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Microsoft tickles Bing with feather duster

Don't fence me in, Google

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Microsoft has given its Bing search engine a spring clean and added status data from geolocation outfit Foursquare into its maps service as an app.

This is Redmond's first big upgrade to Bing since it debuted in June last year, when it replaced Microsoft's clunky old Live Search offering.

Since then the company has been trying its best be a credible "number two" alongside the world's largest ad broker, Google.

As part of that effort, Microsoft has been busily overdosing on Web2.0rhea-enchanted goodies by slotting the likes of Twitter and Facebook feeds directly into its revamped search engine.

The software maker has been trying its best to differentiate Bing from Google. At launch Microsoft decided to call its successor to Live Search a "decision engine", presumably in the hope of giving its brand an air of intellectual superiority over its rival.

But at the same time, Microsoft has also confessed that it will never be number one in the search biz, because after all that "decision" rests in the fickle fingers of web surfers who still like to (evil verb alert) Google a whole lot more than to Bing.

Microsoft said at the Search Engine Strategies (SES) event in New York today that it had made changes to Bing's user interface.

The firm's Todd Schwartz said in a blog post that Microsoft carried out research on Bing usage and found that 42 per cent of sessions required search decision "refinements".

The end result is that Microsoft has fiddled with the location of its Quick Tabs function.

"This feature drove a lot of customer engagement, and was really popular with customers. But we are constantly looking for ways to make the experience even better," said Schwartz.

“We have a vision for Bing to serve as a vital assistant to your online decision-making. In these latest designs, you’ll see a lighter, cleaner presentation of results that highlight key actions that will efficiently guide you toward your goal," added Bing group product manager Jeff Henshaw.

Microsoft will test out its latest designs over the next few months with a gradual roll out to Bing. It said it would slot the Quick Tabs feature into the top of the page for "one-click access" on some pages.

"We think this approach is a better way for Bing to anticipate user intent and adapt both the page and the results to help make faster, more informed decisions," said Schwartz. ®

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