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Thursday, May 10, 2012
Bing Redesigned, Gets More Social

Microsoft has updated its Bing search engine as it searches deeper into Facebook's social network and Twitter's messaging service.

With the new version of Bing, rolling out over the coming weeks and broadly available in the U.S. in early June, users can get advice and recommendations from friends and experts with the new social sidebar, displayed in a third column, separate from main Web results page. When searching for a particular subject, a list of Facebook friends who may know about that topic is displayed in a light-gray sidebar on the right-side panel of the results page. Users can also post a question and include Web links to get input from the friends Bing suggests, and friends can respond on Facebook or Bing, offering recommendations to help with the search. The sidebar also displays the names of experts and enthusiasts who have blogged or tweeted about topics related to one?s search. Users can click on the person?s name and read their blog or follow them on Twitter.

They can also view information related to their searches and compiled by Bing via the new "snapshot" feature, available in a separate column. If a user searches for hotels in San Francisco, for example, in the main search results Bing will surface results for hotels including hotel star ratings, locations and average rates. Snapshot takes it a step further by letting people select check-in and check-out dates, see interior views of the property and read reviews to help them find and book the best hotel in the area. Initially, snapshot will be displayed for searches where Bing can determine a clear user intent focused on accomplishing a specific task including restaurants, hotels, businesses and movies. Over time, the feature will be expanded to a greater number of places, things and people.

All of this is presented in a new, three-column design.

"We're evolving search in a way that recognizes new user paradigms like the growth of the social graph, and will empower people with the broad knowledge of the Web alongside the help of their friends," says Qi Lu, president of Microsoft's Online Services Division.

With Bing, Microsoft's engineers improved the relevancy of Web searches by removing unnecessary links and simplifying the results to the core set of information users are looking for. They also separated out most social network results from the main Web results. "Both Bing and Google were starting to jam social signals into the Web results, and it turns out it wasn?t that relevant and it was overloading users with clutter," says Derrick Connell, Corporate Vice President, Bing. "With this release, we've taken most of that out of the Web results and given users the traditional search results that they love and expect."

Microsoft's designers also cleaned up the search results page by eliminating the left-hand panel and moving the "recent searches" section to the top of the page for quicker access. The "related searches" section has been moved to the middle column, next to the Web results. Removing the "left rail" and cleaning up the results makes it easier for users to scan the page and quickly find the information they want.

The new release of Bing will begin rolling out in the coming weeks and will be broadly available in the U.S. in early June. You can sign up at a HREF="" target=blank> to be notified of availability for their PC, and at to receive notification of availability for smartphones.

Microsoft has been working closely with Facebook since it bought a stake in the social network in 2007.

Twitter also has been selling Microsoft expanded access to its tweets since 2009. Google Inc. lost its special privileges to the same stream of data last summer because Twitter didn't renew a licensing agreement.

Despite Microsoft's massive investments in search, Bing hasn't been able to ding Google so far.

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