At the Bing Search event in San Francisco today, Microsoft unveiled a dizzying array of nearly across-the-board updates and improvements for Bing online and mobile apps. Some are minor and some are more significant. Most of these upgrades and feature enhancements will be available starting today or later this month.
There are in fact so many things rolling out simultaneously that it’s a bit overwhelming. Accordingly in this post I’m just going to offer up an edited version of the information provided by Microsoft. We’ll explore selected features and products later in subsequent posts.
- Like Annotations: Search results will now show which links on the main results page have been “liked” by a person’s Facebook friends.
- Social annotations: Bing is bringing “like” data into core search across all queries. Search results will now show which links on the search engine results page have been “liked” by a person’s Facebook friends. This feature will show what a person’s friends “liked” on the main results page and will be different for each user.
- OpenTable will be integrated into the local search vertical, allowing people to book reservations from the restaurant details page in Bing.
- FanSnap will be integrated into the local search vertical, allowing people to purchase tickets to a concert or sporting event through the events details page in Bing.
- Everyscape integration: Interior Views on business profile pages will allow people to see inside local restaurants and businesses with 360-degree panoramic views. These views will be accessible from the local search results. This feature will initially be available in Seattle, San Francisco and Boston.
- Bing Maps will feature stronger differentiation and contrast between major and minor city streets so streets “pop” out more
- Venue maps provide detailed maps and directories of venues, such as shopping malls, airports, museums and college campuses, within Bing Maps.
- Improved Landmark Listings: Users now get contact information, related businesses, and landmark details immediately from the search for a landmark.
- Transit Routing: Transit directions will be available for the AJAX experience. Users can choose their desired departure time and choose among multiple routes with similar travel time. The initial cities in the release are: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Newark Metro Area, New York Metro Area, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver BC, and Washington DC.
- Map Interface: The new Bing.com/Maps experience allows rich features to be more accessible by all users. In this release, the Map Apps button and Gallery can be viewed in the Bing.com/Maps (AJAX) site – once a Map App is opened, users without Silverlight will be shown how to download Silverlight to access Map Apps.
- Map App Search: Adds a search box to find map apps within the app gallery.
- The left-rail of the AJAX site will now guide users to some of Bing Maps’ key features – directions, traffic, business lookup, and map apps – and helps map apps to be more discoverable within the core experience.
- Autosuggest: Bing intelligently narrows and refines restaurant and movie searches by suggesting query strings to help people plan the perfect night out.
- Bing Vision: Bring an object into the [camera] viewfinder, hold it still and Bing will detect text and present a highlighter tool to select words for a search. If the object has a barcode, Bing will instantly return product results. Search for a nearby business listing by pointing your camera at a landmark.
- Check-in: Share your current location with friends and family via Facebook, foursquare or Windows Live Activity Stream.
- iPhone Apps: Surfaces iPhone apps in search results, when relevant.
- Plans: From the Bing homepage or a local search result, people can plan a night out and share the plan with friends via Facebook, who can comment or join the plan.
- Opentable and Grubhub integration: With the integration of Opentable and Grubhub into Bing for Mobile, once you find your restaurant of choice, you can reserve a table on OpenTable or order takeout from Grubhub without leaving the Bing app.
- Real-Time Transit Predictions: Real-time updates for Boston, San Francisco and Seattle allow commuters to see if transit options are on schedule, early or delayed, with predictions for arrival times.
- Reminders: Create a “to-do” list and set reminders to receive alerts when near a specific location.
- Enhanced StreetSide: Helps people orient themselves in unfamiliar places by stitching together and panning across street-level imagery of businesses, addresses or landmarks.
- Search Widget: expands beyond the ability to search contacts, apps, audio files or the Web and includes ability to search third party apps that register to be searchable.
- Share Command: Share content with friends using any loaded app that can accept and share content (images, URLs, etc.).
- Opentable and Grubhub integration: With the integration of Opentable and Grubhub into Bing for Mobile, you can reserve a table on OpenTable or order takeout from Grubhub without leaving the Bing app.
- Flight Summary: Displays an instant set of airfares as users enter flight details such as cities and dates. This provides people with an approximate cost for their trip without having to complete a full search, and allows people to see alternative travel options that could help save money or provide a better value.
- Flight Answers: Flight search options have expanded to include Flight Answers, which utilize flight search and top deals. Users can type “I want to fly to Paris next January” and find a form pre-filled with January dates, or try “fly SEA to SFO on Dec 9 returning Dec 12″ to find precise flight information. Users can also construct queries around one-way, non-stop and airline-specific requests.
- Destination Pages: Bing’s new destination pages pull together all the key information on a city, saving you time and energy: flights and hotels, images, attractions, events, maps and a weather overview.
- Attraction Answers: Bing attractions now features 60K attractions Worldwide, ~20K attractions US.
- Bing’s new image search organizes images in a more intuitive way and brings back additional categories
- Collage Answers: Richer instant answers across entertainment verticals including music, movies, TV and Games.
- Landing pages for movies and television shows will now include organizational tabs to allow people to explore more detailed information such as trailers, reviews and showtimes.
- Extended TV listings and episode guides will be integrated into search results, along with TV clips and show information.
Whew . . . Lots of this stuff is really useful and “cool.” The challenge for Bing and Microsoft is to make ordinary users aware of it. Map Apps, for example, are really interesting and engaging but they’ve been “hidden” behind the Sliverlight wall and not well promoted by Microsoft. Now the company is bringing some of that experience into the non-Silverlight version of Bing Maps.
Conceptually almost all these changes and upgrades are intended to make good on the notion of Bing being a “decision engine” and help people put together necessary information or take the next step in a process or conduct a transaction directly on the site or mobile app. As I said, we’ll drill down on some of these features later in more depth.
Postscript: See our follow-up pieces on some of these announcements:
- Bing Releases Version 2.0 Of iPhone App.
- Bing Expands Use Of Facebook ‘Likes’ In Search Results
- Bing Improves Image Search With Tabs & Page Preview
- Bing Travel Adds Attraction Answers, Gives Destination One-Boxes