Microsoft gives Bing a makeover

Along with a spiffed-up logo and cosmetic homepage changes, the software giant's search engine gets new features including Page Zero, an amped-up autofill that aims to be a step ahead of you.

Bing's newly redesigned home page. Microsoft

Microsoft is giving its Bing search engine an overhaul to better compete with Google.

Like Yahoo earlier this month, Bing is getting a redesigned logo, along with a refreshed, modern homepage design. But Microsoft's changes go beyond the cosmetic by introducing new features and tweaking existing ones.

One of the keys to Microsoft's new approach is Page Zero, a new search function that aims to help users get a useful response to their query before they even see a traditional search results page. Building on the traditional autofill suggestion that appears as users type their queries, Bing will also instantly provide relevant information and options for exploration as users input their query.

"For example, if you type Katy Perry, we understand what you're looking for before you've even searched and give you a quick glance of who she is and suggest other popular search tasks associated with the singer," Lawrence Ripsher, Microsoft's general manager of user experiences at Bing, explained late Monday in a company blog post detailing Bing's new features.

For "high-confidence" queries, in which it's certain it has clear data related to a user's intent, Microsoft has created a new area at the top of the page called Pole Position. The new feature presents detailed information such as current weather conditions in a particular city in larger, integrated presentation at the top of the page.

The site is also making modifications to Snapshots, the at-a-glance answers to queries about people, places, and things introduced last year. The redesigned feature has been combined with Sidebar, which provides Knowledge Graph-like information from users' social network contacts.

The new combination is designed to "provide people with all the supporting context they'll need for any given query:"

For example, consider a search for "Highway 1". Bing knows there are many possible things you might be looking for. Our new design displays both the factual data about this beautiful route (length, date, related places), and also the human perspective whether they be status updates, photos, tweets, check-in's or expert opinions.
Bing's new logo. Microsoft

A new logo for the search engine is also part of the company's strategy of spotlighting Bing as being the baked-in search engine that powers a variety of Microsoft products, including Office and Windows 8.1. The strategy shift is aimed at closing the gap with Google, which in August accounted for almost 67 percent of U.S. searches compared with Microsoft's 17.9 percent, according to market researcher ComScore.

 

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