Microsoft is rolling out over the next few weeks its first major release of Bing since the search engine launched in June.
(The Softies don't like the "Bing 2.0" moniker, but that's how some zealous Microsoft employees who heard about the forthcoming update described it earlier this summer. When Microsoft rolled out its new visual search capability a couple months ago, officials did acknowledge a bigger refresh of Bing was on tap for this fall.)
Just to be really clear, if you go to the Bing.com page today, it doesn't look or seem any different. It's going to take a while for the Bing servers to be populated with the refresh.
On November 11, a Microsoft spokesperson sent the following information about the new Bing update:
"The update includes a partnership with computational knowledge engine Wolfram Alpha, which will incorporate health and nutrition-related structured data from Wolfram Alpha into Bing results.
"We're also rolling out a number of updates to Bing. This rolling update will include new features such as localized results for weather and events and City Slideshows. It will also include updates to existing features, such as an improved Bing Shopping experience and the next generation of Hover Preview, which lets people view a snapshot of a website or search within that website before clicking through. Please note that all new features including the Wolfram Alpha integration will be rolling out to select groups and will not be fully available to our entire customer base for several weeks. "
In related news, Microsoft this week rolled out Bing Videos, a refresh of MSN Videos that incorporates the Bing search technology. Bing Videos is now the single hub for video content from MSN, Hulu, YouTube and other content sources.
Update: There's more on the Microsoft-Wolfram partnership in a November 11 posting to the Wolfram Alpha blog. The Wolfram execs note that Microsoft is one of the first commercial customers for the recently introduced Wolfram Alpha application-programming interface (API). From that post:
"By using our API, Bing will be able to seamlessly access the tens of thousands of algorithms and trillions of pieces of data from Wolfram|Alpha, and directly incorporate the computations in its search results."
Update 2: There are more details about the steps leading up to the bigger Bing refresh in a November 10 posting to the Bing Community blog.
"Since June we’ve released a bunch of new stuff to try and meet the demands of our users – Twitter integration, Visual Search, Twitter Search, better maps, and a host of user interface and index improvements. But being the true search geeks that we are, we knew we needed to keep our eye on the prize: we still need to help people make better decisions with more confidence. We are, after all, a Decision Engine not just a Search Engine.
"So we listened: we talked to people in small groups all across the nation, we worked with search pioneers outside the company to get their take on what we were missing, and we listened to the quiet and fleeting clues about what you want in search by analyzing reams of data."
The results of this "listening tour" are features like more shortcuts, more visual search results, more exposure to results via "hovering" functionality, a new event search feature and more. It sounds like the team is going to trickle out more details of what's in Bing 2.0 over the next few days.