In 2009, we launched Bing with a simple proposition: people should expect more from a search engine.
Our aim has always been to help you do more with search, and over the past three years we have made exciting strides to realize that vision. Today we are taking a big step forward as we begin rolling out what is the most significant update to Bing since we launched three years ago. Over the coming weeks, we will be introducing a brand new way to search designed to help you take action and interact with friends and experts without compromising the core search experience.
First a little background. The search industry was built on keywords, links and labels – static nouns pointing to pages. This approach is great for finding sites but search is about more than simply finding information, it’s also about taking action. Whether it’s booking a flight, reading an article or buying a new pair of shoes, 68% of people tell us they expect to get something done when they type into a search box.
Now it’s possible to do more than find pages with search. You are able to share nearly everything you do, including where you are and who you are, in real-time. From rich multimedia content to real-time streams to social conversations to applications that let you take action in the real world, digital connections are created that present the opportunity to do something. This presents an unprecedented opportunity to rethink how search should work. Suddenly an index of documents that does not embrace these changes is insufficient.
At the same time, research tells us that 90% of people consult with a friend or expert before making a decision –whether it’s something as simple as which train will take you uptown or who is the best dentist in Boulder, other people are often the most trusted source of information. We value input from our friends and opinions from experts but at the same time want comprehensive, relevant and unbiased results. Recent attempts at social search haven’t unlocked the full potential of tapping our social networks. And the reason is pretty simple – social in search hasn’t mirrored how people do things in real life.
The fact is, search hasn’t kept pace. People have become as important as pages and search needs to evolve to embrace these changes. The challenge has been to figure out how to integrate the information you care about with the people who can be most helpful to you in getting stuff done.
Welcome to the New Bing
The new Bing introduces a brand new information architecture with a three column design that focuses on bringing you information from the web to help you take action and interact with friends and experts without compromising the core search experience.
Let’s take a closer look:
Core Web Results: Relevant, comprehensive and trustworthy.
The bedrock of modern search remains core algorithmic relevance. With the latest updates, we are delivering the results you expect. Beautiful, relevant, results are the first thing you see. Instead of cluttering your results with social updates, we’re honoring the purity of the core web results making it easier to focus on the links you need to get things done.
From the outset, we knew that serving relevant results that were equal to or better than the other guy was table stakes. To track our progress, we conducted tests thatremoved any trace of Google and Bing branding. When we did this study in January of last year 34% people preferred Bing, while 38% preferred Google. The same unbranded study now shows that Bing Search results now have a much wider lead over Google’s. When shown unbranded search results 43% prefer Bing results while only 28% prefer Google results. What this means is that in 3 years we’ve made some real progress in core relevance and search quality, and while search is becoming so much more than just web results, having a rock solid foundation is important for the future of Bing and search more generally.
Snapshot: Get it done faster.
Snapshot is the center column on the Bing search results page, nestled between the web results on the left and the new sidebar on the right. Snapshot brings relevant information and services related to your search to you right on the main results page including maps, restaurant reservations and reviews so you can take action. We’ve run thousands of experiments to determine the types of tasks most frequently attempted in Bing, and in snapshot we help you take certain actions when we determine that the intent of your search matches these tasks. To help you do more and do it faster, we continue working with industry leading companies like OpenTable, FanSnap and others integrating them right into the middle collumn. With snapshot, Bing does the heavy lifting by organizing useful information so you can act more quickly.
Sidebar: Social search done right.
Getting things done often involves others, in fact 90% of those asked said they prefer to listen to their friends when making decisions. Whether it’s making a purchase, deciding on a vacation destination, choosing a great restaurant, or figuring out which movie to see this weekend, the new Bing focuses on bringing friends, experts and enthusiasts into your search experience through a dedicated social “sidebar.” With sidebar, Bing brings together the best of the web, with what experts and your friends know, giving you the confidence to act. This new way to search lets people share, discover, and interact with friends like they do in real life.
- Always present, never intrusive. The sidebar will appear as part of every query, but it will remain off to the right, allowing searchers to decide when and how to interact with it. We’ve moved most of the social content out of the main search pane and put it in a dedicated place where people can always expect to find it.
- Ask Friends: You can post a question to get help from your Facebook friends as you search. You can “tag” friends Bing suggests might know about the topic. In a few simple clicks you can share your search and your friends can reply to your question on either Facebook or Bing.
- Friends Who Might Know: Once you authorize Bing, sidebar helps you post a question to get help from your Facebook friends as you search. Bing suggests friends on Facebook who might know about the topic – based on what they “like”, their Facebook profile information, or photos they have shared – so you can easily ask them about relevant experiences and opinions and go quickly from searching to doing. For example, if you’re searching for diving spots in Costa Rica, with the new Bing, you may discover that one of your Facebook friends knows a great spot, based on photos from their last trip to Costa Rica that they shared on Facebook. Or you might find a friend who lives in Costa Rica based on his or her Facebook profile. You and your friends can only see information you could already see about each other on Facebook.
- People Who Know: Beyond friends, Bing can help you find people who are influential about the topic you’re searching, based on what they’ve publically blogged or tweeted about. In a glance you will see top experts and enthusiasts from leading networks like Twitter, Foursquare, Quora, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Blogger to quickly check out what they have to say about the topic you’re searching for. You can follow them, ask them a question or see what they have shared in the past.
- Activity feed. From the activity feed in the sidebar, you can see, posts and queries you and your friends have chosen to share from Bing. You can help answer friends’ questions, “like” something interesting they have shared. Because these activities show up in both Bing (activity feed) and Facebook, you can comment on them from either place.
Check out this video to see the new Bing in action:
In the coming weeks, you will be able to experience the new Bing on mobile devices (m.bing.com.) We’ve optimized the layout and placement of the social results on the mobile device for smaller screen sizes and for touch input optimized for people on the go.
Finally, we have implemented technologies that provide relevant results while maximizing protection for your data and your privacy. When using Bing and signed into Facebook, Bing will only surface content your friends could access by viewing your Facebook profile directly.
In the coming days we will be releasing this to users in the United States. If you would like to be one of the first people to experience the new Bing, visit www.bing.com/new, to receive an email notification when it’s available. To read more about this release from the people who built it, check out this article on Microsoft Newscenter.
– Derrick Connell, Corporate Vice President, Bing and Dr. Harry Shum, Corporate Vice President, Bing R&D