Design and UI
The new Bing features three panes: search results, a "snapshot" view coming in a few weeks, and social, a sidebar that looks straight out of Windows 8. Microsoft aptly calls these panes "Search Knows," "Bing Knows," and "Friends Know."
Microsoft thinks of its algorithmic search as a "fact finder," a provider of relevant blue links that points you in the direction of answers. And according to Microsoft, it's doing a pretty bang-up job at fact finding. In a blind study, Microsoft found that 34 percent of consumers in Q1 2012 found Bing search to be the best, while 28 percent liked Google and 38 percent were a draw. In stark contrast, one year prior (Q1 2011), 27% liked Bing results the most, 36% liked Google, and 38% were a draw.
In order to highlight its improving search results, Microsoft recently got rid of the left rail, eliminated social results from the main search column, and will soon move all contextual results to the "Bing Knows" middle column. Search results are still front and center inside Bing, but Microsoft VP Derrick Connell said, "search engines are great for helping us navigate to a website, but aren't so good at giving us perspective." That's the reason Microsoft decided to add the Bing Knows contextual column and the Friends Know social column: one for contextual results (like maps and prices) and one for social results.
Social content does sneak its way inside search results in some cases, however. If friends like Nike on Facebook, a little thumbs up will appear next to Nike.com that displays who likes that page when you hover over it. It works just like the person icon that appears next to Google results if your Google+ friends have +1'd that link.
"Bing Knows," known colloquially as snapshot,surfaces a huge variety of data points and figures from review sites and shopping sites like Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, FanSnap, and even Car and Driver (for reviews and prices). It also returns maps (like you might find in Google), price comparisons, and even a hotel room rate widget that lets you pick when you want to travel. "We're interested in how we can tap into all these new web services that we don't have to own," Bing Director Stefan Weitz told us.