Microsoft’s announcement of Bing (www.bing.com) has certainly garnered some attention and excitement. There’s a lot of investment and focus on improving the core search experience for Internet users, and we do have a long way to go to make search results more personal, concise, predictive, and accessible. Bing is a big step in the right direction.
For our schools, I’m most excited about the efforts Microsoft is taking to make search a part of productivity applications and collaboration. Microsoft Research is working on several initiatives to make the way we find and use information via web searches a core part of the way students collaborate and learn. One example is SearchTogether, a free Internet Explorer plug-in (download here), that allows groups of people to collaborate on web searches. SearchTogether can benefit any group of people who are interested in investigating a topic together, such as students working on a group report or joint project, or friends planning a shared vacation or other social activities. SearchTogether supports both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration styles. SearchTogether's collaboration features include group query histories, split searching, page-level rating and commenting, automatically-generated shared summaries, peek-and-follow browsing, and integrated chat. SearchTogether also allows each group member to customize their search preferences; choices include Bing (formerly Windows Live Search), Yahoo!, and Google. More background information can be found here. Screen shot on the right.
Microsoft Research has also articulated the vision of the Research Desktop. This project integrates web search into the core of the computing experience with concepts and designs that enable new ways of working and managing resources. It provides support in four key areas: Activities, Tools, Library and Notes.
Other explorations like Microsoft Tafiti work to incorporate visualization elements into search while adding the ability to create visual search histories that can be shared and edited by project teams. Tafiti is rooted in the notion that students use a search engine for research…and we need to enhance the experience in the context of learning.
I am incredibly excited about the holistic thinking around the way students and teachers find, use, share, and collaborate with information. Bing is a one example, but there are many other innovations on the way.