Microsoft is today officially introducing a revamped version of its Bing search engine in the U.S. that it says will make search a faster and more social process.

Getting By With A Little Help from Your Friends

The most significant change Microsoft is making to the Bing user experience is the addition of a column on the right side of the screen called “sidebar.” This column shows which friends from a user’s social networks, as well as other online experts and enthusiasts, may have information or advice on a particular search topic.

Users can also post questions and get replies from friends on Facebook or Bing via an activity feed that allows them to remain in their search.


In addition, within the next few weeks Bing plans to roll out a center column called “snapshot” which will offer information pertinent to search queries, such as maps and reviews. Snapshot will also enable users to perform activities such as booking reservations from Bing. Traditional search query responses will also still be available, in a left-hand column called “standard.”

Microsoft Brings Bing Forward

Microsoft’s new social enhancements of Bing follow several other upgrades introduced in late 2011 that were designed to make Bing more user-friendly and modern.

In November 2011, Microsoft unveiled new webmaster tools that included a display of inbound links and expanded active email alerts. That same month, Microsoft also released a Bing for mobile apps update with an HTML5 core that allowed faster launch times and a more consistent user experience between different mobile platforms.

Google Retains Comfortable Lead on Bing

Considering Bing has only been in existence for three years, its quick ascent to its ranking as the number two search engine is impressive, but Google is still far ahead in terms of its popularity.

According to the most recent comScore U.S. search engine rankings, in April 2012 Google sites held a 66.5 percent explicit core search share, while Microsoft sites (essentially Bing) came in a distant second with a 15.4 percent explicit core search share. Both of these share totals were virtually flat in the previous month.

And while Microsoft’s new Bing features may well attract new users and encourage existing users to conduct more searches there, Google is not exactly standing still, either.

Google recently launched its own personalized search feature, called Knowledge Graph, that instantly displays information and links relevant to a search query, based on analysis of general search behavior, in a box on the upper-right-hand-side of the screen.

Even Yahoo (whose search engine is powered by Bing), ranked third by comScore with a 13.5 percent explicit core search share in April 2012, is getting into the act with a feature called Axis that displays a visual summary of search results in a mini-browser.

In spite of Google’s substantial lead in search share, it is not impossible that Bing will someday overtake it, but Bing is currently in a much closer competition with Yahoo for second place than with Google for first place. At least for now, Bing’s best strategy is probably to accept the fact that Google is the search equivalent of Coca-Cola and try to establish itself as Pepsi while relegating Yahoo to RC Cola status.