Bing just released their new-version toolbar that they’re calling the Bing Bar, and as usual, even before installing it, as with any toolbar we had an instant negative reaction. Toolbars, yuck. They’re slow, they take up valuable real estate, and mostly they’re thinly veiled attempts to track your data without giving back much in return. We’ve installed, and quickly uninstalled, a number of toolbars before, including previous versions of the Bing Toolbar, and the MSN Toolbar.
So when we spotted today’s announcement, we weren’t expecting to be impressed. The Facebook integration was interesting, though, so we went ahead and installed the Bing Bar in IE9 RC. Aside from wanting to change the default search in Firefox, which was a little weird, the Bing Bar installed quickly, and the first of our surprises came when we saw how it looked in IE9:
As you can see, the Bing Bar uses the same background color as IE, and blends in with the surroundings. Yes, it takes up some room, but if it adds value, maybe it’s worth it.
The Bing Bar comes with a number of “apps”, these are: Mail, Facebook, News, Weather, Maps, Finance, Translator, Movies, Videos, Games, and Bing Rewards, along with the search bar and a link to the full Bing.com page (the Bing logo). You can easily add or remove apps, or rearrange them in any order, using the settings dropdown (the three dots on the right):
From the left sidebar of the settings dropdown, you can set alerts, clear your search history, check the version number, or choose whether to allow Microsoft to use information gathered by the Bing Bar. It’s not quite “big red letters”, but we hope this satisfies Matt Cutts, as it’s simple, clear, and easy to get to:
Peter Bright from Ars Technica asked via Twitter whether the Bing Bar fired off a “slow loading application” warning in IE, and it looks like the Bing engineers have done a lot of work, because IE9 RC reports that the Bing Bar loads in 0.01s.
As for using the Bing Bar, there are some definite advantages, at least for the way we use IE. Although we like having Bing.com as one of our home page tabs (mostly for the daily picture!), the full Bing is still one click away with the Bing logo in the Bar, and we can also lose another home page tab by using the Facebook integration:
The Facebook tab looks to be a very useful and easy to use window into Facebook, providing basic functions and easy access to the full Facebook.com.
The other tabs open quickly, are clean and easy to look at, and for the most part open quickly.
So, a Bing Bar that blends in to the surroundings, actually adds value, and doesn’t bog down the browser, is it possible we may have come across the first toolbar we’ll keep?