Earlier this month, Bing, the other
white meat search engine, revealed its big redesign, which put a heavy emphasis on social search. Today, Microsoft announced the new version of Bing.com is now available to all U.S. users. Nothing has changed between then and now, but if you regularly visit Bing.com to perform searches (ha, right?) then you’ll definitely notice a big difference. The new search interface opts for cleaner search results, a three-column design, and deeper Facebook integration.
The move to the pared down search experience and social sidebar you’ll find on the new bing is Microsoft’s response to Google’s attempt at merging its own social network, Google+, with its search results. On Google, pages your friends have shared on Google+ or have +1′ed (Google’s alternative to the Facebook “like”) appear at or near the top of search results. Microsoft instead, claims that moving social off to the side lets its own social results “complement the standard search results without compromising them.” It’s a message buried amid a ton of happy noise in Microsoft’s blog post about new Bing’s official U.S. debut, but it’s a real zinger. Microsoft is essentially saying that Google’s move to infuse its search results with Google+ has damaged their quality.
Microsoft, of course, is an investor in Facebook and powers the web search and maps on Facebook’s social network. Although Google remains the top search engine by a wide margin, getting people to “switch” their affiliation may eventually end up happening not by consumer choice, but by default. As more people use Facebook to search the wider web, more will use Bing. (Or at least, that’s the hope).
TechCrunch previously covered what the new redesign brings in detail, but as a refresher, the three-paned view puts the pure, algorithmic search results in the center, additional context like maps, reviews and other related links off to the right (integrations with restaurant and hotel booking services, ticket sellers, etc. show up here, too), and social search on the far right. In the social column, you can ask for friends’ input on your searches by posting questions and reply to questions from others, all in real-time.
For what it’s worth, I just set my default search engine to Bing in Chrome for now, in order to really see what’s it’s like. (It’s jarring, I have to admit). I don’t think I’ll be able to de-Google myself in the long run, but it’s an interesting experiment for a day (or hour…whatever). My Twitter followers have already proceeded to mock me for doing so. Oh, Bing, no matter what you do – can you ever be cool?