File Under: search

Microsoft Goes Social With Bing Search Overhaul

Searching for restaurants in the new Bing. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

Microsoft has taken the wraps off some new social features for its Bing search engine. The revamped Bing now uses a three-column layout and pulls in additional search results from your friends on Facebook.

A preview of the new version of Bing has been available for some time, but as of today the new layout and features are now available to everyone in the United States. So far there’s no word on when the same features might come to international users.

If social search features leave you feeling cold, fear not, the new Bing doesn’t follow Google’s lead and integrate social results right into the main search results. Instead Bing has completely overhauled its look and now sports a three-column layout. To go along with the new layout Bing has cut back on the chrome and other UI elements so even though there’s quite a bit more info on the page, it still feels relatively uncluttered.

The new look pairs the traditional search results — still on the left side of the page — with two new columns — a so-called snapshot column in the middle, and the new social results on the far right.

The most intriguing of the three is the snapshot info, which varies according to your search. The basic idea is to add extra, relevant information and services alongside your search results. For example, if you search for a restaurant Bing might provide a map or some reviews. Other searches will pull in relevant info for that search, with Bing doing a reasonable — though far from perfect — job of guessing what you might want to see.

The new social results require you to connect your Facebook account to Bing and will pull any relevant content from your friends into the far right column on Bing’s search page. There’s a new “Friends who might know” heading, where you’ll find a list of Facebook friends with any activity related to your search terms (including tagged photos). Unfortunately, in my testing not many queries brought up anything relevant from Facebook friends (which could say more about my friends than the new Bing, YMMV).

For more info on everything that’s new in the social revamp, be sure to read through the earlier announcement and check out the overview video from Microsoft Bing Director Stefan Weitz: