Our first look at Bing: 5 things that stand out

We haven’t been able to get our hands on Bing until today,  and we’ll have more as we dig deeper into it, but we wanted to give you some quick first impressions.  There’s lots of promotion for “the decision engine” out there already, but we’ve noticed a few things that haven’t received a lot of press yet, so let’s dive in:

1. It’s faster and more relevant.

Even on the preview (which we’re thankful to have access to), searches on Bing are significantly faster.  And for the first time in forever, a query for “liveside” on Bing brings back our home page as the top result (you can actually try this on Live Search now):

bingliveside_thumb_4d9ac9f4 Bing

(nice to see our friend Long Zheng in the related searches, too!)

I talked a bit with Stefan Weitz of Live Search about Bing this morning, and performance was heavily emphasized.  “Time to first pixel” has been significantly improved, and you’ll notice a difference.

2.  Powerset is more deeply ingrained than we thought.

Semantic searches, or looking for the meaning of the search phrase and not just keywords, is one of the “next big things” in search, and while we were aware of Powerset’s Wikipedia integration, elements of the Powerset technology are noticeable in a number of areas on Bing.  We’ll have more on this as we gain a better understanding of what exactly is going on, it’s not like there’s a “Powered by Powerset” logo on all of their content, but in Wikipedia searches, in reference searches, and more, Powerset is there.

3. The UI is well thought out, consistent, and clean.

Bing is a complete experience, UI done right.  No 3 or 4 waves of design all showing up depending on where you are (are you paying attention, Windows Live?).  This is a well thought out and well done design.  Even little touches like clicking on “Images” is well done.  In Live Search, if you click on Images without initiating a search, nothing happens.  In Bing, you get a great looking page with pictures and more info on each of the hotspots on the home page:

binghotspots_thumb_0f3796f2 Bing

Overly useful?  Maybe not, but nice?  Definitely.  And btw expect the home page images (complete with a pager to scroll back through past home pages) to appear worldwide with the launch of Bing.  We asked Stefan Weitz about how much of Bing would be available worldwide, and indeed some of the Shopping and Travel features will remain US only for the time being.  However he said that their worldwide strategy is “aggressive”, and there are search centers in Europe and Asia working on better international experiences.

4. Refining searches is easy, and very useful

Across Bing, the left hand column becomes an extremely useful and intuitive tool.  On the home page, you can quickly get to Images, Shopping, Travel, etc., but once you initiate a search, the contextual tabs are going to be very hard to do without once you try them:

bingleft_thumb_7565f173 Bing

This is an area where even though you see it in a screenshot, the natural way this works doesn’t become apparent until you try it out.  With the performance improvements, refining your searches just got a lot easier.

5.  Save and Share isn’t highly visible, but it rocks

A new feature of Bing we haven’t seen much about is called Save and Share.  First off, your search history is not only saved, but you can refine it, too.  You can delete searches, go back to them, and most importantly save and share them:

saveshare_thumb_321d7a04 Bing  

You can permanently save searches to SkyDrive, share them on Windows Live or Facebook, or email them (or just get the url and use it however you want).  We want to dig deeper, but we can see lots of potential uses that will make this one of our favorite Bing features.

We can’t wait for you to get your hands on Bing, too.  It will begin rolling out on June 1, and will be fully deployed (again, are you listening, Windows Live?) just 2 days later, on June 3.  Until then, stay tuned to LiveSide for more on Bing coming up soon.