Microsoft's Bing Reaches 5-Year Mark as Search Keeps Evolving

Microsoft chronicles the history of the company's search engine and the changes that occurred in those five years—from advanced intelligence to machine learning.

Bing search

Microsoft is celebrating the fifth anniversary of Bing's official launch on June 3. To commemorate the occasion, the company is taking a look back at how a rapidly changing technology landscape influenced the company's approach to search. has been altered to spotlight the search engine's hallmark feature: the image-based backdrop. Visitors can cycle through several "editor's picks" of the eye-catching photography that has graced the Bing home page over the years.

While not as visible, Bing has also experienced big changes under the hood.

It all started in 2009 when "the industry was starting to realize that the paradigm of keyword searching needed to evolve, and the way forward was to look at the Web not as a collection of documents or pages but as a digital representation of the real world," said the Bing Team in a blog post. The semantic Web was taking off, and Microsoft navigated this shift by adding verticals like health, travel, shopping and electronics for more contextually rich search experiences.

The rise of social media in 2010 paved the way for social integration and a landmark deal with Facebook. The early seeds of the company's new "mobile-first" approach appeared the following year when Bing designers rolled out tablet- and smartphone-friendly search experiences. 2012 brought a new three-column format that "stitched together the massive corpus of the Web, synthesized intelligence from Bing, and organic intelligence from people to deliver a more natural way to search."

Fast forward to 2014, and past some controversial detours like the company's "Scroogled" campaign, and Bing has evolved into an intelligence platform that increasingly underpins Microsoft's offerings, as well as provides search services for a signature Apple iOS feature.

"The Bing Platform puts advanced intelligence in places like Cortana, multi-lingual abilities in Facebook and Twitter, and even powers Siri and Spotlight in the new OS X to help find answers," said the company in a statement. During last year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, Apple surprised industry watchers by announcing that Bing was replacing Google as the default search engine for Siri, the company's voice-enabled digital assistant on the iPhone and iPad.

Cortana, Microsoft's answer to Siri, is expected to ship with Windows Phone 8.1. During an early demonstration at the Build 2014 developer conference in April, Cortana wowed attendees by correctly deciphering plain-language commands and deftly accomplishing complex tasks. Bing search is also deeply integrated with the company's Xbox One console and Windows 8 OS.

As for the future, expect Bing to stray further from pure search as Microsoft doubles down on machine learning, hinted the company.

"You should expect relevant information to come to you when and where you need it. You should expect experiences to adapt to you and your context, instead of the other way around," said Microsoft. "You should expect information to be actionable for what you need at home or work."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...