Bing Explains Why Adaptive Search Improves User Experience

Stefan Weitz: It determines who searchers are and what they like

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Last week, Bing unveiled a new feature in its continued effort to improve the search experience. The feature is called “Adaptive Search” and is designed to make search results more personally relevant to users.

Have you tried Bing’s Adaptive Search? Let us know.

As Stefan Weitz, a director with Bing, explained to us, the technology understands the intent and context of each query because it looks at the user’s search history. For example, if a user typically searches for films and entertainment pieces, when he searches for “Australia,” Bing understands that he is probably not searching for the country. As a result, it would rank the 2008 movie above general information on Australia on the results page.


Weitz told us that Bing is not approaching personalization as a feature of search. Instead, the search engine believes that it shouldn’t be an option since people expect search results to be targeted and personalized to their needs.

“You should just think about personalized search as search,” he said.

While Bing is trying to make results more personal, it also wants to make sure users aren’t locked into the recently controversial “filter bubble.” This concept is essentially the concern that personalization would only return results that a searcher is familiar with and agrees with, and therefore not provide any diversity.

Although Bing takes this concern seriously, Weitz told us that it believes Adaptive Search offers a well-balanced approach for users.

“You can have personalization and serendipity, which is what really the filter bubble is saying doesn’t exist because of the personalization,” he said.

He went to say that Jamie Teevan of Microsoft Research studied this area extensively and found that personalization could actually help serendipity in some cases. According to him, the personalization of Adaptive Search is one step toward developing a human-like connection that search engines need, but have not yet been able to do.

Speaking of other search engines, there have been some that have suggested that Bing’s new approach is similar to Google’s previous query feature. Although Weitz said he has not been able to look at it closely, he did say his understanding is that it is based more on back-to-back queries. For example, if a user searches for a digital camera and the very next query he or she searches for is for Amazon, it is his understanding that Google would return Amazon’s search results for digital cameras.

Based on this inference, he said that Adaptive Search is “much broader… more complex from a computer science standpoint, but more elegant from a user standpoint.”

It’s interesting that this Adaptive Search announcement comes just after Google releases its new travel search engine, which is also similar to Bing Travel. When asked about this coincidence, Weitz made a humorous reference to the incident earlier this year when Google accused Bing of stealing their results.

“I think they’re using the same algorithm to copy our features, I guess,” he said laughingly.

Putting the humor aside, Weitz did tell us that Bing was pleased with its recent gain in market share. According to him, Bing realizes that it’s a long-term game but will continue to illustrate its commitment through new features and innovation.

“We want people to expect more from search, and if they expect more from search… we think we can actually grow the overall pie of queries that are out there, and hopefully, because we are the first to market with a lot of these innovative features, we can attract more people to those features because they are only on Bing,” he said.

Bing Explains Why Adaptive Search Improves User Experience
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  • http://www.8womendream.com Catherine

    The problem with an algorithm trying to figure out what I am searching for is that even in this case scenario … I really could be looking for information on Australia.

    What has bugged me about search is that they have no way of allowing the users to inform the search companies if they have returned what you were looking for in search.

    I cannot tell you how many times a website shows up in search for a term, then you click on the link and go to the site and there is nothing about what you are looking for. There should be a simple voting method that allows search to see where problem websites are.

    Enough negative votes for a terms and the site is banned from that term. It could go a long way to cleaning up search results.

    I find nothing more annoying when Google tries to guess what I am looking for and delivers responses way off the mark.

    • http://www.deluxeprinters.co.uk deluxe printers

      The obvious problem with your suggestion is that it would be very open to abuse. Nothing stops your competitor from voting your site down even though your site is relevant.

  • http://xn--e-hs8cp4s.com 英会話マンツーマン

    this may work sometime but if someone searching for australia will most likely wanting to find info about the country but if it is the movie they want, they would add “movie” with it. so basing search results on past queries would really make it more difficult for users to find what they want. just give us the most relative results based on our keywords and not try to guess what users want because there’s no way any computer can do that.

  • http://www.TheOkayNetwork.com Steven

    If you ask the public outright they will tell you results from Bing are more relevant (with personalization turned off), and Google results are more cluttered and less relevant due to Google doesn’t let you remove personalization. If Google were to show me results pre panda, I would be happy as the results were actually more relevant overall than Bing was. The reason Bing’s market share is growing is simply due to more and more people hating Google’s search results. I think Google has lost their way and Bing doesn’t realize what they had and are truly just trying to follow in Google’s footsteps. Trying to guess isn’t as good as simply giving people good results for a query. This reminds me of the new Coke formula flop, but will Google be so arrogant as to not admit they were wrong and kill Panda and go back a step? If you want to give somebody personalization, why not give the user advanced controls and let them steer? If anything the data they get from learning how people personalize their own search to their own likings will be priceless.

  • http://visit-bandung.com Bandung Hotels

    I think Bing has done a good job in threatening Google.It’s like a punch back in the search field after Google’s trying to take office to the clouds (beating the hell out of MS) and decreasing the value of MSOffice, Microsoft’s cash cow.
    People are getting to like Bing, there eyes are tired of ‘clean doodling’ and need relief.
    I think Bing is a logical step for Microsoft, rather than Balmer doing stand-up comedian in YouTube while its Windows OS Mobile market getting eaten up by Apple and Android cause of simple ‘underestimation’.Corporate culture and employee engagement, don’t underestimate it, the indicator of success is if the employees tell good stuff about the company.

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