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Bing Sidebar revamp includes people, places, social networks

Microsoft's Bing has been given an upgrade, including social information about celebrities, professional LinkedIn details, landmark descriptions, and a Q&A format.

"At Bing we believe that search should be more than a collection of blue links pointing to pages around the web. We believe search should also be a reflection of the actual world," Bing Index Team member Dr. Richard Qian wrote in a blog post.

This update serves as a sort of continuation of a June revamp, which introduced Snapshot, a centre column that provides instant results. Bing first rolled out the feature for movies, restaurants, and hotels; now it is adding people, places, and things - the site's most common searches.

"So, whether you're searching for answers about a celebrity, co-worker, animal, geographic location, or man-made structure, Bing helps you understand the world around you by providing at-a-glance answers about the people, places and things you care about," Qian said.

Queries about celebrities, professionals, and personal friends represent about 10 per cent of all Bing searches, he said, sparking Microsoft to include details from LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, and Klout.

Plus, now when users search for someone like John Kerry, they will find a short bio, as well as photos of Hilary Clinton, President Barack Obama, and former President George W. Bush - related searches. Hover over the "People also search for" images, and you can find an explanation of how each person is related to the original figure.

Places - landmarks, lakes, rivers, mountains - also got a boost, now including an overview of the location (population, nearby airports, attractions, etc. for cities; elevation, date of first ascent, geographic location for mountains), as well as the new "People also search for" option.

Additionally, Bing now lets users ask a question the way they'd phrase it to a friend. To answer "What's the tallest mountain in the world? Or "Who played Morpheus in The Matrix?," just type your query into the search bar, and Bing will show the most pertinent information about Mount Everest or Lawrence Fishburne.

"Together, these updates provide you with a great level of understanding about the world we live in, which we hope will make Bing more useful to your everyday life," Qian wrote, adding that more improvements will be coming in the future.