SiliconFilter

Study: Two-Thirds of Search Engine Users Don’t Want Personalized Results

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According to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, most Internet users are, overall, quite happy with the results they find with their preferred search engines. One thing they don't like, though, is that these search engines are tracking them. Only 29% of search engine users in this study say that it's a good thing that these companies are tracking their searches and other information to personalize their results. A full 65% think that's a bad thing and 73% say that it's not okay for a search engine to track their searches.

Virtually the same numbers also apply to targeted advertising, where 67% say they don't want their online behavior to be tracked and only 28% say that they are fine with this.

Google, of course, has been making a major push by integrating personalized results very deeply into its search results through its "Search, Plus Your World" initiative.

It's worth noting, though, that younger search engine users are somewhat less concerned about being tracked (56%) and about their information being used to personalize search results.

There is also an interesting racial divide here, where 70% of white users are concerned about the so-called filter bubble and think it's a bad thing for search engines to limit "the information you get online and what search results you see." Among black and Hispanic search engine users, that number is only about 50%.

Most Don't Know How to Limit Online Tracking

Even though most people really don't like to be tracked, though, it's interesting that only 38% of respondents in this survey think they know how to limit the amount of information that websites are collecting about them. Most of them, for example, have deleted their web history (81%) and used the privacy settings of websites (75%).

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9:14 am


Linked Pages: Bing Now Lets You Curate and Highlight Links that Are About You

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Google may have Google+, but Bing has a close relationship to an ever bigger and more important social network: Facebook. While Google now highlights your Google+ profile when people search for you, Bing has been showing Facebook profiles in its search results for quite a while now. With its new “linked pages” tool, however, Bing is now taking this concept a bit further. Bing now also lets you choose which of your social networking profiles and websites will be featured in a special box at the top of its search results pages when people search for your name. According to Bing, appropriate sites would also include your city, school or employer, for example. This feature is only available in the U.S. so far.

Given that Google has been widely criticized for putting too much emphasis on links to its own social network, it is worth noting that Bing uses your Facebook profile as its main result and then highlights the other pages you curate underneath that. Your Google+ profile, of course, can be one of these links, too.

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Link to Me

Thanks to its close relationship with Facebook, it’s no surprise that Bing uses the social network as the basis for this tool. You use it to log in to Bing to customize your links, for example, and you can also post newly linked sites to your Facebook profile as well. To prevent you from spamming your friends with new links, only the first link of the day will be posted in your Facebook timeline.

The Bing team has decided to go one step further, though, and also allows others to make suggestions for sites you could be connected to. This linking isn’t automatic, though, and Bing will always ask you for permission first.

You can, of course, always remove a link as well.

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Getting Started

Here is how all of this works in practice:

You first log in to Bing’s Linked Pages tool (using your Facebook credentials). Then, Bing will display all the pages it found about you and then lets you choose which of those links are really about you (and not about somebody you share a name with).

Similarly, you can search for your friends (assuming you are also their friend on Facebook) and then suggest sites that are linked to them.

Video

You can see the feature in action below (narrated by an oddly infomercial-sounding Stefan Weitz):

<a data-cke-saved-href="http://video.msn.com/?vid=649129a0-2e8a-40c8-87cc-4c3b003a7dbf&mkt=en-us&src=SLPl:embed::uuids" href="http://video.msn.com/?vid=649129a0-2e8a-40c8-87cc-4c3b003a7dbf&mkt=en-us&src=SLPl:embed::uuids" target="_new" title="Make a Good Search Impression with Bing’s Linked Pages">Video: Make a Good Search Impression with Bing’s Linked Pages</a>



10:15 am


The Google Doctor Will See You Now: Google Improves Results for Health Searches

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Google search is no substitute for actually visiting a doctor, but millions of people use the search engine to look up symptoms every day. Now, Google is making it a little bit easier to connect these symptoms with actual health conditions. The search engine will now automatically display a list of possible illnesses automatically when you search for a common symptom.

In it research, Google found that most searches for a symptom are followed by a search for a related condition. To save its users some time, the search engine's algorithms now automatically discover the kinds of conditions are related to certain symptoms.

health search symptoms on google

According to Google's chief health strategist Roni Zeiger, it's important to remember that this list is generated by algorithms and not authored by doctors.

It's worth noting that Microsoft's Bing, in partnership with the Mayo Clinic, has featured support for enhanced health search results for more than two years now.



10:13 am


The Usual Suspects Make Bing’s List of Top Searches this Year: Bieber, Kardashian & Sharapova

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As the year slowly comes to an end, all the major (and minor) search engines are gearing up to release their annual top 10 lists. These tend to be highly sanitized lists packed to the brim with celebrities, news events and TV shows. The first major search engine to release its list this year is Bing. As is typical for these lists, there is little that’s surprising here. Still, this list makes for an interesting look at the zeitgeist of 2011 and the state of mainstream pop culture, even as this annual ritual will likely make you wonder about your contemporaries’ priorities.

It would be nice if the big search engines would just make their uncensored, raw lists of top searches (the ones that include all the misspellings and adult queries) available to researchers and developers. There must be some more interesting trends hiding in this data that goes beyond the basic lists of celebrities, major news events and TV shows that Google, Bing and others like to present at the end of every year.

Bing’s Top 10s

Here are the top three results for some of the categories Bing ranked. You can find all the full lists for 2011 and 2010 on Microsoft’s Bing Blog.

Most Searched Person of 2011:

5873 Justin Bieber 09EFB1D1

#1 Justin Bieber

#2 Kim Kardashian

#3 Jennifer Aniston

Most Searched News Stories of 2011:

#1 Casey Anthony Trial

#2 Osama Bin Laden Death

#3 Hurricane Irene

Most Searched Sports Stars of 2011:

#1 Maria Sharapova

#2 Tiger Woods

#3 Serena Williams

Most Searched Consumer Electronics of 2011:

#1 Xbox

#2 Kindle

#3 Playstation



7:39 pm


Mozilla Launches Custom Firefox Version with Bing as Default Search Engine

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Since its earliest days, Firefox always used Google as its default search engine. Chances are, this won’t change anytime soon, but a short little announcement on the Firefox blog this morning will surely get some pundits to speculate if Microsoft’s Bing could one day become the browser’s search engine of choice. That’s because starting today, Mozilla will offer a custom version of Firefox with Bing to its users. This custom version uses Bing as the default search engine in both the search box and the “AwesomeBar.” Bing.com will also be the default homepage and chances are that Microsoft and Mozilla have worked out a way to split revenue from this venture, though the official announcement doesn’t make any mention of this.

Bing has been a search option for Firefox since last October. Mozilla clearly doesn’t want you to read too much into this announcement. In its blog post, the Firefox team notes that there are “nearly 20 customized versions of Firefox distributed globally by partners including Bing, United Internet, Twitter, Yahoo! and Yandex.” Bing then is just another one in this series of custom versions and I doubt the Twitter or Yahoo versions of Firefox are seeing record downloads (just try finding them in the first place).

Given that Google’s Chrome is quickly gaining market share, though, and has now become a formidable competitor for Firefox, it’s hard to imagine that the folks over at Mozilla haven’t thought about switching allegiances to Microsoft. I doubt this will happen anytime soon, though, as Mozilla currently needs the income its gets from Google to survive. If Microsoft decides to match this, though, things may change, of course, and maybe this custom version is just a way of testing what that cooperation would look like…



4:43 pm


Bing Booster: Microsoft Wants to Bring Bing to More Startups

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Microsoft today launched its new Bing Booster program. This new program, which is launching in Boston, New York and San Francisco today, aims to “to bring experts, connections, and resources to a few incubators and co-work spaces in each city.” With BizSpark, Microsoft has long been running a very successful program aimed at helping early-stage startups. Bing Booster wants to add a layer on top of this and is more focused on helping “Bing and startups connect.”

In each city, the program will work with existing incubators and co-working spaces to reach out to startups. Bing has designated one member of its team to each city – all of them senior employees at Microsoft: Betsy Aoki for Boston, Senior Program Manger in Microsoft’s Online Services Division; Aya Zook for New York, Senior Product Manager with the Bing team and Stefan Weitz, the public face of Bing and its Director, for the San Francisco area.

Connections, Resources and Bing APIs

Unlike BizSpark, there doesn’t seem to be any direct monetary value attached to working with the Bing Booster program for startups, but according to the announcement, Microsoft plans to “foster connections between our internal teams and startups where it makes sense.” Those connections could prove to be quite valuable for startups in the long run.

On the surface, Microsoft’s team argues that it wants to help startups discover Bing’s APIs and help them develop “the future of the Internet.” More cynical minds would also argue that Microsoft obviously wants to siphon some startups away from using Google’s ubiquitous APIs and maybe even acquire some of the most promising startups and incorporate their products into Bing itself.



5:26 pm


10 Blue Links Weren’t Enough: Bing Gets Some Action on the Side

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Bing today added a number of “action buttons” to its search results. With these, you can find links to the top actions most users take on sites from airlines, couriers, restaurants, banks, rental cars, software downloads and hotels. The buttons will appear right next to the relevant search results.

Internet search is a difficult problem for computer scientists, but for consumers, it feels like it’s been solved a long time ago. As Stefan Weitz, Microsoft’s director of Bing, told CNN earlier this week, “No one wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I really wish there was a better search engine.” That’s a major challenge for Bing, which has slowly developed into a very capable search engine in its own right. To compete, Bing has to do more than Google, though. In the same interview, Weitz also says that for his team, “it’s always been about figuring out how to accomplish more than we thought was possible with a search engine.” Today, as a part of this mission, Bing is introducing its new “Action Buttons,” which will make it easier and faster for users to not just find things on a website but actually get to the point where they can take an action on that site.

Continental bing result

Better Than Sitelinks?

At first glance, these Action Buttons look like glorified sitelinks (the little blue links to popular pages on a site that both Google and Bing show underneath the main result). Indeed, for the most part, these Action Buttons replicate links that are already in the sitelinks – though they sometimes use different words (“Reservations” vs. “Book a flight”). According to Microsoft, these links are determined by algorithms that try to find the “top actions and corresponding links in the site for a given category with high precision.”

I’m all for getting people to the results they are looking for faster. I’m not 100% sure that this new feature adds a lot of value to the service at this point, though, as it mostly highlights a functionality that already exists in the sitelinks. Deepak Vijaywargi, a program manger on the Bing team, however, argues that, “with Action Buttons, it’s less about searching and more about getting things done” and that we should “stay tuned for more from [Bing] in this area.”



3:50 pm


Wajam Wants to Make Your Social Search More Social

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Social search is, without doubt, one of the hottest topics in the search engine business today. Google and Microsoft have made it the central focus of their latest search engine features and numerous small players are also trying to get a foothold in this nascent business. Among these smaller players is Wajam, a Canadian startup that lets you easily add social search results to virtually all of the majorsearch engines and shopping sites you use today, including Google, Bing, Amazon, Tripadvisor, Wikipedia, and Yelp.

The idea behind social search has always been intriguing, as there is, after all, a good chance that the links your friends share online are more relevant to you than other links. To make this really work, though, a social search engine needs to be able to easily tap into all your social networks, not just either Twitter or Facebook. That’s where Wajam shines. It lets you connect to all your favorite social networks and then indexes all the links (and the content of the pages these links point to) that your friends have shared. Then, when you search, it transparently pins these results at the top of your regular search results on your favorite search engine.

Among the nifty features here are the ability to also add your Google+ account and search through it – something that Google still doesn’t let its users do. You can also filter results so you just see photos or just the links a specific person has shared. Earlier this month, Wajam also added a location feature, which lets you easily see who of your friends live in a given city and what places your friends have liked there.

Earlier this week, I talked to the company’s founder and CEO Martin-Luc Archambault. According to Archambault, his team mostly consists of engineers, as the company runs its own servers and has to not just pull in a very large amount of data (my friends, for example, have shared more than 3.5 million links) but also rank it. The ranking, indeed, could still use some tweaking, but in general, the search results are relevant, though the best ones are often under the fold (by default, Wajam only shows one result).

Overall, though, Wajam has turned out to be quite a useful addition to my search arsenal, especially because it pulls in data from such a wide variety of sources.

wajam_wikipedia

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4:12 pm


Bing: What’s More Evil Than Satan Himself? 10^100

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Not too long ago, hiybbprqag wasn’t much of a word, but as Google employee Andy Arnt noticed today, if you search Bing for it these days, you will find that it is an “orcish” word meaning “whiner.” Unless you’ve been closely following the search engine competition between Microsoft and Google, this probably doesn’t make much sense to you, but this little easter egg is actually quite funny.

Update: Looks like Microsoft has removed these search results now.

Here is why: Earlier this year, Google alleged that Microsoft’s Bing search engine was copying its search results. To prove this, Google inserted fake search results for nonsense words like hiybbprqagindoswiftjobinproductionand mbzrxpgjys into its index and, indeed, the fake search results later appeared on Bing.

Google then went public with the findings of its sting operation and publicly accused Microsoft of piggybacking on its search results. Microsoft argued that there is perfectly good reason for this: users who opt-in to sharing anonymous data with the company (including the fake Google users who searched for these terms), will share this data with Bing and the search engine will hence use it. Hiybbprqag  Bing

What’s More Evil Than Satan?

Besides the new definition for “hiybbprqag,” Arnt also found that Bing now defines the search for “more evil than satan himself” as 10^100 – a Googol, the word the Google founders used as the basis of their company’s name. The story behind this actually goes back all the way to 1999, when one of the first successful Google bombing campaigns (the great-grandfather of today’s SpreadingSantorum.com) catapulted Microsoft’s homepage to be the top search result for this query on Google. The big difference between a Google bombing and these results, though, is that these definitions were obviously chosen by the Bing team and not the result of an errant algorithm. Bing evil google

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9:33 pm


Microsoft Brings Order and Higher Resolutions to Bing Maps’ Aerial Images

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For consumers, the search rivalry between Microsoft’s Bing and Google has a number of advantages, even outside of the core search features both companies offer. Mapping is one of these areas where the two companies are continuously pushing each other to improve their products. Bing Maps has long been a very good mapping service (arguably better than Google’s offerings in some areas), but just like Google Maps, the quality of the images used in the application was often inconsistent. With its Global Ortho program, which launched in 2010, Microsoft aims to bring more consistency to the user experience when it comes to the resolution and quality of the satellite and aerial images it uses. The first fruits of these efforts are slowly becoming more apparent in Bing Maps now and Microsoft just launched an update to its Bing Maps World Tour to showcase the quality of these new images. (more…)



9:49 pm


Bing for Mobile: More Social, Smarter Maps and a News Carousel

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Microsoft just launched a number of interesting updates for the mobile, web-based version of Bing. Bing for Mobile now features built-in support for Facebook sharing, a highly visual headline news section and a new design for Bing Maps that splits the view between text-based directions and the map when you’re looking for directions. These updates are live now for all iPhone, Android and BlackBerry users. In addition to all of these updates, Microsoft also just announced that Bing for Mobile is now available in the UK as well. For UK users, this means that Bing now shows “a redesigned homepage, enhanced local listings, autosuggest, image search, and driving and walking directions (and real-time transit in London).”

imageMicrosoft’s close cooperation with Facebook is clearly paying off for the company. Facebook is now closely integrated into the desktop and mobile versions of Bing. On the mobile version, users can’t just share images and local business details, but also details about apps (iPhone only).

As for the news updates, Bing now uses a carousel view that doesn’t just show off what developers can do with HTML5, but also makes for a rather nice browsing experience.

If you want to give Bing for Mobile a try, just head over to m.bing.com on your supported device.



10:09 pm


Google, Bing and Yahoo Team Up to Improve Search Listings With More Structured Data

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Google, Bing and Yahoo today launched a new initiative that will introduce a common vocabulary for adding additional markup and structured data to websites and – by extension – search engine listings. Schema.org, as this new markup is called, allows website owners to give search engines better ways to understand the content on their sites. With schema.org, you can, for example, ensure that a search engine knows that something on your site is a recipe, a movie review with a rating, a listing for a local business or that a specific page is about a product. In total, the schema.org hierarchy knows of a few hundred different content types that can be described through its vocabulary.

(more…)



6:14 pm


Microsoft Streetside Isn’t Just a Google Streetview Clone Anymore

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Microsoft today released a number of major updates to the Streetside feature in Bing Maps. Streetside used to be very similar to Google’s Streetview, but Microsoft just mixed things up a bit and included an important twist. Instead of showing you the street from a car driver’s perspective, Streetside shows you pictures of the buldings on the right or left side of the street. Using Streetside now feels a bit more like walking down a city block than driving down a street. Until today, users jumped from one bubble with a 360 degree view to the next. Now, however, you can smoothly move up and down any street, choose which side of the street you want to see with just one click and also switch to another street at an intersection. (more…)



6:10 pm


Google to IE9 Users: "Come here often? Make Google your homepage"

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Google is the default search engine on virtually every browser – with one exception: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which obviously users Microsoft’s own Bing. Now that Microsoft is rolling out version 9 of Internet Explorer to most of its users, Google is actively courting these users with a large blue bar on its homepage: “Come here often? Make Google your homepage.” The possible answers: “Sure” and “No thanks.” If you decline, Google will then show you an ad for Chrome every time you go to google.com.

Image credit: Google Operating System

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via: Google Operating System



1:55 pm


Bing is Slowly Gaining Traction in UK

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Bing, Microsoft’s upstart search engine, hasn’t quite been able to replicate its success in the U.S. in the European market. The latest data from Hitwise includes some good news for Microsoft, however. While every other search engine in the UK lost market share in the last year, Bing actually managed to increase its share of searches in March by 1.4% compared to one year ago. Now that’s now a huge change by any means – and its overall share of searches is still just 4.4% compared to Google’s 90%. As Hitwise’s Robin Goad points out, though, “this translates to a lot of extra searches occurring in Bing.”

It’s worth noting that Yahoo UK still powers its own search engine and – unlike the Yahoo mothership in the U.S. – doesn’t get its search data from Bing yet. The timetable for Bing’s integration into the UK version of Yahoo isn’t clear yet, but the total share of searches for a combined Bing/Yahoo would currently be just under 8%. Year-to-year, Bing was the only major search service in the UK that gained market share.

The biggest loser in the UK is Google, however, which lost 0.61% of the share of searches in March when compared to last year and 0.66% compared to February.

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8:39 am