Microsoftâ€™s search engine Bing has a new visual search feature. It presents you with categories like US politicians, popular celebrities, cell phones, yoga poses, film legends, new cars, dog breeds and more. Drilling in to a category will show a dynamically presented list of thumbnails, which when clicked on will return more text results.
If a particular featured category is exactly what you were looking for â€“ UFC Fighters? â€“ this may be a nice place to bookmark. More generally speaking however I found the whole thing doing rather poorly so far, for a couple of reasons:
- The result set is not easily searchable. I was presented with a couple of book covers so I typedÂ google above to have it show only covers from books about Google. That would have been kind of neat, but it didnâ€™t work.
- The scope of data is simply disappointing. When trying to restrict my books exploration to the category â€œComics & Graphic Novelsâ€ it displayed onlyÂ a single item (the Watchmen trade paperback). Restricting to a villain type in the category100 Heroes and Villains returns 3 characters (perhaps not surprisingly when you start out with only 100 items). For a time waster this is fun, but at this small scale I donâ€™t yet see long term searching or researching usefulness.
- The whole thing needs the Microsoft Silverlight plugin to run. On first glance there does not seem to be anything that couldnâ€™t have been done in Flash (perhaps even DHTML), so this seems to be a strategic decision rather than a company pushing the limits of what you can do inside the browser. As such, having to run an executable before seeing results (if you donâ€™t yet have Silverlight installed) hurts usability quite a bit.
- The data provided in Visual Search is fetched and/or organized not from Bing Search Bots but external third party sites which makes the concept simply bogus. Now whats the purpose of Â Bing Search if external companies gonna give us the result which I wont atleast believe on.
- I found myself expecting a larger image when clicking on the thumbnail of an item, but the results were then mostly text only. Perhaps the flow wouldn be interrupted less if a larger image would be appearing next to the results, Iâ€™m not sure. But clicking takes us to a normal search result page , if thats what had to open up whats the use of this Service ?
Perhaps next to Microsoft pushing its plugin on me, itâ€™s the context of this being part of a supposedly more generalized search engine that I find disappointing. As a sort of standalone microsite itâ€™s really fun, but when it comes to the major search engines I find scalable approaches more interesting.