Bing seeks partners for contextual search

By Liz Tay on Apr 15, 2011 8:47 AM
Filed under Software

Aussie site signs Getprice, to lose beta tag this year.

Microsoft search engine Bing has inked deals with social networks, booking services and real-world businesses in attempts to more closely link the physical and digital worlds.

Having grown its US market share from 7.2 to 30 percent since June 2009, Bing product director Stefan Weitz said the search engine now hoped to “play where the puck’s going to be”.

Bing’s strategy – famously voiced by Canadian ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky – had three elements: social media; geospatial information; and understanding and delivering on a user’s “intent”.

Through partnerships with Twitter and Facebook, Bing now scanned US users’ social networks for results likely to be more relevant to them. The feature, built on Facebook’s ‘instant personalisation’ program, was scheduled for launch in Australia later this year.

“For some reason, [users] expect search to not work very often,” Weitz told iTnews, noting that only one in four searches across all search engines currently yielded “a decent answer”.

Weitz hoped to do away with today’s pidgin language of nouns and Boolean operators, by analysing real-world, social connections to deliver a more natural search experience where “you’re constantly asking people for advice”.

Bing has also partnered with restaurant reservation service OpenTable and event ticketing service FanSnap in the US in anticipation of common queries.

Through a similar partnership with Australian shopping service GetPrice, Bing last month launched a local shopping feature that returned prices, product information, and stores.

The company had 50 staff in Australia working on localising Bing content and developing local partnerships, ninemsn Head of Communications Antonia Christie told iTnews yesterday, adding that Bing’s Australian site would lose its ‘beta’ tag later this year.

Weitz expected those partnerships to enable Bing to deliver information like theatre seating plans, ticket prices, product information, and restaurant availability in response to search queries.

While he acknowledged that one-off partnerships may result in fragmented search results, Weitz said Bing planned to implement a method of ranking booking services in a similar way it did web pages.

“The underlying fabric of the web itself is going through one of the most fundamental changes in its history,” Weitz said, describing competitor Google’s view of the web as a collection of documents, pages and caches.

“We recognise that to trying to beat Google in keyword-to-link is a tough game to play, [so we’re looking at] building things that expand the art of the possible in people’s minds.

“From a business standpoint, people know who we are and they seem to be sticking around for more queries. We’re not playing the game of a decade ago, but the game of two years from now.”

Competition between Google and Bing has heated up this year, with Google accusing Microsoft of copying its search results in February, and Microsoft dragging Google in front of European antitrust regulators late last month.

Weitz said Google’s accusation was “intellectually dishonest”, awarding it “ten points” as a publicity stunt.

“[Google’s] Eric [Schmidt] and Larry [Page] want to organise the world’s information; that’s a beautiful vision,” Weitz said. “Ours is different. Ours is delivering knowledge about services, multimedia and people.”

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