Pingin' Bing's Toolbar

I'm not a big fan of toolbars for browsers, but if you have a chance to try out the Bing Bar you'll see the difference in the uncluttered design and the way it ties into real-time information and social signals. The buttons on the bar are intuitive, and I particularly like the Maps button that shows local traffic conditions, as well as road and aerial views. Shortcuts give me easy access to the Bing search engine and email in my Gmail account.

While the Bing Bar allows me to access email in Gmail, it doesn't work with non-Microsoft browsers like Chrome or Firefox. It's only installable on Internet Explorer 7 or more recent upgrades. That's a big problem for me. It also doesn't offer co-sponsor space to sell advertising, which I view as a missed opportunity for Bing.

Aside from the local traffic and email access, the Bing Bar provides instant access to news and entertainment, weather, Facebook, searches on Bing, finance, movies, games and videos. It also provides access to Bing Rewards, which allows searchers to earn credits for searches on Bing. Microsoft uses data collected from the opt-in Bing Bar Experience Improvement program as one of more than 1,000 signals to determine ranking. While the Bing Bar doesn't have an impact when it comes to serving ads, I'm wondering if the company is missing an opportunity in opt-in ad targeting.

Bing collects information from the toolbar to help the search engine understand the configuration of the user's computer and how the Bing Bar is used, along with search-related data when Bing is the default search engine. It's a default, so those not wanting to share information must go into the Bing Bar Setting options under "Quality" to change it.

If someone elects to participate in the Bing Bar Experience Improvement program, the company collects additional information including the Web sites that a user visits from the browser with the Bing Bar installed. Those who elect to participate in Bing Rewards, then use Bing also collect information detailed in the Bing Rewards Terms of Use.

Download it here and let me know what you think.

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