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Microsoft equips Bing with visual search

2 min

"Visual search", the new feature of Microsoft's Bing, lets Web users search using images instead of text. It's the first major update of the search engine, giving users something that competitor and market leader Google doesn't yet have.


AFP - US software giant Microsoft unveiled a twist on the Internet search experience on Monday with a new feature which allows Web surfers to search using image galleries instead of text links.

Microsoft, which teamed up with Yahoo! in July in a bid to challenge Internet search giant Google, rolled out a beta, or test, version of the feature at the TechCrunch50 technology conference in San Francisco.

Microsoft senior vice president Yusuf Mehdi described "Visual Search," which is being built into the company's recently launched new search engine Bing, as a "more graphical way to search and discover information."

"Visual Search" allows users to conduct certain searches faster than the traditional image search offered by rival Google and other search engines.

Microsoft, in a blog post, said a study conducted by Microsoft Research found that consumers can process results with images 20 percent faster than text only results.

"It's like searching through a large online catalogue," Microsoft said.

The feature currently offers galleries in nearly 50 categories from consumer products to travel destinations to movies to music.

A search at for "digital cameras," for example, returns a gallery of thumbnail pictures of digital cameras which can then be filtered by manufacturer or by price, displaying a new set of images.

Hovering over a particular image or clicking on it will provide information about that particular product and the images rearrange themselves on the page as a search query is refined.

A search for books, for example, displays an image gallery which can be refined with filters such as author or category.

Google is the overwhelming leader in a Web search and advertising market which the research firm Forrester estimates will grow by 15 percent a year to more than 30 billion dollars in 2014 in the United States alone.

With their tie-up announced in July, Microsoft and Yahoo! are hoping to steal market share -- and advertising dollars -- from Google.

The agreement calls for Yahoo! to use the Bing search engine on its sites and handle Web ad sales.

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