Internet Security Blog - Hackology

Bing Got a Visual Search Feature

Microsoft’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 – UFC Fighters? – 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 typed google above to have it show only covers from books about Google. That would have been kind of neat, but it didn’t work.
  • The scope of data is simply disappointing. When trying to restrict my books exploration to the category “Comics & Graphic Novels” it displayed only 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 don’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 couldn’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 don’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  Bing Search if external companies gonna give us the result which I wont atleast believe on.

    Bing Visual Search
    Bing Visual Search
  • 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, I’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, it’s the context of this being part of a supposedly more generalized search engine that I find disappointing. As a sort of standalone microsite it’s really fun, but when it comes to the major search engines I find scalable approaches more interesting.

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