Bing for browsers has always been eye-catching, but since the release of Windows 8, it's seemed a bit like the black sheep of the Metro family. No more! Today, Microsoft announced it's giving Bing a Modern-style makeover to welcome the search engine back into the " One Microsoft" fold--and the refresh includes redesigns of some Google-like features that Bing already offers.
Bing's overhaul isn't widely available yet and is currently rolling out to users in the U.S. in the coming weeks. Here's what we know about the refresh so far.
Microsoft says it has improved its predictive search capabilities as you type your query. Dubbed "Page Zero," the idea is that Bing can supply your information before you need a complete page of search results.
Similar to Google Instant, Bing will show you popular searches that others have done based on your keywords. So you might see suggestions for Katy Perry such as 'Katy Perry songs,' 'Katy Perry music videos,' or 'Katy Perry wedding' as you type.
But Page Zero will also offer category tiles that pop-up next to the search bar as you type. If you search for Jon Stewart, for example, you'll get tiles with snapshot data and links for Stewart himself as well as his program, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Part of the plan for Page Zero also includes deep links to specific pages on websites. These links appear as tiles as you type, instead of appearing on a page of blue links after you hit enter, as Bing currently does. If you search for The New York Times, for example, you might see links to the Times' World news page, Obituaries, and Opinion columns. Search for 'Virgin Airlines' and you get links to Virgin's flight status page, fares, and route map.
Similar to Google's instant answers via the Knowledge Graph, Microsoft will give you results for specific, actionable searches at the top of its results page. Searching for weather will give you a daily forecast at the top of the page. Type in a query for "Thanksgiving 2013" and Bing will tell you this year's turkey day falls on November 28--72 days from right now.
Bing already offered this feature, however. There isn't anything really new here other than, perhaps, a greater number of Pole Position results than before and a new look to these results.
Snapshot, sidebar combo
Bing's previous overhaul brought two new features to search: snapshot and sidebar. Both of these features will now be combined into one area, showing you vital information about your search and relevant data from your social networks. Snapshot and sidebar will still appear as two separate boxes, mind you, only together one after the other.
Snapshot is kind of like the Knowledge Graph boxes you see in Google. If you search for Katy Perry, for example, snapshot shows you a brief biography, latest songs, albums, and other celebs people search for when looking up Katy Perry.
If you search for Seattle Restaurants, you get a map of Seattle, as well as a main column filled with recommendations. Hover over any of the top-listed restaurants, and a pop-out column appears with Snapshot information about the restaurant such as hours, address, and Yelp reviews.
Sidebar is a collection of data from social networks connected to your Microsoft account. If you search for Breaking Bad, you might see a shared link or post from a Facebook friend. The Sidebar also shows public social networking posts from personalities, celebrities, and brands.
Adaptive design, in more ways than one
Finally, the new Bing will offer an adaptive design that changes based on whether you're viewing Bing on a PC, tablet, or mobile device.
Bing's changes may be more helpful, but there doesn't seem to be really anything truly new here other than a few conceptual changes to how information is delivered (Page Zero) and a fresh coat of paint.