Bing Ads "Visual Search"
Software giant Microsoft has introduced "visual search" to its Bing search engine to try to further set itself apart from market leader Google.
The new feature will allow users to browse results using pictures instead of text.
Visual search will initially concentrate on four main areas: travel, health, leisure and shopping.
"The whole concept is that the world of search is going to change," said Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi.
"There will be a more graphic way people will search, and it will pivot how people search," said Mr Mehdi, the firm's senior vice-president of online services.
Microsoft unveiled the beta, or test version of the feature, at TechCrunch 50, a conference being held in San Francisco for start-ups to pitch their ideas to investors.
"Competition breeds innovation and this nice little battle between Google and Microsoft is having a huge benefit to consumers," said investor Ron Conway, who has previously put money into Google, PayPal and AskJeeves.
Microsoft launched Bing in May and promoted it as an improvement over Google's "10 blue links" for tasks like shopping and travel.
New figures by net analysts Nielsen showed that Microsoft's share of US searches rose to 10.7% in August while Google remained dominant with 64.6%. Yahoo, in second place, was used for 16% of searches.
In late July, Microsoft and Yahoo signed an agreement to work together to better take on Google. It still has to pass anti-trust scrutiny.
At the launch, Microsoft claimed Visual Search allowed users to conduct certain searches faster than the "traditional image search" offered by rival Google and other search engines.
In a blog post, the company said a study it conducted found that consumers could process results with images 20% faster than text-only results.
"It's like searching through a large online catalogue," Microsoft said.
As users enter search terms, a link at the top of the first page of results allows users to "visualise" what Bing has found.
Clicking on the link displays a gallery of related images.
At the moment only a small number of topics will return a visual display. These centre on popular categories like entertainment, famous people, shopping and sports.
Posted: August 2009