Belly Up to the Bing Bar

Google isn’t the only search engine extending its reach into social networking: Bing is raising the bar, literally.

The Microsoft-owned search engine announced the launch of the Bing Bar, which offers users quick access to Facebook content including users’ news feeds, photos, friend requests, messages, and alerts.

More from Microsoft group product manager Joshua Schnoll on the Bing Blog:

The first thing you will notice is that the search box is centered, not on the left. As we talked with consumers, they overwhelmingly wanted search to be front and center, particularly as they looked at the clean design of Internet Explorer 9.

Similarly, people want to reduce the number of clicks to find what they want, so we consolidated things like search history (in purple), suggestions (in black), and deep links (at the top) right into the search box to help accelerate search. Since most people don’t want to start typing a search and then lift a hand off the keyboard to grab the mouse, it’s easy to navigate with the arrow keys to any item on the list.

People told us that they spend a huge amount of time on Facebook these days, and we are building on our relationship with Facebook to bring a great Web experience to our joint customers. We use the notification capabilities to let you know that you have new activity on your Facebook account, so you can stay connected no matter what you’re doing on the Web.

News feed: You have quick access to your news feed to see posts from your friends and to update your status. You can also comment on or Like a friend’s post right from the Bing Bar.

Photos: With photos, you get a great looking collage of your friends’ photos, making it easy to scan the pictures your friends are sharing.

Friend requests, messages, and alerts: The Bing Bar also provides a quick glimpse and easy access to friend requests, messages, and Facebook notifications.

Proactive alerts: As we talked with customers, we realized that more and more of them use many different online services, and while some of those services provide proactive alerts of new mail or postings, they didn’t have a consolidated way to get all that information. Additionally, as folks are browsing the Web, often times they encounter areas where they might like some help (say, content on a page in a foreign language). We created alerts to act a bit like your online personal assistant, letting you know when new messages arrive or when the Bing Bar can help you with something you are doing online.

Facebook and mail alerts: Most people have more than one Web mail account, and many of them use a few different providers. Also, many folks are using Facebook as a primary means to communicate with friends and family. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a quick view into new emails or Facebook messages from one central place, without distracting you from your primary task in the browser? We thought so, too. These alerts appear subtly below the Bing Bar, and gently fade away after a few seconds. If you hover over them, they remain, and you can take action.

Each of the different buttons has several notification states. In addition to Facebook and email alerts, we also provide short alerts for breaking news (with a short summary of the headlines), weather advisories, translation alerts (when there is Web content available for translation), new Bing Rewards offers, and much more.

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