Bing Visual Search Galleries

By afilushafilush (1253763181|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

Bing's New Idea…searching, with pictures??

Tired of reading your search results? Does not being able to read affect your ability to search effectively on the internet?. Now you don't have to! Fresh from Microsoft comes Bing Visual Search Galleries Beta.

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Background

Microsoft has been pushing Bing.com as the new Decision Engine since its release in June of this year. Their stated goal is to change the way people search, allowing users to more easily gather their information and narrow down their choice before clicking away from the search engine. From Best Match to Deep Links to Quick Preview, they have presented some new ideas to make searching easier. Many people will argue that the changes are only cosmetic and the search engine doesn't return relevant results. As I love messing around with new technology, I decided to test it for myself.

My Experience with Bing

I have been testing it for a few months, starting in July. I feel my experience has been neither good nor bad. I find it comparable to Google and Yahoo on most typical searches, although I do feel if I need to search something extremely complex, it is better to do so in Google. I believe that it is hard to objectively compare them, because I benchmark all features based on my extensive use of Google, using the logic of "this is different, and therefore less cool." Case in point: the Homepage. Bing decided to combat Google's classic homepage with cool pictures. At first I thought it was stupid, but I now think they are quite interesting and fun to learn about. Why was I so against them at the start? They don't really make any difference to my searching experience whatsoever, and in order for Bing to be successful, they certainly couldn't just go and copy Google. I am a little biased, though, because they showed a picture of my hometown the other week! That was cool. What I do really enjoy is the Enhanced View and Quick Preview, and the ability to watch videos right from the search engine. If your interested in testing it out by seeing your search results displayed side by side, check out this cool website.

Bing Visual Search

Now for the interesting part. Since its release, Bing has been adding new features monthly. Last week they released the Beta of Bing Visual Search Galleries. This innovation is in response to a Microsoft Research study that show users can process results with images 20% faster than text only results. I think it is quite cool. If you have Microsoft Silverlight installed you can head the the website and check it out yourself. At this point it is still in Beta, so the searches are not dynamic. You can only scroll through what they want you to see at this point. It seems to me that they should have waited until they got it completely working before releasing it, but hey, I'm just a college student.

I searched NBA Players in Visual Search Galleries and this is what I found interesting.

  • The pictures are cool. This would be useful when you can picture a face, but cannot remember a name. (Such as actors and singers)
  • You can sort by:
    • Most popular
    • Highest paid
    • Top point leaders
    • Top rebounders
    • 2009 All-Stars
  • You also have the option of narrowing your search by:
    • Position
    • Team
    • Rookies
    • Reported Salary
    • School

I honestly think I would use this quite extensively for basic searching, mostly about sports and movies. Rather than be a specific search though, I think I would use it for instances when I am searching about a topic to learn more, without a specific goal in mind. Shopping for cars and other products also represent an interesting opportunity for Visual Search Galleries, one that I will certainly try out when it becomes available.

The Business Implications

All these updates and so called "innovations" to the search engine are in line with Microsoft's strategy. Bing has been aggressively trying to pull percentage points of market share in the search industry any way they can from Google and Yahoo (until the merger with Yahoo search, which by best estimates seems about 2 years away from full implementationl). With online search revenue around 5.5 billion, each percentage point means big money for both firms. The latest release form ComScore had Bing gaining .4% pts in August to now control 9.3% of the market, trailing Yahoo at 19.3% and Google at 64.6%. It does seem that Bing is just throwing ideas at the wall to see if one might stick and change the way we search dramatically.

My Final Thoughts

I don't think Microsoft really envisions Bing beating out Google in the search business, nor does anyone else. They seem satisfied to mess around in Google's only revenue stream (99% or revenue comes from Advertising, mostly in search with a small amount from Gmail). This seems to be a response to the announcement of Google's operating system, an attempt by Google to attack Microsoft's cash cow, Windows. Maybe Bing can integrate Yahoo's algorithm's with its interface and dominate the market and maybe Google will continue its impressive record of successful online services with further innovations. Whatever the result is though, when these two titans of technology compete and innovate, the real winner will be us.

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