proceed or learn more about the issue. On Nov.18, the company announced that it would begin adding a "mobile-friendly" tag to results that lead users to sites that work properly on mobile devices.

Arriving on Time

Microsoft is also working to help worldwide users of the company's Bing Maps, and by extension its Cortana digital assistant, get to their destinations on time, even in the absence of live traffic information.

The software company announced this week that it updated Bing Maps to help travelers and non-U.S. users better plan their outings. "Bing Maps now supports traffic-aware routing worldwide, including Clearflow technology that predicts traffic on roads that do not provide live traffic data," announced the company in a statement.

Clearflow, a Microsoft research project, leverages GPS data, predictive analytics and machine learning to model traffic flow patterns. "Given the successes of the Clearflow prototype, collaborations were initiated with the Bing directions team," states the project's Microsoft Research page. "The intensive work led to the fielding of a version of Clearflow for 72 major cities in North America, where Clearflow is used for inferences on over 60 million road segments in North America."

Today, the technology is going international. "This technology has worked well in the United States, and now we will be using it in every country with Bing Maps traffic coverage," stated Microsoft. "Now, when you request directions, you'll see a more accurate travel time based on current traffic."


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