Microsoft is revamping its search engine and exploiting the growth of social networking online.
In an effort to make searching on the Web simpler, faster, and more social—and further differentiate itself from market leader Google—Microsoft's Bing search engine is getting a new look.
On Thursday, Bing said it will roll out a new design over the next few weeks that trades in its existing search results page format—a mix of images and various types of text-based results on a one-column page—for a layout in three separate panes featuring traditional text results, results from specific information sources and services, and results related to your social-network friends.
At an event to unveil the refresh in San Francisco on Thursday, Derrick Connell, Bing's corporate vice president of search program management, said Bing's search results page needed to evolve. "If we don't evolve our search result pages, in the industry we'll eventually become obsolete," he said.
Evolution is especially important if Bing wants to gain market share. The search engine is a very distant second to Google, pulling in 15.3 percent of U.S. search queries in March compared to Google's 66.4 percent, according to comScore.
Microsoft clearly believes these changes must include increased organization of social content, which has exploded with the popularity of Twitter and Facebook over the past several years. Within Bing's results, a new "Sidebar" column will organize relevant content from your friends on social sites like Twitter and Facebook. For example, Bing will suggest friends who might be knowledgeable about a specific topic by considering their listed "likes" on Facebook. A feed will also let you see and respond to your friends' Facebook updates and questions. And users will be able to ask their Facebook friends questions via Bing.
Basic text results will still be dominant with the new design, and executives said Thursday that separating them is meant to declutter the page and make it simpler to find specific links.
A third pane, called "Snapshot," will show search results related to places and services, such as maps and restaurant reviews. A partnership with OpenTable will let users make reservations on the results page.