"OK, don't laugh," an email we received from a Bing representative began. "I'm really e-mailing you about a toolbar, but it's actually pretty cool."
Yes, Bing has a new toolbar, or "Bing Bar" if you will. It includes things like Bing Search, Facebook, email, Bing Rewards, Maps, Games, etc.
"I know what you're thinking – another toolbar?" the rep tells WebProNews. "Bing took a fresh approach and redesigned it so the Bing Bar not only delivers a rich search experience, but also brings some of the most popular things people do on the web right to them in an app-like experience."
"For example, one key feature of the Bing Bar is the Facebook integration, which makes it easy for you to see what your friends and family are up to without ever having to leave the web page you're on," he added.
It also comes with alerts. "As we talked to 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," says the Bing Team. "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."
Rewards are only available for the U.S. "Finding the latest offers for Bing Rewards is easier than ever by simply clicking the Bing Rewards icon in the new Bing Bar," says Bing's Joshua Schnoll. "With Bing Rewards you have the opportunity to earn credits redeemable for great rewards just by taking advantage of offers while searching, discovering, and exploring on Bing right from the new Bing Bar. Learn about Bing features and ways to find information more quickly while earning credits for rewards like gift cards for Starbucks and Amazon, Microsoft Points for Xbox Live and more. We’ll also alert you when new offers are available through alerts in the Bing Bar. Sign up for free through the Bing Rewards icon in the Bing Bar and earn 250 credits to get you started towards your first reward."
Video: New Bing Bar Available Today
The announcement did not say anything about using Google search data as a Bing ranking signal. When asked about data collection, the rep told us:
There hasn't been a change, but the team did update the Bing Bar privacy info to be more clear. When a person uses the Bing Bar we collect information that helps us understand the configuration of the computer, how the Bing Bar is used, and search information where the default search service is Bing and the user conducts a search through the Bing Bar. If a user elects to participate in the Bing Bar Experience Improvement program, then we collect additional information including the websites that a user visits from the browser with the Bing Bar installed.
The Bing Bar requires Windows 7, Vista, or XP with Service Pack (SP) 3, and Internet Explorer 7 or later.