This week marks the arrival of another potential rival to search giant Google. Microsoft's new "decision engine," which the company calls Bing, aims to provide users with search results that will help them make better sense of the vast amount of data that's online.
"Today, search engines do a decent job of helping people navigate the Web and find information, but they don't do a very good job of enabling people to use the information they find," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a news release. "When we set out to build Bing, we grounded ourselves in a deep understanding of how people really want to use the Web. Bing is an important first step forward in our long-term effort to deliver innovations in search that enable people to find information quickly and use the information they've found to accomplish tasks and make smart decisions."
Based on exhaustive research, Microsoft incorporated a number of new features into Bing. Some of the most compelling include Deep Links, which enable a user to see some of a site's content within the search results. For example, a search for "New York Yankees" reveals not only the team's site, but direct links to Schedules, Tickets, Team Roster, News, probable pitchers for the next game - even a schedule graphic, the team's record and results from the most recent ballgame.
Another key feature is the Quick Preview. Microsoft said its studies showed many searches result in "click backs." Click backs happen when a user clicks a search result and almost immediately returns back to the results list. Quick Preview gives users an instant look at more content within the link just by mousing over the result. A search for "Christmas" yields the Wikipedia entry as the first result. With Quick Preview you can view a summary of the Wikipedia entry as well as some related links embedded within.
Bing is also able to detect a user's general location. So a search for "weather" will yield the local forecast, and when you click maps the local area is automatically brought up. The maps also incorporate the Bird's Eye View feature found in Virtual Earth, giving users access to four different aerial views of any point on the globe.
Video results also include an intriguing new twist. The results of a video search are shown in individual panes. When a user mouses over a video, it will begin playing immediately within the pane. Users can also click the video to see it on its native site.
Other interesting features will pop up depending on what a user is looking for. Search a specific car model, for example, and you'll be greeted with its image, its manufacturer's suggested retail price, its fuel economy and a link to local dealers selling that model.
Bing is available to try now at http://www.bing.com/, and Microsoft said it should achieve worldwide rollout by Wednesday.
Bing joins the recently launched Wolfram Alpha "computational knowledge engine" as competitors to Google. Wolfram Alpha allows users to enter questions in the query field, such as, 'How old is President Barack Obama?" Wolfram Alpha spits out an answer. He's 47 years, 9 months and 29 days old as of Tuesday.
NEW ON THE PODCAST