Microsoft Bing to Surface More Web Services, Director Says

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-03-22

Microsoft Bing to Surface More Web Services, Director Says

Microsoft Bing will more tightly integrate with Web services providers, and the search engine will improve its coverage in search verticals this spring as it seeks to gain market share from powerhouse Google, a Bing director said.     

The idea is to more quickly and accurately connect consumers to popular Web services and applications.

Bing already boasts a travel site that lets users plan trips, book flights and find hotels using several different refinements. Bing also lures users with Bing Cashback, which provides savings for users who buy products from retailers after finding them through Bing.

Soon, as part of its effort to better divine user intent, Microsoft Bing Director Stefan Weitz said Bing will "broker out to different Web services to bring that information and those services back into the page."

Weitz declined to specify what Websites and services Microsoft might feature. The search engine already integrates with Twitter for real-time search, and Wolfram Alpha to provide consumers computational information.

"It's not just about presenting you a trail to go down to where users have to do a lot of work to figure out what they're trying to find. It's about understanding intent, what task that user is trying to accomplish and then building that experience that is specific to that task. For that, we have to do a lot more than index Web pages." 

That "lot more" includes aligning itself more closely with popular Web services and e-commerce sites to enrich the user experience. This will make Bing less about finding answers to questions or common queries and more about helping users conduct transactions.

"What we're seeing is a Web of objects," Weitz told eWEEK. "They'll tweet (post a message on Twitter), then go somewhere else and book a cab on RideCharge, or do a query on OpenTable, or whatever it might be. What we're doing now with Bing is looking at those objects and what people are doing on the Web. A lot of people are doing these complex tasks that keyword searches just don't work for and we're tying those things together."

Weitz pointed to the Bing event search page, where users can type in an event and Bing will query against different ticket providers and bring back relevant results. "We're trying to go where people are going to be in a year versus focusing relentlessly on where they are today, or where they are today or where they were a year ago where it was a much more keyword-based approach."

Weitz's message is subtle but clear. While Google has commandeered the search market for the last decade with basic keyword queries, Bing's goal  -- and perhaps its best chance for success -- is nudging people toward this new search paradigm.

Bings Plan to Gain More Traction

In this model, the search experience doesn't just take a dead stop at returning results to users' queries; it opens doors to help users subscribe to new services, find goods or learn new information when they arrive at their destination.

Take Bing event search. A user can type in a query to see New York event and see event listings and results from popular ticket vendors right in the search result.

Users can then go to those sites and make their purchases. So the search and the transaction are more closely aligned than ever before. Instead of search and stop, Bing is becoming search and buy.

Now imagine that is paired across thousands of industry applications, as suggested recently by search expert John Battelle. That could make Bing a powerful destination for not only information retrieval, but e-commerce.

Google isn't really taking this approach. If users type in New York events on Google, they will see links to Websites that promote events.

But this experience is not geared around fueling transactions so much as helping users find the sites where users may want to do a transaction. That is a key difference between Bing and Google.   

"People are behaving differently on the Web," Weitz said. "The Web itself has progressed a ton since Google pioneered PageRank. It was a static, text-based Web. There was not a lot of interactivity options or massive updates on a global scale.

"Whereas Google organized the world's information, we are moving beyond links and multimedia on a page to services that provide data that we will never ingest. But we know it exists and we can pull it in in real time to augment that answer."

Is this approach working? Bing is doing something right. Since its broad June 2009 launch, Bing has grown from roughly 8 percent market share to 11.5 percent, according to comScore.

While Google has retained its 65 percent market share, Bing's growth appears to be largely at the expense of Yahoo, which has fallen steadily since Bing's arrival and subsequent partnership to let Bing power Yahoo results. Tacking on Yahoo's search share will give Bing 28 percent of the market, well behind Google but much closer than before. 

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