Two days ago, Microsoft‘s search engine Bing announced on their blog that they have natural language flight search, meaning you can type queries like “San Francisco to New York” and get results directly.
The difference, Adioso says, is that you can indeed type “New York to San Francisco”, but when you do, this only leads you to another form, where they pre-select flights, instead of directly to results. This is “prepopulated search”, they say, not natural search.
We’ve tried it out, and it seems Adioso is right. We typed “New York to San Francisco tomorrow” in their search box and got results right away. We tried to do a natural search on Bing and gave up in frustration.
This is interesting for a couple of reasons.
First of all, vertical search in areas like shopping and travel is a big part of Microsoft’s strategy to overtake Google. Google owns general search, but often lags in these more specialised areas, which have been taken over by standalone startups like Indeed for jobs or Kayak for flights.
Second of all, flight search is a big industry, as Kayak‘s impending IPO shows. But while Kayak was a huge improvement when it came out in 2004, now the site looks cluttered and dated to us. Travel is a huge sector online with plenty of money, and a site that has a great user experience and minimizes the amount of work and clicks you have to do to book a flight can definitely strike gold.
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