Redmond, Washington -- In an attempt to compete its arch rival Google's social service, software maker Microsoft on Thursday said that it is weaving three-column interface that includes insights from user's Facebook friends into Bing results as part of the biggest revamp of the search engine since its launch three years ago. Microsoft is changing the look and feel of the Bing interface, turning it into a three-column design with new “Snapshot” and “Sidebar” panes added.
During a press presentation at the Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft's San Francisco offices Bing representatives explained the new interface, which will shortly move from private to public beta, as an attempt to offer more direct interaction with “entities” and people.
Soon, a new version of Bing will be unfurled in the weeks ahead and was to be widely available in the United States in early June.
“More so, the Web is about much more than simply finding information by navigating a topically organized graph of links,” said Microsoft online services division president Qi Lu. He further added: “We are advancing beyond the pages into entities. Those entities are people, places, things and their relationships,” Lu said.
Essentially, the essence of the new design is the new more Metro-ish search results page that Microsoft showed off last week. In addition to delivering less cluttered look-and-feel, Microsoft made changes under the wraps, resulting in search results calculating faster and more accurately, officials said last week.
A screenshot of the Bing.com homepage. (Microsoft Corp.)
Employing the new interface, query results for seafood restaurants in San Francisco, for instance, include a grey column along the side that displays a “people you know who may know” section, with content on the subject shared by the searcher's social network connections, and a “people who know” section that highlights experts on the query topic across social networks.
“We are developing search in a way that recognizes new user pattern like the growth of the social graph, and will empower people with the broad knowledge of the Web alongside the help of their friends.” “In the real world that is how it works: We use search, then we talk to people,” Lu mentioned.
In fact, the most prominent new attribute in Bing's redesign is “Sidebar,” a social search feature that scours users' social networks to surface information relevant to their search queries.
Image Credit: (Microsoft) Click to enlarge...
However, Google rolled out a similar functionality dubbed “Search Plus Your World” in January to decidedly mixed reviews. Though some of the basic features are the same, Microsoft thinks it has a better solution.
The sidebar, in a third column which is separate from the main Web results page, allows users to see what their contacts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Google+ like and recommend related to their results. The user can interact on Facebook directly from the social sidebar. For instance, a user can post a question about a hotel and tag a friend who may have commented on it. The resulting Facebook posts include a link back to Bing's search page. Twitter interactions take the user to a Twitter interface, the company said.
Addi tonally, a center “snapshot” column allows the user to interact with businesses from the search page. If the user searching for seafood restaurants hovers on a link to a particular restaurant, the column pops up, offering a map, available reservations and links to reviews. Integration with OpenTable makes it possible to make reservations without leaving the search page.
Nevertheless, in a move appearing shrewdly visionary, Microsoft in late 2007 paid what seemed an exorbitant $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook. Besides, the investment put Microsoft in a position to build a relationship with the California-based startup with a stated mission of making the Internet more social.