Microsoft's Decision Engine and Everything in-BINGtween
Article by George Norman
On 05 Jun 2009
According to Redmond-based software giant Microsoft, the world does not need another search engine, what it needs is something that can go beyond helping you search, it can actually help you make a decision. That is the premise behind its new search – I’m sorry, decision – engine Bing, which went live at the start of the week, which accidentally coincided with the start of the month.

The Bing.com web page (visit here), went up last week, but at the time all you could lay your eyes upon was a big “Coming soon” sign and a 02:45 minutes video (watch here) that showcased the engine’s capabilities. The Bing decision engine as Microsoft likes to call it is as of this week up and running (I intentionally avoided telling you that Bing went live, since some of you may have actually liked Microsoft’s Live Search, not to mention that it is not a particularly funny joke).

Advertising

“Today, search engines do a decent job of helping people navigate the Web and find information, but they don’t do a very good job of enabling people to use the information they find. When we set out to build Bing, we grounded ourselves in a deep understanding of how people really want to use the Web. Bing is an important first step forward in our long-term effort to deliver innovations in search that enable people to find information quickly and use the information they’ve found to accomplish tasks and make smart decisions,” commented Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer.

Bing and Search

According to Microsoft, Bing is (or at least will be) capable of providing the following:
1. Very relevant results thanks to BestMatch (identifies the most relevant search results), DeepLinks (shows you the resources a web page has to offer) and Quick Preview (lets you see a hover-over window that expands over a certain search result).
2. An organized search experience, meaning that Bing will neatly organize the search results in an intuitive manner.
3. Help you make a decision, because Microsoft found out that in certain areas people need help in making a decision, areas such as shopping, local business and information, and health-related searches. If you want to take a trip for example, Bing Travel thanks to the Rate Key will compare locationa, prices and services provided by multiple hotels and present you with a color-coded key of the best values.

Bing Search Categories

Microsoft’s Bing decision engine provides the following search categories in its attempt to surpass a traditional search engine’s functionality and in its endeavor to help you make a decision:
Images: will locate images according to your search queries; hover your mouse over a particular result to view additional details about the image; there is even an option to locate similar images (just like Google Labs’ Similar Images ).
Videos: displays videos according to your search query; hover your mouse over a video to start playback; the option to filter videos according to length, screen size, resolution and source.
Shopping: you are provided with the option to filter results according to brand, category and price; on some products Microsoft also has a Cashback offer.
News: get the latest news from all over the world; the news are displayed in categories (world, US, local, business, politics, entertainment, sports, science and technology, and health)
Maps: the service formerly known as Live Search Maps (details available below).
Travel: will help you pick the most affordable air tickets and hotel accommodations and comes with the following features: price predictor, rate indicator, travel deals, flight and hotel search comparison, fare alerts, original travel editorial content. General Manager of Bing Travel, Hugh Crean, comments: “Bing Travel has a simple goal: help people make smarter, more informed decisions regarding travel. Travelers face plenty of challenges — from airport security and luggage restrictions to finding their hotel in an unknown city or trying to speak a foreign language. Researching and booking travel should be simple and easy, and now Bing Travel is here to help.”

Bing’s New Search Features

Windows Communications Manager, Brandon LeBlanc, comments: “Bing is our new and more powerful internet search service, which we are calling a Decision Engine. Essentially, Bing helps people cut through all the clutter that exists on the Internet and gives people a wide range of “intelligent” information designed to help people make decisions faster. It’s designed to meet the needs of today’s searchers and those needs go beyond simply behind a simple search engine. Of course it’s also a great all-around search engine for finding the information you need too! Bing introduces several new search features I think you will enjoy.”

The features in Bing that Brandon LeBlanc mentioned above are as follows:
Best Match: the simple means of identifying the most relevant and best matched sites related to your query.
Definitive card (D-card): insight into a particular site is provided (like for example the customer service telephone number is displayed when searching for UPS).
Answers: ask Bing a question and it is capable of providing an adequate response (instant answer).
Preview: get a preview of the site you wish to visit within Bing.
Explore Pane: the left hand pane you see in Bing is called the Explore Pane and it is placed there to provide useful search features like Quick Tabs, Related Searches and Search History.
Search History: this feature will store your searches so that they are readily available the next time you need to perform a search. You can also save searches and share saved searches with others.
Quick Tabs: this feature is meant to make is easier to refine your query and reduce information overload.

Bing and Windows

Will Microsoft try to leverage the Bing brand in Windows, now that the decision engine is up and running? According to Search Lead Paul Stoddart, the Redmond-based company will not attempt to do so, nor will it tinker with the search results. And you can forget about Bing for desktop, as Microsoft will focus solely on the web experience.

“Bing is very much web-focused. The search bar that you see in the likes of Internet Explorer will move from Live to Bing, but when you buy a new PC you will be given the option to use a different search engine as your default. We don't force Bing on anybody,” said Stoddart in an interview for TechRadar. He then added that Bing will not tinker with the search results and searching for maps in Bing is proof of that. “We do not manipulate our search results. take the example of searching for maps. We are only seventh in that search, because our algorithm says that we should be seventh. Now obviously we want to be at the top, and we will strive to get there, but it will be through hard work rather than manipulating the results.”

Bing and Mobile Phones

With the launch of the Bing decision engine, Microsoft also launched Bing 411. All you have to do is call 1-800-Bing 411 (1-800-246-4411) from any phone, and you will be able to perform the following:
- search for local shops and restaurants according to their name and type.
- get audio driving directions to a particular location.
- receive text message links to maps and details.
- listen to the latest traffic reports (personalized according to your route).
- listen to weather forecasts.

Please note that Bing 411 is available in the US of A only. Additional details are available on the official Bing 411 web page here.

There is also a Bing web page optimized for mobile devices that you can visit at m.bing.com. Alternatively you can visit the Bing Mobile web page and type in your mobile phone number in order to get a text message with a link to Bing for mobile.

Bing and Online Security

According to the development team at Microsoft, the decision engine focuses on two key aspects when it comes to providing online security to the end user:
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.

Bing and Internet Explorer

All you have to do in order to add Bing as your default search provider in Internet Explorer 8 is to click here (Add-ons Gallery) and follow the instructions.

Bing and Firefox

If you are using Mozilla’s Firefox to browse the internet and would like to add Bing to the quick search box, here is what you have to do: go get the Bing Firefox add-on (download link here) and you’re set.

Bing and Videos

The cool thing about Bing is that when you perform a video search, by simply hovering your mouse over the results, you can start video playback. Yes, the video will start playing when you place the mouse cursor on it. Pretty cool, but a bit worrisome when you search for adult material.

The internet is littered with the stuff (and we all know what the internet is really for), but while any search engine will display adult results when you turn off the safe search option, Bing takes it one step further. This is a developing story, but the lowdown is this: if you search for adult content in the video section of Bing, the decision engine displays video results, but then takes it one step further by auto-playing results when you hover your mouse over them. With a couple of clicks you can disable the safe search option and get "not safe for work" videos directly in Bing. Exciting for you, but not so for the children that have access to adult content without having to go though any age verification process.

A response on the issue has been provided by General Manager with Bing, Mike Nichols: "By default in Bing (and in Live Search before it), we do not return explicit adult content in video or image results. In web results, we also do not include any explicit images or video content by default. This is a bit more of a conservative approach than others in the industry. If you set SafeSearch to strict, you will not see any explicit text, image or video content. If you turn SafeSearch off – which requires you to change the setting and then click again to acknowledge that you are over 18, then explicit content may appear.”

Bing and Virtual Earth and Live Search Maps

There is no Virtual Earth no more, there is no Live Search Maps either, because with the release of Bing, Microsoft has decided to re-brand these offerings. Live Search Maps is now Bing Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth is now Bing Maps for Enterprise. A detailed article on the subject is available here.

Bing and the Webmaster Community

Let’s let Rick DeJarnette, Bing Webmaster Center, explain this one: “We’re excited to welcome you to the new home of the Webmaster Center blog and forums, as part of the new Bing Community site. Welcome! The old URLs are now automatically redirecting visitors to this new site, but be sure to update your Favorites listing in your browser to the new site. Also note that we’re working on a series of new blog posts that explains what the release of Bing means to webmasters and publishers, so stay tuned. As you can tell, we’re excited about Bing and ready to talk about it. Keep a look out for plenty of updates to come."

Bing and Its Name

How did Microsoft came up with the name Bing? According to the aforementioned company, the name was the direct result of Microsoft’s attempt of giving the brand personality, of making Bing friendly and approachable.

Senior Vice President, Online Audience Business Group, Yusuf Mehdi, explains: "Why did we pick Bing as the new brand name? We needed a brand that was as fresh and new as our approach. It needed to be like the product — optimized for the Internet. A name that was memorable, short, easy to spell, and that would function well as a URL around the world. We like Bing because it sounds off in our heads when we think about that moment of discovery and decision making — when you resolve those important tasks. And frankly, the name needed to clearly communicate that this is something new, to invite you to come back, to re-introduce you to our new and improved service and encourage you to give it a try.”

But others have looked at the name as an acronym: But It’s Not Google.

Bing vs. Google

Are you curious to see how the search results vary between Google and Bing? A simple way to see how Google Search compares to Bing’s decision engine (or the other way around) is to visit BlackDog’s site here. In the browser window you can see Google and Bing side by side; at the top you will see an entry field where you can type in a query – click the “Google Versus Bing” button and see how the search results vary.

In related news, you might also want to check out a Firefox add-on that blends Google and Wolfram Alpha search functionality here.

Bing and Commercials

Microsoft has rolled out the first ads for Bing, and although the company in the first ad seems to blame the economic hardships that we are going through on search engines, the commercials are still worth a look.
Bing – Search Overload is Over
Bing Search Overload Syndrome: Hawaii
Bing Search Overload Syndrome: Cell Phone
Bing: The cure for Search Overload Syndrome

Bing Hot Tips

1. If you are fluent in English, then go to Search Worldwide (click here or click on the country name you see in Bing in the top right hand corner) and select “United States – English”. It is true that Bing provides “a search experience tailored to your part of the world” but the simple fact of the matter is that by using a localized version of Bing you are missing out on some of its search functionality.

2. Internet Explorer users only: if you have added Bing as your default search provider and have enabled suggestions, the next time you type in “weather” and your current location In the quick search box, you will be provided with a preview window of the weather forecast in that area.

3. Thanks to Bing’s video preview feature, you can watch Hulu outside the US of A.

4. The Bing homepage background changes every day. Take a look at the right hand corner, at the bottom - clicking on the arrow tabs will take you to the backgrounds displayed in the past few days. The background image also harbors some interesting facts related to what the image displays - you have to play with the mouse a bit in order to discover them (see image below).

In related news, you might want to check out Google Squared, the search engine that does not look for keywords, and Wolfram Alpha, the computational knowledge engine.





Tags: Microsoft, Bing, Search engine, Decision engine,
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
You can follow him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter

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