I think there’s no question that Bing is a success. People had widely expected it to fail (as Live Search had) when it entered the market. Instead it has steadily gained share and has even prompted some UI enhancements and changes from Google. Google is not “threatened” by Bing in any real way (today). But Bing is doing some good things for the market overall, as well as seeking to drive innovation in the user experience.
To that end, Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi is delivering the SES keynote this morning in which he explains and demonstrates some of the improved features coming shortly. Many of these improvements are focused on the UI, richer vertical experiences, maps and real-time information. They’re generally discussed in a Bing blog post and laid out more succinctly in this list:
- An update to the Bing user interface that adapts the page and search results based on the intent of the query. We’ll be testing a new user interface that includes new design concepts that move the Quick Tabs functionality to the top of the screen, so customers see a more visual and organized page. On the left side of the page, there will be query-specific options to help refine users’ questions and help Bing better understand user intent.
- Comparison Answers for Sports
- New domain task pages for Autos results pages that present new user experiences to help you get knowledge and answers for this high query volume topics
- For mobile, Autosuggest improvements including answers for things like stock quotes, and new mobile scenarios, including updates to the Bing app for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
- Upcoming release of Foursquare Bing Map application
- Many other tests to improve results in three areas all designed to simplify decisions: fundamentals, user experience and verticals.
The philosophy behind most of these improvements remains getting people to richer content (“answers”) more quickly to support online decision-making. Some of the changes go live immediately to a small number of Bing users (5 percent) and some of them will roll out more gradually. According to Microsoft press materials, “The flighting of most of the updates begins today and will be rolling out to all customers later this spring and summer.”
Immediately below is an example of the new Autos results pages (“domain task pages for Autos”) for the query “2010 Ford Mustang specs”:
Here’s the forthcoming page for the same query:
Here’s an example of a new page for the query “Miami Beach.” This page isn’t substantially different from what exists today but it adds neighborhoods and maps to the immediate structured results at the top of the page:
Comparable to the existing Twitter “map app,” perhaps the “sexiest” of the announced new features is the integration of Foursquare data into Bing Maps. According to the Bing blog post:
Today we previewed a cool new map application, which brings real time data from foursquare into our Silverlight maps experience to give customers a real time sense of what’s going on as they plan activities in their own neighborhoods or while on the road.
The foursquare map app is a powerful combination of the spatial canvas that Bing Maps provides, combined with foursquare’s user reputation service ability to see who has unlocked specific badges, where and who has been crowned mayor of certain locations making it easier to explore any city in the world as if you were a local. Let’s say you’re traveling to New York City for the week, but you don’t know what’s hot in Greenwich Village. Selecting the foursquare Map App in Bing Maps, and zooming into to Greenwich Village will get you tips that show you what locals are saying about the hot spots in that area. It’s like an interactive day planner, designed to help find the best things to do in that area. And if you have questions, you can always contact users through foursquare to get the inside scoop.
Finally Bing is adding to and improving its presentation of real-time data in search results. A couple of weeks ago I spoke with Sean Suchter (formerly of Yahoo) about Microsoft’s ambitions around real-time search more depth. The company is doing some really interesting things that actually help make Twitter, for example, a much better marketing and SEO tool.
Here’s an example of a broadening definition of real-time results: the NY Times’ most popular stories are showcased on the SERP. A the bottom of the entry today is “latest posts,” which will become “most popular shared links”:
Microsoft sees an opening in several areas and it’s seeking to create a highly differentiated experience vs. Google, not only around the UI but in terms of how it surfaces content. In the maps area the company is doing some very “cool” stuff in particular.
And of course there’s more discussion of the new features on Techmeme.