Bing Reference is the Semantic Web in Action

Thanks to Microsoft’s acquisition of semantic search startup Powerset last year, the new “decision engine” Bing has access to semantically indexed Wikipedia content which is used to deliver special types of search results for faster answers. A recent post on the Bing community blogs delved into these semantic features in a bit more detail to explain how they're used

When you’re searching for something which has a Wikipedia entry, for example, you’ll notice a “one box” result for Wikipedia at the top of your search results page. The result provides a snippet of text from the Wikipedia article along with links to the article subsections, too. However, clicking the link “Enhanced View” actually takes you to a special kind of search result right within Bing.com – the Bing Reference result. Here’s an example of a search for “Albert Einstein:

bing_reference_onebox

When you click the “Enhanced View” link, you’ll end up on another Bing.com page which is actually just the Wikipedia page framed within Bing.com. You’ll still have Bing’s search box at the top of the page and the “Explore” sidebar to the left. However, the sidebar here may link to other verticals (like image search, for example) but also to related queries. To see an example of related queries, check out the Bing Reference page for “Facebook.” In the Explore sidebar there are links to applications, services, developer platform, proxy, and history. Click on any of those links to be immediately taken to a new set of search results for that term. 

So why are these Bing Reference pages better than simply hitting up the Wikipedia article itself? Well, for one thing, related searches as described above are only a click away. Or if you need to move on to a specific vertical like “news” or “videos” those links are not just up at the top of the page, but they’re pinned above the article itself:

verticals_in_bing_reference

Plus, the page displays the Wikipedia “Article Outline” in a box to the right of the content which stays with you even as you scroll up and down the page. That’s really handy! And it has a “top” button attached to it that moves you back up to the very top of the page whenever you’re done reading – quite helpful for when you’re navigating around a long article:

article_outline_bing_reference

To search within the Bing Reference vertical directly, you must start your search from within one of these “enhanced” Wikipedia pages. But when you do, you’ll have another powerful feature at your disposal: highlighting. For example, look at this query for “who acquired Texaco” to see the highlighting turned on. Thanks to Powerset technology’s ability to understand natural language, Bing also knows that’s a much different query than say “who did Texaco acquire” even though other search engines would not.

I still wish there was a link to go to Bing Reference directly, like say Bing.com/reference, (hint, hint!), but overall, these features make for a much better way to research topics than doing a typical web search. Next time you need to quickly “look something up,” try Bing.com instead and see what you think. Or better yet, set Bing as your default search engine so you don’t even have to remember to make the switch.

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