Bing Turns Five

On June 3rd 2009, we debuted to the world with a fresh approach to search – one that was anchored around the mission of empowering people with knowledge- helping them do more, not just search more. A lot has happened since that debut, so we wanted to take a moment to look back on where we’ve been and give a little sneak peek at what’s to come.

The best place to start? How about a flashback to the very first Bing Homepage, which captured Polychrome Pass overlooking Denali National Park.. People consistently tell us how much they enjoy the rich imagery on our homepage, so to mark our 5th birthday, we’ve assembled a gallery of our very best homepages from the past five years. Don’t see your favorite? Then cruise on over to our homepage gallery and enjoy the newly created, searchable and shareable collection of hundreds of past homepage images.

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The first Bing homepage (© Alaska Stock/age fotostock)

2009: The Semantic Web

Over the past five years, we’ve seen tectonic shifts in how people experience the Web. From the rise of social data and the myriad connections that exposed, to the explosion of mobile experiences that fundamentally redefined how people interact with devices. The Web of today wouldn’t recognize itself in 2009. Think of the sheer volume of data that has been created in the past five years. The amount of information shared in single day in 2014 equals everything shared digitally prior to 1997.

But even in 2009, it was clear that people needed search to be more than a list of ten blue links. 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. Understanding this opened the door to using semantic technology to drive more relevant, helpful and useful results. This is something we focused on early on, organizing search in ways that helped people navigate this system.

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To do this we introduced verticals like Health and Travel – two highly specialized task areas with particular vocabularies and tools to get things done. We also introduced left rail categories to help you narrow down what you were looking for based on different potential intents you may have had. Searching for Chicago would show you both categories for the city and the band, and only return results that made sense for that category. Later in the year, we built additional vertical experiences that cleanly segregated the mass of web content into understandable and logical experiences, like TV entertainment, Shopping, electronics, and more.

2010: A Social Explosion

In 2010, it was beyond dispute that social data was defining a new fabric for the Web. Enormous stores of human knowledge and activity were being captured in these systems at an exponential rate. The explosion of blogging, Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter were enabling people to leave digital footprints which, in turn, allowed systems to better understand the real world and everything in it using human behavior as a powerful new signal. With the insight that for every search there is someone out there that can help, we moved forward with landmark partnerships with Facebook and later Twitter allowing us to index and make sense of these connections. Our experiments in social allowed for us to inject a unique human perspective into search in a way that no one else could, using the social networks that people care about most.

2011: Tablets and Mobility

While the iPad was released in 2010, it was the following year was a defining moment that showed what this new computing form factor was really all about. Embracing this early on, the Bing team built an immersive, touch-first experience that catered to both the form-factor and the usage modes of people on these devices. In addition, we pioneered a number of features such as “Lasso” which allow people to use the power of search to dig deeper into topics when engaged in browse mode. Finally, our mobile clients for Android and iOS both introduced new features like geo-fencing and customized interfaces to cater to how people were really using devices in the wild.

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2012: Intelligence

2012 was a watershed year for the Web. The sheer weight of social and multimedia data coursing through the Web made traditional results unwieldy. From rich multimedia content to real-time streams to social conversations, to the rise of apps that let you take action in the real world, digital connections were being exposed that presented people with an opportunity to do something. We saw an unprecedented opportunity to rethink how search could provide more value. So we introduced a 3-column format that showed you what the web knew, what Bing knew, and what people knew about your query. It was the first time that a system had 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.

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2013: The Digital World

In 2013, cheap sensors, ubiquitous connectivity, and cratering hardware prices led the march of digitization. Suddenly everything – every person, place, and thing – had digital counterpart on the Web. Bing’s early investments in our knowledge repository began to pay dividends as we disclosed we now understood billions of people, places, and things from all over the globe. It was the first time that a large commercial system actually understood its place in the world and was able to understand that “Chrysler Building” wasn’t just text on a page, but a thing that had windows, floors, and offices. Something that will ultimately make search more of an always-on assistant rather than just an occasional helper.

 

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The Bing Platform

Finally, so many pieces of technology and talent have come together to where we can begin to realize our science fiction dreams of invisible computing, carefully guiding us, helping us, and making us better in ways that matter to us. People used to interact with digital interfaces in one way – on computer monitor. Now there are dozens of ways with varying levels of capability. We want to reduce these interaction barriers. Bing began to see this trend early and decoupled pieces of the system to make them work across the range of computing devices we use on a daily basis. 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 OSX to help find answers. Natural User Experiences and task brokering get us to where we want to be – a truly personal assistant that can accomplish things in conjunction with you and or on your behalf – without even having to ask.

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What’s Next?

The idea of launching a browser, going to a website, and typing in a search box?  That’s so 2009.  The best is not yet to come but on the imminent horizon. As the world of devices constantly changes and new form factors come into play there will be a need to better use information, either by seeking it out or having it pushed to you, and take action. Bing has shifted its focus to be in position to be the search for this new, changing world.

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.  You should expect proactive experiences that anticipate what you need. You should expect information to be actionable for what you need at home or work.  Only Bing and Microsoft can provide all of this, and we couldn’t be more excited for the next five years and beyond.

Thank You

Finally, and most importantly, we want to thank the millions of people who use Bing every day. Without you, we wouldn’t be where we are today. And we never forget that what we build isn’t just for the sake of computer science or commerce but because it can positively impact people in ways we’ve only barely dreamt of.

- The Bing Team