Microsoft Releases Bing API - With No Usage Quotas

When Microsoft launched their much-touted new search engine Bing last week it generated a lots of press and despite a somewhat muted expectations, it turned-out to be something of a hit. But lost in all the broader buzz about Bing was some news for developers: Bing has an API. We've now added a new Bing API Profile with technical details.

Like the Bing service itself, the API is a re-branded and enhanced version of the Microsoft's Live Search API. Just days before the official Bing launch, the API was updated with many of the features of the new Bing service. That earlier announcement for Live Search 2.0 has the highlights:

  • Developers can now request data in JSON and XML formats. The SOAP interface that the Live Search API required has also been retained.
  • Requested data can be narrowed to one of the following source types: web, news, images, phonebook, spell-checker, related queries, and Encarta instant answer.
  • It is now possible to send requests in OpenSearch-compliant RSS format for web, news, image and phonebook queries.
  • Client applications will be able to combine any number of different data source types into a single request with a single query string.

The Bing API is part of a larger set of web application development services called "Project Silk Road." Microsoft's Bing Developer Center describes how Bing fits into the Silk Road project:

A key part of Project Silk Road is a re-architected Bing API that offers open, flexible options for building or enhancing your site or applications. Developing an application with the new API is straightforward: Choose a SourceType (or SourceTypes - you're not limited to one), choose an output protocol (JSON, SOAP, or XML) and then customize according to your needs. All you need to get going is an AppID.

More detailed information on features specific to the various data source types can be found at the MSDN website.

In a world where APIs are often limited in many ways, it's notable that in addition to these technical updates that Microsoft has removed the API usage quotas found in the Live Search API, with the requirement that it be used for "user-facing applications" only. Note that the terms of use have also been loosened to allow more flexible presentation options such as "no restrictions on ordering and blending search results".

To access the service, developers must create an AppID using an (anachronistically named) Windows Live ID login. US-based developers may also choose to participate in a pilot program to generate revenue from their search applications.

Given that Microsoft has often found themselves a distant third in search queries behind competitors Yahoo! and Google (Microsoft recently accounted for just over 8% of all search queries, compared to Google's 64%), the prospect of a better search engine could be good for search competition. And with the new Bing API there's also more opportunities for developers who opt to build on this new feature rich and standards-aware API.

Be sure to read the next Search article: Yahoo SearchMonkey Adds More Structured Data, NewsML, and Google Base