Angling to give Web surfers another, easier way to find what they are looking for, Microsoft's Bing search team introduced a visual search option today, Sept. 14.
No, this isn't another take on image search. But it does use images to help users find results.
Bing Visual Search lets users type in a query as usual, but instead of returning the customary blue links as results, Bing returns images associated with books, movies, celebrities, sports teams and so on.
How can you try this? First, you have to download Microsoft's Silverlight plug-in if you haven't already (How's that for a barrier to entry?) Then go here.
See the demo video from Bing here:
I just had to try this to see if it's worth the hype. As a big movie buff, I first searched for "movies in theaters" and saw this:
Mousing over each image put the title of the film handily in the search box. No typing required! Just mousing. I'm a horror movie fan, so I clicked on "Halloween II" and saw these movie listings and more info:
Bing Visual Search categories at the moment are Entertainment, Famous People, Reference, Shopping and Sports. Read more on this on Techmeme here, though Search Engine Land's review is the most thorough.
Google moved toward a picture-based search with Similar Images from Google Labs in April. Bing's Visual Search even uses many of the same categories as Google Similar Images:
However, when you click the pics, Similar Images helps you find more images, not search links, so it's not quite the same.
Bing gets a big kudos for this in my book. Now, what will Google do, particularly now that Bing just notched 10.7 percent of the search queries in August, up from 9 percent in July, according to Nielsen? That's almost 20 percent growth!
However, it wasn't at Google's expense (64.6 percent), but Yahoo's, which tallied only 16 percent of the searches in August, a drop of 4.2 percent in July.
Here comes Bing, gobbling first Yahoo (even before the Microhoo integration). Next up, Google. Brace yourselves for the search war.