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Microsoft now lets users download Bing photos as full-screen wallpaper

For the small fraction of Internet users who know there are more options to web search than just Google, one alternative just got a bit more alluring. Microsoft's underdog Bing search engine is known for the stunning photographs featured daily on its homepage. But while you can search Bing for a previously featured image, it was a challenge to get your own copy.

Yesterday, however, BingStudios' senior managing editor, Stephanie Horstmanshof, announced that those days of photo hunting are over. Now, not only can you download the image directly from a new button on the home page, but you can full-screen it - removing the toolbars at the top and bottom of the Bing search home page. For a while, Bing users have been able to hit buttons to page back and forth through previous images which they may have missed.

"Many of you like it so much you've asked for a simple way to download the daily image to your computer," Horstmanshof wrote. "We heard you loud and clear. Today, we are pleased to introduce an easy way to download the Bing Homepage Image of the day."

But there is a catch: In order to get the download rights, you have to connect Bing with your Facebook account. Microsoft was praised for the innovative social search capabilities it added back in June. But the Facebook requirement has ticked off some loyal Bing photo fans. A comment from a user identifying him or herself only as gcoupe groand, "A requirement to have a Microsoft Account, I can understand. Having to have a Facebook account, I cannot."

Clearly Microsoft is eager to get users participating in its social search features that take advantage of the Facebook connection. But everything that's "free" on the Internet has one kind of cost or another, in most cases involving giving up some privacy in order to be targeted for more personalised advertising. Users simply have to weigh whether obtaining these gorgeous images is worth signing into Bing with their Facebook account.