Another day, another case of Google and Microsoft trying to out do one another...
Today sees both companies make major announcements about their online services with Google attempting to revamp the way news stories are displayed and Microsoft bringing some visual flare to Bing.
Starting with the former, and Google has unveiled ‘Fast Flip' - a new graphical interface which aims to make ‘flicking' through news stories faster and more intuitive. It works by displaying stories in a more traditional magazine-style layout where they can be turned (or in the case of the iPhone version: swiped) through as if turning a page. The pages are pre-cached so loading times are virtually eliminated and users can navigate directly to a story's actual location if they wish via a link on each page.
Google combines this new approach with smart aggregation of content which learns over time the publications and types of story you read so, in effect, creating your own individual web magazine made up of the content that interests you. Three dozen "top publishers" have initially signed onto the idea including the likes of the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Salon, Fast Company, ProPublica and Newsweek. Will it work? I'm not entirely convinced, but I suspect we'll soon see.
As for Microsoft, it is updating Bing with a new beta feature that enables ‘visual searching' - or in a nutshell: letting users browse information using pictures instead of text. It's "like searching through a large online catalogue" said the software giant.
The idea isn't entirely unlike Fast Flip, in that it aims to make browsing content faster and more instinctive. Microsoft claims its early tests reveal visual results can be processed by people 20 per cent faster than text, though whether just looking at pictures means users are less thorough is another argument entirely.
Both Google Fast Flip and Bing Visual Search are available to try in beta form now.