Bing Adds Pictured-Based Search Feature

Microsoft’s vaunted new search engine Bing has introduced a new feature which allows users to sift through pictures rather than links when conducting searches.

The new offering, dubbed Visual search, is currently available in beta form at Users must install Microsoft Silverlight to use Bing Visual search.

Once Silverlight is installed, searchers can select various pre-set categories, such as shopping, sports, or famous people—and instead of entering text, Bing Visual search presents rows of images—typically five across. The product’s tagline is  “Start with pictures to find results faster.”

For example, when clicking on the ‘visual search gallery’ for shopping, users will encounter ten different boxes containing small pictures: one of a digital camera, one of a new car, one of a book, etc.–rather than lines of text or blue links that are common to most search experiences. Similarly, clicking on the category ‘famous people’ delivers images of Transformers star Megan Fox and President Obama, among others.
The new product would appear to have interesting implications for search advertisers—particularly brand advertisers that typically deliver their most effective messages through visual images rather than text (such as movie trailers or even packaged goods brands).

Bing’s new visual product arrives as the new search product is demonstrating some momentum. According to Nielsen Online, Microsoft saw its search volume increase by 22 percent in August versus the previous month. That spike was good enough to drive Bing’s share of searches from 9.0 percent in July to 10.7 in August, per Nielsen.