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:
Mozilla has announced a new special release of Firefox that integrates Microsoft’s Bing search engine into the open source browser. The special Firefox build, dubbed Firefox with Bing, makes Bing the default search provider in both the search bar and Awesome bar, and makes Bing.com the default homepage.
If you’d like to try Firefox with Bing, head on over to the new firefoxwithbing.com and download a copy. If you’re already using the standard version of Firefox the site will instead offer to install the Bing Search for Firefox add-on, giving you the same Bing features without downloading a new browser.
Not a fan of Bing? There’s no need to panic, Mozilla isn’t replacing Google with Bing in the official version of Firefox. Rather Firefox with Bing is part of Mozilla’s growing number of partnerships designed to tailor Firefox to niche markets. Similar special releases exist for Twitter, Yahoo and others.
Of course there’s always the possibility that Mozilla’s partnership with Microsoft will grow into something more. Some news sites have been speculating that Firefox with Bing is a sign of things to come when Mozilla’s contract with Google ends in November. It’s certainly a possibility, but given Google’s contribution to Mozilla’s bottom line it seems unlikely that Mozilla will walk away from its Google deal any time soon.
Microsoft has announced it will expand its effort to bring Facebook into Bing’s search results, displaying new annotations alongside any search result links your Facebook friends have liked. Bing first began integrating Facebook “likes” into its search results back in October 2010, but results from your friends were relegated to the bottom of the page. The new version promotes your friends up into the main search results listing.
Microsoft’s Bing offering is roughly the same thing with one huge difference — Bing includes results from Facebook, Google does not.
That’s a huge blind spot for Google given that Bing now has some 500 million Facebook users to pull social data from. At the same time, Google is pulling data from your Twitter friends, which is something Bing does not, thus far, offer. However, given the relatively open nature of Twitter versus the closed nature of Facebook, it will likely be easier for Bing to add Twitter, than for Google to add Facebook.
The best search engine choice depends, for now, on which social networks you use. Facebook fans will find Bing a better match, while those using a wide variety of services will probably see more results from Google Social Search. For the new features to be useful you need a large social network, and your friends need to share your interests, otherwise the odds of your friends’ data showing up in either service are slim.
However, there’s a huge difference between liking something Facebook and posting a link to Twitter. Your friends may post a link to Twitter for just about any reason, perhaps even because the link leads to something so bad it’s funny. Liking something on Facebook is a more direct message: Your friends like it. That gives Microsoft’s social search effort a considerable advantage over Google’s, and much more valuable set of social data to fight off Google in the burgeoning social search war.
How much value Facebook’s status updates will add to Bing’s search results remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, Bing is finally offering something Google doesn’t.
Mozilla has announced that Microsoft’s upstart Bing search engine will soon become a default part of Firefox’s search bar. When Firefox 4 arrives it will feature some slight changes to the list of included search engines, offering, in order: Google (default), Yahoo, Bing, Amazon, eBay and Wikipedia.
Bing is a new option, though savvy users have long been able to install a Bing search plugin on their own. Now, it will be much easier to access by clicking on the drop-down list in the browser’s built-in search box.
Microsoft’s search engine continues to make inroads against Google, and while Microsoft has had a search product for years, it’s taken a long time to make its way onto Firefox’s short list. Mozilla vice president of products Jay Sullivan says Bing’s inclusion now is based on its “significant rise in popularity over the past year.”
Google’s engine will still be the default option for Firefox users. Google remains a primary source of income for the Mozilla — the two companies share the revenue generated by Google searches typed from within Firefox’s search box.
The new search engine default list removes the Answers.com and the Creative Commons search engine choices. Answers.com is disappearing because, according to Mozilla, “we have heard from our users that Wikipedia is more useful as an included reference search engine.”
The Creative Commons search engine is being removed because the search tool itself has changed from something that searches just CC licensed materials to a more general search engine that duplicates what’s found in Google, Yahoo and others. Mozilla is careful to point that the foundation “will continue to actively support [the Creative Commons] organization and mission through grants and joint programs,” but not, apparently, its search engine.
As part of the launch event to show off the new Internet Explorer 9 beta, Microsoft also demoed a new version of its Bing search engine that uses HTML5 and CSS 3 to spice up Bing’s homepage and search results.
During the demo, Bing developers showed off a version of the search engine that uses the HTML5′s video tag to take Bing’s well-known background images a step further, replacing the static image with a video of waves crashing on the beach. Another new feature, using the Canvas element, will allow you to zoom around a very large image.
The revamped version of Bing will launch in October. Microsoft is still tweaking some of the code, but its demo at the launch event was already complete enough to impress.
Other tricks up Bing’s sleeve include some fancy transitions between search types — nice sliding and fading transitions between tabs (presumably done using CSS 3 transitions) — and other visual touches, like animated backgrounds for weather forecasts and auto-expanding search results.