Microsoft's Bing Adds Reference Page

Microsoft has re-engineered Bing's Reference page to give the search engine's users easy access to Wikipedia and Freebase articles about their search term. The Reference page also incorporates information about Bing's wallpaper of the day, as well as a timeline detailing the significant events that happened on that date. Bing's U.S. market share dipped incrementally in September, possibly as a result of Microsoft winding down the marketing campaign tied to the search engine's launch.

Microsoft has introduced a Reference page for its search engine, Bing, which brings together Wikipedia and Freebase entries onto a single site for quick reference. The summaries of these entries can be optionally presented in a grid-style format designed to minimize the need to scroll through the page.

The default version of the Bing Reference page-also accessible by clicking "more" and then "Reference" on the Bing homepage-includes a Wikipedia entry about the Bing wallpaper image of the day, as well as a timeline detailing significant events that occurred on that date. For procrastinators, the Reference page also includes clickable "Sample Searches" ("Who led the invasion of Baghdad," "What are the ingredients in beer," etc.) and "People in the News" ("Sarah Palin," "Barack Obama").

Users have the option of seeing their search term highlighted in the Wikipedia summaries, as well as having the results presented in a grid or list format.

Until recently, Reference had been available as a clickable tab on Bing's results page, after inputting the name of a notable figure such as "Albert Einstein" or "Barack Obama."

After months of incremental market share increases, Microsoft's search engine saw its September share of the U.S. market slip to 8.5 percent from 9.6 percent in August, according to a report from analytics firm StatCounter, while Google's share hit 80 percent.

During that same period, Yahoo's market share also declined by more than a point, from 10.5 percent in August to 9.4 percent in September. Another firm, Net Applications, also found that Bing's share dipped slightly, from 3.52 percent in August to 3.39 percent in September.

The dip may be attributable to Microsoft winding down its summer ad campaign that accompanied Bing's June 3 launch. That spending, estimated at between $80 million and $100 million, likely helped the search engine eventually claim 10.7 percent of U.S. online searches by August, according to statistics released by research firm Nielsen.

Bing will receive a market share boost when a search-and-advertising partnership between Microsoft and Yahoo, announced on July 29, becomes actualized in 2010. By having Bing power Yahoo's backroom search processes, Microsoft's share of the search engine market could rise to close to 30 percent.

During New York's Jefferies Annual Technology Conference in September, Charles Songhurst, Microsoft's general manager of corporate strategy, indicated that Redmond still sees Bing as having room to grow.

"It's active and usable, but it hasn't had the marketing push behind it [worldwide]. And what we've found is that that marketing push makes a huge difference," Songhurst told the audience. "I think the other thing we're beginning to find is that the search market is more differentiated, and less homogeneous, than we thought."

Bing's additions, including Reference, are likely steps to address that granular need within the search market.