Last Thursday, Microsoft announced a major revision to the feel and functionality of Bing. Bing has been online since 2009, and has undergone many updates and revisions since then. Perhaps most notable was last year’s partnership with Facebook, which aggressively introduced social data into Bing’s results.
This update is another re-imagining of social search integration. The Bing interface has been changed to now feature three columns – one for core search, one called “snapshot”, and one for social.
- Core Search. This is the primary results column that delivers normal web results. Core search has been streamlined and de-cluttered, with Bing actually removing some of the social features that they’d previously added.
- Snapshot. Bing’s new middle column, Snapshot is designed to help users get things done. Snapshot is key to Bing’s new position as the search engine for “doing. ” It includes actions like OpenTable integration, allowing searchers to quickly book reservations.
- Social. The new righthand column, Bing’s new social sidebar takes social stuff out of the core results, and moves it over to the side. This new social system has many added features, and integrates heavily with Facebook, as well as Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, and even Google +.
Bing’s Positioning Struggle
Reactions to the new Bing have mostly been positive. Core search relevance is basically competitive with Google, and the new approach to social is fairly elegant. That said, we’re unlikely to see the updated Bing capture any really significant share from Google.
The new launch comes with a new marketing position – “Bing is for Doing.” This seems to replace the earlier “Decision Engine” concept that Bing had been using since launch. Both positions have aimed to answer a key question – why Bing?
For Microsoft, the reality is that no one really has a search engine problem – Google basically works for everyone. And although Bing is trying to differentiate from Google, neither “Doing” nor “Deciding” seems strong enough to convince Google users to make the switch.
The Social Search Wars
Bing’s new social search system is playing catch-up to Google’s Search Plus Your World, a major social search integration that Google launched on January 10th.
Both Google and Bing have been pushing social integration with search for a long time. As more and more content is shared and created through social media, it’s only logical that search engines would be very interested in leveraging this content to improve search.
Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land has put together an interesting comparison of Google and Bing’s social integrations. The ultimate takeaway? “In theory, social mixed with search sounds great. In reality, it’s still has a long way to go.”
One thing that’s interesting about Bing is that they’ve integrated social content from a very wide range of sources – even including Google+. This is somewhat opposite to Google, which is placing a very heavy focus on adding their own social content from G+ into search.
From an “open web” perspective, this is definitely a win for Bing. Additionally, Microsoft’s early investment in Facebook continues to pay off, as the new Bing has access to Facebook data that Google simply can’t match.
In terms of Bing in general, Microsoft shows no signs of slowing its investments in Bing, despite the 2.6 billion dollar loss that the Online Services division suffered in 2011. With Yahoo registering 8 consecutive months of search market share loss (among other problems), it would appear that Bing and Google are emerging as the two search engines that really matter.
Ultimately, for marketers, Bing’s relaunch reinforces the importance of combining both search and social marketing. Social search isn’t going away anytime, and brands should take Bing’s new features as yet another indication of the critical importance of social media to the web in general.