Microsoft this week unveiled its Fall 2010 Update for the Bing search service, which will add prettier, more visual search results; better performance; social networking integration; and new mobile apps. The update is just the latest in a long series of updates to the evolving service, which has captured almost 12 percent of the US search market, a 48 percent jump since its debut in mid-2009. (When you add in Bing-powered Yahoo! Search results, share jumps further to 28 percent in the US.)
Microsoft also announced that Bing now has over 90 million active users, up from 27 million at its debut last year.
"We are building new technologies that help Bing figure out what people like you are trying to do, and match that with the right experiences to help get things done," Microsoft Senior Vice President Satya Nadella wrote in a blog post announcing the update. "The bottom line is that search will continue to evolve at a rapid pace as consumers come to expect more solutions at the end of their online journey rather than just more questions."
The improvements coming to Bing over the next few weeks are many and varied. They include:
More visual search results. Rather than present a Spartan list of text entries in its search results, Bing is evolving to offer a far more visual search results experience, with photos, maps, and other graphical elements prominently displayed when appropriate, and in a nice, magazine-style layout.
Deeper services integration. Microsoft is partnering with a wider range of partners and integrating information from these partners into search results. So a search for a restaurant will include Yelp, Grubhub, and Open Table results, while movie searches will include an inline ticket purchasing capability. Bing is also offering deeper integration with social networking services, such as Facebook, so that search results reflect things that have been "liked" by the user's contacts.
Better local searches. Bing now offers a taxi fare calculator, parking lot finder, and other related features in its Map apps for mobile devices and the PC desktop and redesigned the map view style to be easier to read.
Instant Previews. Responding to the recent introduction of Google's Instant Answers, Microsoft will soon add a similar feature to Bing called Instant Previews.
Improved mobile apps. Microsoft revealed new versions of its Bing app for Apple's iPhone and Google's Android mobile platforms. These apps, which were already more full-featured than the version offered on Microsoft's flagship Windows Phone platform, are significantly enhanced and now check-in capabilities (via Facebook, Foursquare and Windows Live Messenger), street-side map views, and a new feature called Bing Vision, which creates web searches from photos.
HTML 5 capabilities. Microsoft is deemphasizing its use of proprietary Silverlight technology across Bing and using more standards-compliant HTML 5 technologies. This can be seen currently in updates to Bing Maps and in Bing's image search results.
According to Microsoft, some of these features are available immediately, while others will be rolled out across Bing in the coming weeks.