As Bing Decision Engine Grows, Microsoft Showcases More Features
Article by George Norman
On 24 Jun 2009
Bing, the search engine that Microsoft believes it can help you make a decision and consequently branded it as a “ decision engine ” instead, went live at the start of the month and since then it has been continually growing. With little under a month since the decision engine was rolled out, we’ve already seen Microsoft showcase some of Bing’s features – like Microsoft Translator instant answers , enhanced SafeSearch and large sitemaps support for example. Now we will take a look at some other Bing features that Microsoft made sure to present to the world recently.

But first, a word from Microsoft’s Chief Executive Office (CEO) Steve Ballmer – it seems Ballmer is not carried away by Bing’s growth and has issued a word of caution to all those that are overly optimistic about Bing’s market penetration. “We have had some very good initial response. I don't want to over-set expectations. We are going to have to be tenacious and keep up the pace of innovation over a long period of time,” said Steve Ballmer at a conference in Detroit, last week.


Just to put things on perspective, ComScore reported Microsoft’s average daily penetration in the US of A went up to 16.7% at the start of the month; on top of that, Microsoft’s share of internet searches, also in the US of A, went up to 12.1%. Leaving statistics aside, here are the latest Bing features that Microsoft wanted us to be made aware of.

Bing’s Malware Filter
In our lengthy post “ Microsoft's Decision Engine and Everything in-BINGtween ” we said that when it comes down to online security, the decision engine focuses on two key aspects:
1. Bing provides warning messages when Drive-by-Downloads are detected. This way the end user knows when not to click a link from a compromised site.
2. Bing manually blocks social engineering malware sites from appearing in the search results list.

The development team behind Bing has once again reassured Bing users that security is at the top of the team’s concerns. The Bing team will continue to focus its attention on protecting the user and offering said user a safe search experience – especially since a growing number of search results lead to malware spreading sites (malware spreaders target certain keywords in an effort to get unsuspecting users to visit their site and get infected).

“In response to this growing threat, Bing has invested in ways to identify and filter sites that download malicious software. We call this feature our Malware Filter. This feature complements our existing Drive-By-Download detection by identifying and removing social engineering malware sites from our results. We can block new threats from existing malicious sites, even if those threats are not yet blocked by traditional antivirus or anti-malware signatures,” explained Bing Index Quality Group, Sasi Parthasarathy.

Bing Works with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome
To use Bing with Internet Explorer 8, all you need to do is add the decision engine to your browser by visiting the add-ons gallery here. Then click Add to Internet explorer -> Make this my default search provider -> Add.

If you have not upgraded to IE8 and are still using Internet Explorer 7, here is what you have to do: go to the drop-down under the search box and click Find More Providers -> select Bing -> in the dialog box that pop-up select Make this my default search provider -> click Add Provider.

For Firefox users, using Bing as you default search provider is as easy as downloading the official Bing add-on (link here). Then you must follow these steps: click Add to Firefox -> accept the EULA -> select Start using it right away.

Firefox users can also add Bing to the list of engines available in the search bar by visiting the official Bing web page and selecting Add Bing to your browser.

Chrome users can add Bing as their default search provider if they follow these instructions:
- Click the wrench icon from the top right
- Select Options
- Click Manage from the Basics tab
- Click the Add button; in the Add Search Engine window type in the following info:
Name: Bing

- Click OK
- Back in the Search Engines windows, select Bing and click Make Default
- Click Close

Bing’s Explore Pane
The Explore Pane in Microsoft’s decision engine Bing represents the company’s view on how to organize search results pages. The goal with Explore Pane is to help the user avoid “search overload” and the annoyance of looking at millions of search results and not knowing where the info you need is.

“The Explore Pane is one of the ways we are bringing more order to the page. It allows us to provide a set of helpful tools in a consistent location across the Bing experience that enable you to more easily navigate various categories of results relevant to your query, including web, video, image, news, local, shopping, and more. We conducted extensive research in planning Bing. One of the things people told us was that search results pages could be organized more effectively. We found that 66% of people are using search more frequently to help them make decisions. However, they are spending much more time on those decision-oriented sessions – averaging around 9 minutes per session. With that insight, we realized improving page organization to help get users to what they are looking for faster could have a big impact,” explained Senior Product Manager with Bing, Martin Stoddart.

The Explore Pane in Bing, which is always present in the left hand pane on the page, can contain three sets of tools:
Quick Tabs: 1-click links to help you target specific sub=categories related to your initial search query.
Related Searches: a list of related and exploratory searches you might find useful.
Search History: recent searches you’ve performed.

Bing and BestMatch
The goal of Bing is of course, to provide the most relevant search results – how else would it help you make a decision? BestMatch is one of the features in Microsoft’s decision engine that helps Bing achieve this goal.

“Best match helps you to identify which result might be most useful, particularly when one link clearly provides the official or authoritative source of information. It displays the result in a clearly marked area at the top of the page, and includes DeepLinks into the most helpful parts of the site right beneath the site description. In addition, we decided to make Best match work even harder for certain sites by incorporating some of the key features of the official site right there on the search results page. Best match can include a “search within” bar that allows you to set up a query of the official site. Best match also shows similar or related sites to your search, to allow you to explore around the actual result to your query. We are also starting to pair up some of Bing’s instant answers content with Best match to extend the experience even further,” explained Senior Product Manager with Bing, Martin Stoddart.

That’s about it for today, but there is one Bing feature that we I believe deserves mentioning: the background image, which you can download and use as you see fit thanks to Bing Downloader .

Tags: Microsoft, Bing, Search engine, Decision engine
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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