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For fresh take on search, Microsoft hopes users will Bing it on

While it hasn’t yet become a verb, Bing (www.bing.com) is steadily gaining popularity in Internet search by doing things differently.

Admit it, you probably head directly to Google or Yahoo when looking for something online. It’s a habit, and you know what to expect when the results page pops up: millions of options. But you rarely click past the first or second page of links.

Next time you find yourself wading through not-quite-right search results, head to Bing, which just marked its anniversary. You may be surprised.

“Search engines developed to help people find things across the Web,” said Stefan Weitz, director in search at Microsoft Corp., which owns Bing. “People began to realize the Web is more than a collection of links and content. We saw people using the Web to actually accomplish things they want to get done.

“Bing takes people past a high-speed, comprehensive directory. It helps them make decisions in their lives,” Weitz said. “The Web is a collection of services. People can buy, people can book and people can get information. Assuming a keyword-based search leads to a piece of information and assuming that’s the end-all, be-all. Well, that’s just not it.”

Weitz points to several areas of Bing that have gotten more attention than others, including health, travel and maps.

“Health is one of the best verticals we have,” he said. “People have a need to get authoritative information. There is so much bad information out there on the Web. A lot of the work the Bing team does is to curate the best sources either through algorithmic means or through human means, in some cases.

“We want to deliver to the user some nugget of knowledge they wouldn’t have seen otherwise.”

Weitz said Bing’s market share for search has grown to 11.9 percent. Microsoft’s Live Search, which Bing replaced, had just 8 percent market share. Weitz said there is plenty of opportunity to grow Bing’s user base.

Being third in a three-horse race lets Bing try new things. “We are superengaged with our customers and measure everything,” Weitz said. “Sometimes we have to zig when it says to zag.”

An example of Bing’s innovation is the “digital search” feature.

“If you’re buying a digital camera, regular search doesn’t really work,” Weitz said. “You want this number of megapixels, this color and other variables. It makes more sense to manipulate the objects in cyberspace, so we filled an untapped need that people have.”

The photo that dominates Bing’s home page changes daily and has included images from user contests. Weitz said the popularity of the photos is one of the surprises so far.

Bing it, and you’ll see for yourself.

Share your Internet story with me at agibes@reviewjournal.com.

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