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Bing’s New Image Search Is Built for Power Users

Bing has established itself as a legitimate major search engine, second only to Google. Even so, it’s rare that Bing manages to roll out something that actually puts it ahead—yet that’s exactly what Bing achieved with its most recent update: a new, beefed up image search that offers way more functionality.

Image Search Plus

The new image search has major advantages. It gives you more info on each image and lets you do a lot more with them. There’s a veritable toybox of new features, but for my money there are two that help everyone:

  1. More sizes. In a Google image search, you might find multiple version of the same image, in different sizes, but for the most part they’re going to appear as separate results (there are some exceptions). That means you could have to scroll through pages of results looking for the size you need, such as a large high-res version. The new Bing search does that work for you: find an image you like, and it offers you all the other sizes/versions available.
  2. See all sources. Sometimes many websites have the same image, and it can be hard to know where it originally came from. Again, Bing does the heavy lifting, and provides you with a list of every source where that image came from. That could make it easier to track down an original, or, as Search Engine Land suggests, to see everyone who is using your own images without permission. Copyright villains beware!

There are many other new features as well, but they’re a little more niche. For example, you can see which Pinterest users pinned the image, in case you want to follow them on your own Pinterest account.

Perhaps the most innovative new feature is the one Bing says is still under testing: the search results show you where you can purchase an image, if they’ve found a source for it. Not bad, Bing, not bad.

A New and Better Direction

The new features are cool, but what’s more interesting to me is the direction Bing has chosen. The current trend with technology is simplicity: less options, less info, less user control. Everything is streamlined and minimized until it meets Apple-esque UI standards. In other words, dumbed down.

But the new image search does the opposite. It tries to provide you with more control, more intel and more options even if that means adding a little clutter to the screen. That’s a bold choice, because it risks alienating less internet-fluent users. Not everyone cares what size an image is, or even knows what “high res” means—but Bing is giving them the option to find out. Frankly, it’s a breath of fresh air.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that this move comes from Microsoft. Just as Apple is known for simplicity, MS has a long history of adding more menus and settings than you know what to do with. Hopefully Bing will never end up looking like an MS Word menu (seriously, Microsoft?) but instead find a happy medium. So far they’ve succeeded, and it looks like the new search is aimed at power users.

Of course, not every user cares about this stuff. But I’m guessing Bing will gain more users than it loses thanks to the update.