Microsoft's Bing search service will pull more information and tools from other Web sites as the company tries to distinguish itself as part of its challenge to market leader Google.
Traditionally, search engines from Google Inc. and others respond to users' queries by offering links to other sites that Web surfers can go to for information.
Microsoft Corp., whose search engine ranks third behind those from Google and Yahoo Inc., introduced several changes Wednesday aimed at answering people's questions without sending them to an outside page.
Microsoft will show on the results page more information on travel options, events and attractions in destination cities, in-depth weather reports, product details and even hospital reviews, often culled from multiple sources, including some with which the company has forged deals.
The software maker also improved the preview window that pops up when a user rolls the mouse over a link. Instead of just a text description, a smaller, thumbnail image of the Web site appears.
Microsoft also announced a partnership with WolframAlpha, which bills itself as a "computational knowledge engine." Now, when people type in certain types of information, including math problems and searches for nutritional information, Bing will use WolframAlpha's data-crunching power to deliver answers at the top of the page, in addition to a list of regular search-results links.
The improvements will begin to appear on Bing in the next few days.
Bing's share of U.S. searches totaled 9.4 percent in September, a slight gain from the month before, according to comScore Inc. Yahoo captured about 19 percent of searches, and Google took about 65 percent. Stephan Weitz, a director in Microsoft's search division, said Bing is "on the right trajectory" and making "good progress."
But it's tough going, Weitz acknowledged, saying, "We really know we have to go win one query at a time."