Microsoft Bing goes Visual

Microsoft may have found the perfect weapon in its battle against Google for search engine supremacy. Microsoft’s latest weapon is called Visual Search and as the name implies, search results includes graphical links instead of the usual river of text that are the products of either Google or Yahoo search. The introduction of Visual Search may prove to be additional good news to Microsoft as latest figures from ComSource shows that because of Bing, Microsoft’s share of the search engine market grew slightly to 9 percent. Currently Google dominates the search engine business with a 65 percent hold of the market and is followed by Yahoo with a share of almost 19 percent.

Presently, Visual Search only works on topics Microsoft feels are popular such as cars, athletes and dogs. Visual Search does not work presently when searching for cell phones, or laptops. People are still at the backend of the search engine categorizing images that will be incorporated into search results and this points out a serious limitation of Bing Visual Search – results are not generated on the fly, searchers have to wait for the latest images to be incorporated into a database of possible search results.

But the user experience of searching for topics such as cars is really different. Type in dogs in www.bing.com/visualsearch and you get pictures of dogs arrayed out on the screen. Hover the mouse on top of an image and a text balloon pops up containing additional information about the dog in the picture. Click on an image and you get the page where the image originated.

Shown the left of the screen are categories that enable you to drill down to the type of dog that interests you. If you are looking to buy dogs online, you might see different price ranges of dogs, and clicking on a range, say dogs from 100 to 200 dollars, filters the results to only those dogs that fall within the price range.

Microsoft is rolling out Bing gradually with some countries not seeing it until it becomes fully live by the end of September this year.

Microsoft Bing does not default to Visual Search however because it will severely curtail the number of hits returned by a search. As mentioned earlier, searching on a topic Microsoft deems popular such as cars, or dogs or politicians, still results in the familiar lines of text that are links to web sites. However, on the left side of the screen is an option to “Visualize” search results and this converts text results into a grid of images that represents search hits.

The categories shown on the left part of the screen is contextual. If you search for cars, the list of categories might include car brand, car trim such as hatchback or sedans, or price ranges. Searching for athletes might result in categories such as team name, or the sport the athlete represents. As more and more people use Bing for their searches, the log where search terms are recorded will keep growing and the most popular terms will be used by Microsoft later to determine what images will be included in the database of possible search results.

So far, search topics that work with Visual Search include cars, athletes, politicians, movies, handbags and yoga poses.

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