Bing prepares for biggest overhaul yet

In Microsoft's ongoing attempt to compete with - and eventually overtake - search engine juggernaut Google, Bing recently rolled out a bevy of new features, its biggest changes since its inception three years ago, The New York Times reports.

According to eWeek, the updates were developed in response to user research, which found that people generally use search engines to save time and get things done quickly. Microsoft found that 60 percent of searchers wonder if the results they've searched for offer the best information available, while 52 percent found themselves entering multiple queries and visiting many irrelevant sites.

"Only one-in-four searches is satisfied by the first query," said Bing senior director Stefan Weitz, as quoted by the news source. "If your car only started one out of four times, you'd be pretty upset."

To counter this, Bing is now offering improved web results with faster searches, more relevant information and a cleaner user interface.
There's also a snapshot feature that allows users to quickly complete tasks by viewing information related to their searches in a single "snapshot" in a separate column. Finally, there's a sidebar that integrates social media so consumers can take action based on recommendations from Facebook friends.

However, this is not Bing's first attempt to combine its search results with social networking. A few years back, it began showing results for searches with indications about whether the searcher's Facebook friends "Liked" any of the websites found in the search, The New York Times reports.

This effort subsequently failed because the resulting pages were too cluttered, and didn't create the desired effect.

"It was a good experiment, but it wasn't working in the way we expected," said Derrick Connell, a corporate vice president of Bing program management, as quoted by the news source.

Qi Lu, president of Microsoft's online services division, adds that Bing's revamped social search is a "fundamentally different way to look at search."

New Bing features a much cleaner design, separating social search results into the sidebar and making them clearly distinct from traditional results.

It remains to be seen if this update will affect Google's popularity, because for most searchers, using Google has become commonplace and a habit that's hard to break.

"It's like saying, Here's another person who could be a great best friend for you," said Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of Search Engine Land, as quoted by the news source. "Why don't you become best friends with them?"