The Fall Of Bing (Seasonal Release, That Is)

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-1We’re here at Microsoft’s San Francisco headquarters so they can show off what they’re calling the “Bing Fall Release.” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s Senior Vice President of the Online Services Division is leading this presentation.

Today’s talk saw Microsoft focus on three key areas: Core search, mobile search, and their mapping. As you’d expect, Bing is pushing forward with regular search and mobile search, both with improvements in the core search functionality but also adding new ideas.

In terms of new ideas, the emphasis today was on Entity Cards and Task Pages. For example, when you do a search for a famous person on Bing now, you’ll see their official picture and a link to their official website front and center in their Entity Card. And if that person is a famous musician there may be a link to click on to get your concert information. This would be a Task Page. In that regard, Microsoft says it’s going to opposite way of Google and keeping people on Bing for a number of clicks to get information. Google’s stance is to get people to the information they want in one click (presumably away from Google).

Another key new thing only previewed today is the way Bing with integrate Facebook and Twitter data (which Microsoft recently reached deals to get both). Aside from simply importing tweets and status updates in search results as you might expect, Microsoft is going to take a visual approach to showing that data as well. You could click on a Facebook users’s picture and get more information about them in the right hand column, for example. They’re still working on this, but it should be done soon.

The most interesting aspect of today’s presentation was the things Microsoft is working on with Bing Maps. Their new Bing Maps Beta product is making it very clear where Microsoft is heading: A web powered by Silverlight. The new Maps product is visually very impressive, but it does require Silverlight, which of course, Microsoft is in charge of (but offers plug-ins for many browsers, including Safari on the Mac).

There were many questions as to why Microsoft simply wouldn’t use AJAX like Google and others use for Maps? Microsoft’s stance is that while they’re not trying to spread their own “stack” (their own technologies), they are going to use what they think are the best — in this case, Silverlight.

Microsoft also showed off a new Bing Maps app directory, with some cool new tools such as newspaper front page viewer, and a tweet on a map viewer using Twitter’s new geolocation API.

Below find my live notes (paraphrased):

SN: How we’re going to spend the next hour and a half or so is some knowledge and insight about what we’ve learned to far with Bing. Most of the time we’ll spend showing you new stuff though. It’s about the core search, the mobile effort, and our mapping.

  • A little over 6 months since we launched Bing in June. It’s very early, there is no confusion as to where we still stand. long road ahead. We are up to 9.9% market share. Ever since Google launched no one has grown 5 months in a row, we have.
  • And we have 48% unaided awareness now. We’re one of the hottest new brands – that’s great news for us. But again, it’s still very early and there’s a long road ahead.
  • The most exciting thing for us is the younger audience. Growth is coming 18-24 and 25-34 groups.
  • In terms of search behavior, images are very important, and videos and shopping. About 15% of our searches are for images right now.
  • 50% of time spent on search engines is spent on sessions that are longer than 30 minutes. That’s very interesting to us.
  • 60% of sessions include 4 queries or more. People are trying to do more with search now. It’s not just a navigational task now. And that’s growing.
  • We have a notion of ‘peoples’ ‘places’ and ‘things’ many queries are pivots around these three key areas.
  • Today we have two new interaction elements. Entity cards and task pages.

Derek Connell doing a demo of these new interaction elements.

  • The new card is in the main scan pattern. At the top of the page is the official image and a link to the official site.
  • We surface intent with the card and carrying it out with the task page. This task page may have a way to buy tickets for a music act, for example.
  • But this also works for places. We have an official site for Miami, along with a slideshow thumbnail. And we have a nice looking way to see the weather. And now flight deals too.
  • And now “things.” The newer Dublin release has emphasized video. Showing off a trailer of Paranormal. Lots of HD content coming in, trailers, music videos, etc.
  • And we have lots of these entity cards for stores now. They do a search for Apple, funny.
  • New deep financial intent page, pulls in all sorts of data.
  • Cards of universities now, we have all the major ones. We have an admission task page.
  • Also for medicine, entity cards for specific drugs, etc.
  • All these have either gone out the past week or today.
  • Today we’re going to show what we’re working on with Facebook and Twitter.
  • With Facebook we took visual search and applied it to the Facebook data we have. It’s a nice way to scan.
  • You can see upcoming birthdays visually. You can click on them and on the left hand side is more information about them. We’ll release this as soon as we iron out kinks.
  • And now Twitter. Also a visual search gallery. You can visually see who tweets the most. You click through and off you go to Twitter.
  • Are these people you follow? No, it’s just for whole feed.

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Nadella is back.

  • This is all about enhancing the experience. The search box doesn’t scale for all kinds of queries, that’s why we focus on visual search and video browse. Structured data is very important to us. We need to marry it with the regular search data.
  • Mobile search
  • The session data is very distinct for mobile searches. 70% of mobile search intent is completed in an hour, 80% is completed in one day – it’s different from the desktop.
  • We want an all-in-one mobile client. Web, local, and news. Then maps. Also instant answers and entertainment. Plus multi-platform support is key.

David Raissipour who leads the mobile search team for Bing.

  • The important thing on mobile is that you need to find your information quickly.
  • We have shipped mobile clients on Verizon handsets – now are announcing 25 different devices. and Bing.com mobile version is in 31 markets.
  • On mobile Bing, maps are very important. As our your favorite queries. And auto-complete for searches.
  • You can quickly mark things as favorites within maps too. Raissipour is using a stylus with his phone – don’t miss those.
  • Instant answers for things like stock prices – we show it at the top. Or you can easily see the news about that topic.
  • We built voice-support into the product to make it easier to do a search. “Weather in Redmond, Washington” – works well, though a bit slow. It’s an instant card with the information you’re looking for though.
  • We’ve built a very rich HTML-browsing experience. On the iPhone for example. They’re showing off rich results like football results – we wrote this up previously.

Nadella back again

  • Spatial Search (Maps) is the last big topic for the day.
  • Search exploration – Real-world visualization – Ecosystems and “Mash-ins”
  • Many sessions have a very strong geo reference – people are search around locations.
  • For real-world visualization we’re using a lot of the 3D work we’ve done.
  • And we want to have “mash-ins” – we all know about “mash-ups” but in response to a search query we want to bring in knowledge and maps are very important to that.
  • Some apps to demonstrate today.

Blaise (no last name given) who leads up the mapping efforts for Bing

  • First the AJAX powered website we launched a month ago. Very fast responses to queries.
  • We’ve been working on scaling down the latency. The past three months we’ve moved 300 terabytes of data for this project.
  • Today we’re launching a new beta: Bing Maps Beta. It’s up soon at bing.com/maps/explorer. This is Silverlight powered – this is the future of where mapping goes.
  • We can transition from ordinary to images. Very nice looking.
  • Using images we have made a 4-angle stitched view, “kind of like Sim City”
  • And we’re thinking a lot about human scale. Explore Streetside is Bing’s answer to Google Streetview. Their icon is called “Andrew.”
  • Green helium balloons show up in the maps too – these are synths. They’re just as first class in coverage as our own imagery. Users make these synths – a 1,300 photo synth in the Met in New York for example. Again, very cool.
  • New feature: What’s nearby – shows information about restaurants, shops, etc that are nearby. These are shown as purple icons. Nicely implemented. And you can zoom in with the new Streetside view seamlessly.

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  • You get reviews from various place like Yelp, whatever is crawlable.
  • We’re taking a new “app-like” approach to maps now, we’d love to have companies like OpenTable or smaller companies to mash stuff in.
  • The idea behind an mash-in is that if you want to generate click-throughs to your site, you can do that. We’re very open about this.
  • Everything we’re showing is all Silverlight – not web-based AJAX. You just can’t do some of this stuff with that.
  • Map App Gallery – we’re releasing today. This first batch are ones we’ve made or our close friends have made. But we’ll be opening this us to anyone who wants to make apps.
  • A cool Today’s Front Pages app – shows newspaper frontpages around the U.S.
  • Another demo of a app that shows hyper-local blogs around the map.

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Ryan Sarver, head of Platform for Twitter, to demo a new app

  • We’re excited to be a part of the Bing Maps ecosystem launch.
  • We have the new geolocation API and Bing was so fast with implementing it into these new maps.
  • You can see tweets on the maps, and drill down just to see tweets with images tagged to them, again on the map.

Back to Blaise

  • It’s such a huge canvas for so many people to build things – we cannot do it all. We just give some new tools.

Nadella is back

  • I wanted to wrap up by putting everything you saw into perspective.
  • Bringing the most relevant results is still the core. “The arms race is for sure on [with Google and others].” We’ve kept pace and we feel good about the progress we’ve made – and we’re going to move forward with things like visual search.
  • Scale beyond the one query idea. You have to scale it to the whole session – you should be smarter in your second query, third query, etc.
  • “You gotta have a scaffolding and an interaction model” to surface all this interest and intent. We have to move from a hit-or-miss one search box to being more interactive.

————- Q&A Time ——————-

Q: College data – how automated is that?

A: We need to make sure bad data doesn’t come across but we’re not doing human curation. Structured data is very important to this going forward. We’re not trying to employ editors and be a portal, we just look at the structured data – and a set of partners.

Q: Are the structured pages indexable?

A: We will allow others to index, but it’s a question about reindexing search content (so that sounds like “no”)

Q: Will Bing Maps 3D be replaced? How many cities is this in?

A: We have about 100 cities right now for this “human scale” experience. And more coming monthly. Over 100 terabytes of data over the past few months we’ve averaged posting to the web. In terms of the 3D product – the Silverlight piece is the best of all worlds.

Q: We part does non-Google content (so your exclusive content) play in this?

A: The focus we have is not as much on non-Google content – it’s more on query intent and task completion. We’re not so focused on exclusive content – it’s just about the content that’s best for reference for what we’re doing. We have partnerships obviously – like the Mayo clinic, but that’s not exclusive.

A: We’re not like Google where they’re trying to drive people off their site necessarily – the second or third click may be on our site in these cards, we think.

Q: So the News Corp-exclusive thing – not true?

A: I’m not going to speculate on speculation about that.

Q: About the openness of the whole platform. Is there a partner program for the cards, for example? And what about Silverlight – why use your technologies, why not use regular standard web tech?

A: We want to get to a third-party scale model. We want to build an ecosystem and get it going. The Maps mash-ins are just the beginning – this will move to regular web searches too. But are we trying to reinforce a Microsoft stack message? That’s not our intent. We’re trying to use the best technology we have. But we’re looking for feedback on this.

A: Silverlight is cross-platform remember, that’s important to us. And it’s a great development environment. There are many levels of openness in that stack. AJAX today is not supporting a lot of these nice transitions that you saw.

A: Silverlight is in the spirit of empowerment, not lock-in. You can just do a lot of stuff with this.

Q: Can you comment in general terms about Microsoft’s relationship with the publishers (like News Corp)? Would you pay them to de-index from Google?

A: Our focus is to take advantage of all content that’s available (non-answer). And we’ll have different business models for the publishers. But there’s no focus to de-index content from Google. At the end of the day users will decide.

Q: So you’re ruling out paying for de-indexing from Google?

A: I won’t speculate on things in the future.

Q: Why now for Streetside? Could have been sooner – how much did you spend?

A: We had early previews a while ago for Streetside, but it was different as just the ‘birds-eye’ view. Now we came up with the new human-scale with the 3D feel. This is a huge project underway to get more cities. We made the sensors at are on the vehicles capturing this data.

Q: What’s global market share? And monetization, how’s that doing?

A: Monetization progress has been keeping in-step. Even though we have a smaller share than some, our audience is being monetized well. Even as we’re growing that has kept pace. In terms of global share, not sure about the numbers, but we just did a launch in the UK. A lot of our gains in share are in the U.S. but other places too like Canada.

Q: How is the Yahoo thing going?

A: We’re waiting for the deal to close obviously. Nothing new to announce, but we remain positive that the deal will gain approval. Yahoo wants to remain a key player in the [search] experience – and we’ll help them with that. They have their own experience, but the core engine behind Bing will be available to Yahoo.

Q: In Europe, when will there be a bigger push to close on Google?

A: The UK is a start, but we’ve been increasing staff in all of Europe for this. It’s going well in the UK so far. And then we’ll expand.

Q: Will Yahoo have access to streetside imagery to make their own version of it?

A: That deal is most about the search deal, but yeah they can get that data.

———– That’s a wrap —————–

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