RealTime IT News

Microsoft's Bing Now Has a Red-Light District

Bing and explicit content
Microsoft is aiming to weed out adult and pornographic images and video in its new Bing search engine by placing those results in a separate domain, explicit.bing.net -- a move that could help it address critics' concerns and simplify filtering.

The move is designed to make it easier for users to block explicit content, according to a blog post by Mike Nichols, Bing's general manager at Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) .

"This is invisible to the end customer, but allows for filtering of that content by domain which makes it much easier for customers at all levels to block this content," he said, adding that it would work regardless of what a user's SafeSearch setting might be.

Bing's SafeSearch tool is used to block potentially offensive or adult content, but depends on the user having it configured correctly. When in use, SafeSearch channels adult content through a separate domain that can be blocked at the server level, so Bing's explicit domain should help IT staff ensure that porn isn't showing up at the workplace.

"This makes it much easier for filtering software to block unwanted content if SafeSearch has been turned off," Nichols said in the post.

In addition, Nichols said Bing will begin returning source URL information in the query string for images and video content, so that companies who already use this method of filtering will be able to catch explicit content on Bing along with everything else they are already blocking for their customers.

Microsoft's enhancement comes following reports that Bing's Smart Motion preview feature -- which displays video clips when a user's mouse hovers over a video search result -- could be used to view pornographic video.

Smart Motion Previews actually predates Bing, and had been a feature of Live Search for more than a year. The preview clips displayed by Smart Motion Previews are typically less than a minute or so long, and they play automatically when a user hovers the mouse cursor over a screen image rather than redirecting users to a separate site with the content -- making them a potential source of concern for users looking to block explicit content.

Porn issues aside, Bing's big debut continues as Microsoft's revamped search engine gains share in both the number of searches its handled and the number of and paid clicks its raked in during its first week, according to search engine marketing firm Efficient Frontier.

Microsoft realized a 18.9 percent lift in shares of impressions for the week Bing officially launched, compared to the prior week, while paid click share increased 8.1 percent, according to Efficient Frontier data.

With Bing, Microsoft has chosen to concentrate on four areas where it feels it has specific expertise -- shopping, local, health and travel -- in addition to general search capabilities. Searches in those categories deliver extra detail from crawled sites.

Bing's promising early numbers come on the heels of other positive third-party reports. According to comScore, Bing in its first week increased Microsoft's search engine market penetration 1.7 percent, from 13.8 percent in a five-day period in May to 15.5 percent during the period of June 2 through 6. On June 4, Bing was the second-place search engine worldwide, according to net metrics tracking firm StatCounter.

Those are promising statistics for Microsoft, which is aiming to unseat Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) as No. 2 in search, where it currently lags a distant third, with industry-leader Google well out in front, with more than two-thirds of the market, according to April stats from comScore.