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Monday, 8th June 2009

Resource of the Week -- Microsoft's New and Enhanced Search Engine Named "Bing" Debuts

Resource of the Week -- Microsoft's New and Enhanced Search Engine Named "Bing" Debuts
By Gary Price, Chief/Founding Editor

Microsoft's new general-purpose search engine (think Yahoo and Google) named "Bing" has gone live on the web. If you were a user of the Live.com search, many of Bing's features will be familiar to you.

Here are a few things we noticed when using the new search engine:

+ An advanced search interface is located next to the search box on any search results page.

+ The left rail offers the ability to find related search terms.

+ The left rail also keeps track of your most recent searches. To clear them, hit the "clear" button and/or turn off the feature.

+ Enter the names of two cities and at the top of the results page you'll see airfare information. Here's an example. The air fare and fare prediction data comes from Farecast, another Microsoft property that has been renamed Bing Travel.

+ Cached pages are available. Look for the link next to the URL on a web results page.

+ Previews: If you place your cursor on the right side of a results page next to each result, a box will appear with a preview of the content that's on the full page. No clicking required.

+ Video Search Previews: Simply cursor over a video thumbnail and watch a preview of the clip. No clicking.

+ Enhanced views of Wikipedia content are accessible via a link next to a Wikipedia URL. The first two results on this page contain enhanced view links.

+ Sites NOT in English contain translate links next to the page title on the search results page. Here's an example.

+ In some searches, local results appear at the top of the page. Here's a search for "newspapers Chicago." Note the local listings at the top of the page. In this example, the results don't include Chicago's two largest papers, the Sun-Times and the Tribune. Not good. Same thing when you run the same type of search for "newspapers New York City".

+ Here's a search for Paris France Airport and another search for Los Angeles Sports. Note how the options at the top of the left rail change depending on what content is available. For the Paris search you'll see:

  • Events
  • Weather
  • History (with content from Encarta at the top of the page)
  • Airport
  • Map
  • Image
  • Video

For the Los Angeles Sports search you'll only find (in the same location):

  • News
  • Local In some cases, these left rail options will take you to images, video, etc., while in other cases they will take you to a more focused list of web pages that Bing believes will be useful.

    + The same "direct answers" that were available with Live Search are also available with Bing. Examples include:

    + When running an image search, you can focus by size, layout, color, style, people. Look for these options on the left rail on the search results page, as in this example. (These tools were available with Live.com search.) You can also find "related images" -- based on the composition of an image -- by hovering over an image with your cursor and selecting, "show related images."

    + When running a video search, you can narrow by length, screen size, resolution, and source. Look for these options on the left rail, as in this example. Very cool!.

    + WARNING! If you turn off the safe search feature when searching for images and then toss in the correct terms, you'll find a ton of adult material.

    + Microsoft's wonderful Virtual Earth maps and imagery appear when you run a Map search. Bing also offers 1-click directions. Here's an example. Note the directions to the Museum of Modern Art from from four compass locations (N, S, E, W) plus the option to add a specific location/address.

    + Boolean: Yes. Default is AND. OR is also available. More advanced search syntax here, here, and here. Note: These are the same options that were available with Live.com. No major changes seem to jump out at us.

    Update: We have tested several of the advanced search operators and they appear to work correctly.

    + All searches can turned into RSS feeds. Most browsers should be able to autodetect the presence of an RSS feed. No? Simply append your search with the following: &format=rs.

    + In some cases, pages will be marked as an official site. Example. In this example, take note of the customer service number readily available and a search box to directly search the site from the results page.

    Overall, while it's good and important to have another unique database of web content out there, we are a bit saddened to see the lack of new feature and services with this first release of Bing as opposed to what was available with Live.com. Bing is worth knowing about and using, but getting the masses to switch to it as their default search tool will be a massive challenge. Time will tell. Expect to see a lot of advertising for Bing. Finally, Bing Maps (and imagery) continues to mesmerize, and the limiting functions for images and video are very useful.

    See Also: More Tips and Tricks (via Digital Inspirations)

    See Also: Bing411 is Now Live (via TechCrunch)
    This appears to be a simple rebranding and enhancement. Microsoft has had two interactive voice services (IVR) for several years. The first was Live411 (now Bing411). The service came from the Microsoft acquisition of long time player TellMe (1-800-555-Tell) which is still live. It appears that Bing411 adds several new features like movie times, movie ticket purchases and news headlines.

    Want More Interactive Voice Response Tools?
    + 1-800-Free-411 (business and residential listings)
    + 1-800-Flights (Flight Info)
    + 1-866-My-TRAFC (Traffic Info for Major U.S. Cities)

    Update: View the Bing TV Commercials (via SEL)


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