Ninemsn reveals new search engine Bing

bing-homepage-fireNinemsn has unveiled its new search engine Bing – Microsoft’s long-anticipated bid to get back into a serious race with Google.  

The site, which will replace Windows Live Search, launches in Australia next Wednesday. It features an uncluttered home page with a large, localised image – which will change every day – dominating the screen.  

Bing was unveiled to the Australian press at a briefing in Sydney this morning by ninemsn CEO Joe Pollard and director of MSN Products Alex Parsons.

Much of the strategy for the new product appears to be to encourage users not to click away. A major difference to Google, and a potentially big issue for site owners that rely on search traffic is that Bing will attempt to give fuller answers on the page in a feature it is calling “instant answer”.

In this morning’s demonstration, this included things like restaurant reviews, live information about airport arrivals and map directions. Users will also be able to preview moving thumbnails of videos on the home page rather than click away. However, none of the videos featured in this morning’s demonstration were from YouTube so it was unclear whether this functionality will work for all video.

The engine also displays other potential related searches based on the behaviour of other users. And when search queries are returned, if the mouse hovers over the answer further information comes up without them needing to click.

For image searches, Bing offers “infinite scroll”, so pictures come onto the bottom of the page as the user continues to scroll down. There are further refinements for image search like being able to search for “faces” or “head and shoulders” as well as the usual search by size.

Parsons said:”Search is the new rivers of gold. But today we are seeing relatively limited choice. Google dominates. But today that starts to change. We are going to increase our market share one per cent at a time. Today is the day the competition starts.”

He said that search in Australia was an $800m market, with Google taking about 90%. He added: “Search has not really evolved. We have not seen a wide consumer innovation . Search is ripe for that.”

However, the site is unlikely to trigger an immediate revolution for search marketers. The business model for bidding on key words remains the same as Windows Live Search and Parsons added: “SEOs won’t have to change their existing practices.” He said there would be a trade show to educate advertisers and agencies.

In a new development, when a user searches on a product, they will be offered multiple reviews, searchable by a number of factors. They will also be given a list of Bing-affiliated retailers with a comparison of how much discount each one will give to Bing users. This feature has been named Bing Cashback. But it will not be on the Australian site from the beginning.

Parsons said: “We will back this amazing product with investment in the brand in the coming years.” Pollard said in the short term most of the marketing will be through nineMSN’s stablemates including TV network Nine and ACP Magazines. She said: “For instance, at the end of Sea Patrol, we would have a pointer telling people to go to Bing to find out how ET died.”

She said that when other category features roll out in six months or so there would be a wider marketing push. She said: “There are Australian marketing dollars that will be there above the line and below the line.”

Meanwhile, Parsons denied that the service would be a “walled garden” stopping people clicking away. He said: “We are absolutely not going to create a walled garden, full stop. We are going to take feeds and information from any source. We want to help consumers find what they want faster.”

In terms of targets, Pollard said: “We are not looking for 50% next year. This is an evolution. We want to take 2% next year, and two, three, four per cent the year after.

She also said that Microsoft is in the process of creating a “localisation team” to develop relevant products for the Australian market.

The launch marks a concerted push by ninemsn to move away from its reputation of beign a troubled company. Last year saw major turnover of senior staff.

Meanwhile, Google stole some of the thunder by revealing Google Wave, an attempt to blend email with social media and instant messaging.


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