Home Making Search Prettier: Bing Launches Visual Search

Making Search Prettier: Bing Launches Visual Search

Since Microsoft launched Bing, the company has been trying to position it as a ‘decision engine’ and not just as another search engine. Today, Microsoft is taking another step in this direction with the launch of Visual Search in Bing. For a growing number of searches, instead of giving users a list of 10 blue links, Bing will now give users the option to visualize the search results on a 3D grid with icons or photos. Now, for example, if you search for ‘Top iPhone Apps,’ Bing will not just present a list of links to other sites but also provide the option to show you those iPhone apps directly in Bing, with the added ability to filter them by price, category, or publisher.

Microsoft is definitely trying to change the playing field with Bing and today’s updates show that Microsoft still has a few surprises up its sleeves. Searches for NFL and MLB players, for example, or movies, digital cameras, or US presidents now feature the option to see the results on a nicely designed grid.


This visualization, while visually quite stunning, wouldn’t be very interesting though, if Microsoft hadn’t also added the ability to quickly narrow searches by relevant categories. If you search for ‘digital cameras,’ for example, you get the option to narrow your search by number of megapixels, optical zoom, or brand. Baseball players can be organized by position, team, or salary, and criminals on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list can be organized by reward, citizenship, or the crime they are wanted for.

Overall, these visual elements can really make some searches a lot easier, especially if you are starting out with a broad category and you are trying to narrow your search down (try ‘yoga poses,’ for example).

As Stefan Weitz, Microsoft’s Director of Bing, told us last month, for some queries, visual results are simply much easier to scan for users than simple lists of texts. At the end of your work with the visual search interface, however, you are still taken back to a regular Bing search.

Silverlight Only

Microsoft decided to use Silverlight as the one and only way to access the visual search feature. At this point, Weitz argued when we asked him about this choice, Silverlight is already widely installed on millions of computers and Microsoft decided that the experience will not degrade gracefully if you don’t have Silverlight installed.

Useful or Just a Gimmick?

While Visual Search might look like a gimmick at first (and it definitely is an interesting visual feature), it actually turns out to be a very usual feature for most of the searches that currently support it. The range of searches that allow you to visualize the results is still somewhat limited, though Microsoft will surely add on to this list over time. If anything, this is yet another feature in Bing that Google doesn’t offer yet. As Bing tries to position itself as a ‘decision engine’ and not just as a search engine, this is also another feature that will help Microsoft to make this distinction. Instead of a list of links, Bing can now offer a set of faster and more visually pleasing search results


Here is a list of current topics that will pop up Visual Search as an option:

  • 100 heroes and villains
  • Billboard’s past albums
  • Billboard’s past songs
  • Film legends
  • Greatest movies
  • Movies in theaters
  • Popular books
  • Popular celebrities
  • Popular DVDs
  • Popular TV shows
  • Pulitzer winning fiction
  • Top albums
  • Top songs
  • Famous People
  • FBI’s most wanted
  • Popular celebrities
  • US politicians
  • US presidents
  • US vice presidents
  • World leaders


  • Dog breeds
  • Periodic table
  • Travel destinations
  • US politicians
  • US presidents
  • US states
  • US vice presidents
  • World leaders
  • Yoga poses


  • Cell phones
  • Digital cameras
  • Handbags
  • HDTVs
  • New cars
  • Popular books
  • Popular DVDs
  • Portable GPS
  • Pulitzer winning fiction
  • Top albums
  • Top iPhone apps


  • MLB players
  • MLB teams
  • NASCAR drivers
  • NBA players
  • NBA teams
  • NFL players
  • NFL teams
  • NHL players
  • NHL teams
  • UFC fighters

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