New Britannica Partnership Lands Bing Its Very Own ‘Knowledge Graph’-Like Feature

Posted by · June 7, 2012 3:42 pm

Bing Britannica featureSure we talk about its parent company often enough, but Bing never seems to get much attention. However, a new announcement from the Google competitor might serve to reverse that trend. In a Wednesday blog post, Bing announced, “Starting today, we’re excited to announce a partnership with Encyclopedia Britannica to include Britannica Online answers directly in the Bing results page.”

The purpose of the new partnership, says Bing, is to be able to deliver “relevant information in a more organized way,” enabling users to find useful information more quickly.

Known as “Britannica Online Encyclopedia Answers,” the Bing feature enhances a search by including a “quick overview” of the search topic, a thumbnail image, and “useful facts and figures” that are meant to help users verify that they’re using trusted content. The search site has invited users to try the new feature and provide feedback.

One respondent called the new feature “very cool” and went on to describe it as a good counterbalance to Wikipedia, particularly for those who are skeptical of the online encyclopedia’s authenticity in certain areas.

Bing’s Britannica Feature v. Google Knowledge Graph

Contrasting the new feature with Google’s Knowledge Graph, Search Engine Land’s Matt McGee says the majority of Britannica Online Encyclopedia Answers (let’s call it BOEA from here on out) features are quite original—except for its rather standardized look. That is, Bing isn’t simply trying to play catch-up with Google, but instead seems eager to prove itself as a source of more reliable, higher quality search results.

Unlike Google Knowledge Graph, which typically links users to further Google searches, invokes its self-appointed status as a “decision engine” by using the new feature to link users directly to third-party sites—including Wikipedia, Britannica, Qwiki, and Freebase—so that they can get more information on what they’re searching for.

Along these lines, McGee outlines a few more differences that set BOEA apart from Knowledge Graph:

  • Bing is currently showing these Britannica-powered listings far less often that Google shows Knowledge Graph boxes.
  • Bing seems to show Britannica information only if a Britannica URL appears as one of the organic search results.
  • Bing’s display happens right with the organic search result, while Google shows Knowledge Graph boxes to the right of the organic search results.

Keeping in mind the possibility that this could change anytime, Bing appears to be using its Britannica partnership not only to help searchers find reliable results more efficiently and without giving itself or Britannica preferential treatment or more noticeable real estate on a search results page.

By taking a more organic approach to its implementation of BOEA, Bing appears to be learning from the public and legal scrutiny that the far more powerful Google encountered for its “Ads are just answers” search methodology. Britannica results are not highlighted or given preferential positioning. In fact, as McGee points out, “Other online encyclopedia sites, like Wikipedia and the New World Encyclopedia also showed up in the search results, often above Britannica.”

Again, this by no means proves that it will stay this way forever, but it does demonstrate a initially concerted effort by Bing to keep the new feature consistent with its existing search algorithm. And in so doing, whether intentionally or not, Bing has positioned itself not only as a more destination-oriented search engine, but an impartial one at that.

Unfortunately, in a market where the influence of brand ubiquity all too often outweighs that of quality and ethics, the likelihood of Bing reaping noticeable gains for remaining above the fray is probably a different question altogether.