Microsoft has stepped up the pressure on Google with the introduction of a new feature called Visual Search, which it claims will allow users of its Bing search engine to form and refine search queries through images.
The company stressed that Visual Search will allow users to search by "using " pictures, as opposed to Google Images which simply lets users search "through " pictures.
"How many times have you seen a movie trailer and forgotten the name of it the next day? You go online to search for it but you can't seem to find the movie with 'what's-his-name' in it anywhere, but you can picture the actor in your head," said Bing product manager Todd Schwartz in a blog post.
Microsoft said that its own research had shown that consumers can process results with images 20 per cent faster than with text-only results.
"So it is clear that images play a big part in helping consumers with a variety of search activities," said Schwarz.
Microsoft announced the new feature yesterday at TechCrunch50, a Silicon Valley startup conference.
The company said that the visual element will be particularly useful for sets of results that are more structured. So Visual Search will initially concentrate on four main areas: travel, health, leisure and shopping.
Microsoft launched Bing in May and joined forces with Yahoo in July to try and rival Google. Under the terms of the deal, Bing will power Yahoo search, while Yahoo will use its solid relationship with advertisers to become the "sales force" for both companies' search advertisers.
Market research firm ComScore reported in late August that Microsoft had gained some US search market share at the expense of Google.
Around 13.6 billion searches were conducted in the US last month. Google sites accounted for 64.7 per cent, a loss of 0.3 per cent hold on the market since June. Microsoft gained 0.5 per cent to give it 8.9 per cent of US search queries.
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