Microsoft has unveiled a host of new features on its Bing search platform.

"When we launched last June, one of the ways we helped customers get to better decisions was by providing a more visual, more intuitive, and more organised experience," says the company's Todd Schwarz, writing on the Microsoft blog. " This spring we will continue this evolution by making some changes to our user experience and providing new experiences throughout search.
"To start we wanted to focus on doing more to help users with the tasks they turn to search to help them with. Our research showed that 42% of sessions require refinements, searching sessions are getting longer, and we see that many of those refinements happen when trying to complete common tasks."For instance, Schwartz says the popular Quick Tabs in the Explore Pane has been given a facelift, with a lighter, cleaner presentation of results that highlight key actions.
"So over the next few months, we are going to test some new design concepts moving Quick Tabs functionality to the top of the page for one-click access to our most robust, visual, and organised pages. We think this approach is a better way for Bing to anticipate user intent and adapt both the page and the results to help make faster, more informed decisions."
The new-look Bing will also help users stay up to date on news and information.
"One of the most interesting information sources we see on the web today is realtime data," says Schwartz. "But search for these realtime signals using traditional search is challenging, so we have been doing work with a bunch of partners like Twitter to bring that data into the search experience.
"Last October, we shared our experience, and this week, we will test new experiences for realtime results."
Another area in search that has been growing quickly is the ability to get better local information by visualising information on maps, he adds.
"We’ve been doing a bunch of work here to bring interesting experiences to customers on top of the mapping canvas with a relatively new feature called Map Apps. Map Apps enables Bing to bring relevant data from partners to this spatial search platform. Today we previewed a cool new map application, which brings real time data from foursquare into our Silverlight maps experience to give customers a real time sense of what’s going on as they plan activities in their own neighborhoods or while on the road."
The foursquare map app is a powerful combination of the spatial canvas that Bing Maps provides, combined with foursquare’s user reputation service ability to see who has unlocked specific badges, where and who has been crowned mayor of certain locations making it easier to explore any city in the world as if you were a local.