Bing's New Visual Search: Attractive, but Limited

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has launched a new feature for its Bing search engine that displays results as images rather than a list of websites. While the images are attractive, its appeal is likely to be limited.

This isn't the same feature as the image search options available on most major websites, including Bing (which was recently accused of using explicit language to attract visitors). Those look specifically for images which best match the search term.

Instead, the image results involve displaying specific categories of information in a visual form. For example, somebody searching for information on Microsoft Windows will be given the option to "visualize" their search. Doing so will produce a set of images, each showing a different version of Windows (Vista, XP, and Win7). Clicking on the logo will bring up the relevant search results for that term. (Source:

Other categories have many more entries, such as new cars, for which there are currently 357 results. The results can easily be refined through a variety of relevant filters.

New Search Hand-Crafted by MS Staff

There is a major limitation to the image results system, however.

It appears Bing cannot automatically generate categories; rather they must be selected and assembled by Microsoft's staff. That means that even if the firm adds many more categories to the 39 involved in the current beta edition, it's likely not going to be of use for more than a fraction of searches. (Source:

Visual Appeal May Not Appeal to Some

It's also unclear exactly which users will find the system useful, as few of the categories already created lend themselves to visual appeal. For example, somebody searching for information on a vice-president will presumably already know the name of the person they are searching for and have no need to choose from a gallery. Somebody who is researching multiple vice-presidents will likely find it more effective to use Wikipedia's relevant list page as their starting point.

Of the categories listed, the only ones that stand out are handbags, yoga poses and dogs: the former for seeing what styles are on offer and the latter two for identification.

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