David Talbot

A View from David Talbot

Microsoft's Brand-New "Bing"

The company’s new search engine, called Bing, will try to lead searchers directly to answers or action points.

  • May 28, 2009

Microsoft’s new weapon aimed at Google and Yahoo! search was just announced: it’s called Bing.

Bing, which goes live June 3 and replaces Live Search, was demonstrated today by Steve Ballmer, the Microsoft CEO at the D: All Things Digital conference. Microsoft says Bing includes a “decision engine.” So when a user goes to Bing to shop for a product, Microsoft deploys something called a “Sentiment Extraction” feature to scour the Internet for opinions and reviews. To make a travel decision, for example, “Bing Travel” will compare prices and amenities of hotels and provide a color-coded key of the best values.

“Bing was developed as a tool to help people more easily navigate through the information overload that has come to characterize many of today’s search experiences,” Microsoft said in a statement. Bing also has a revamped interface. For example, it groups search results by topic category and has a “hover” feature–if you put your mouse over a link, you can preview a page before visiting it.

Overall, it’s the latest attempt from a major search engine to give users more than just Web links, and rather get them directly to the piece of information they want (about a health condition, for example) or facilitate the action they want to complete (such as making a travel reservation or a purchase).

Yesterday I interviewed Prabhakar Rahgavan, Head of Yahoo! Labs, and head of Yahoo! Search Strategy, and he echoed many of the same themes. If you are searching for information about a restaurant, he said, you want more than a link to a restaurant; you might want to see the menu, or the address, or a summary of the various ratings out there. Prompted partly by a Yahoo! effort called Search Monkey, web publishers are increasingly adding semantic tags to make it easier for search engines to enable these more specific search returns. Google is also moving in this direction and trying to offer more and more direct answers, including visualizations of public data like census and labor statistics.

In his statement, Ballmer said: “When we set out to build Bing, we grounded ourselves in a deep understanding of how people really want to use the Web. Bing is an important first step forward in our long-term effort to deliver innovations in search that enable people to find information quickly and use the information they’ve found to accomplish tasks and make smart decisions.”

But, of course, we’ll have to wait and see how Bing actually works.

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