Gone are the days when search engines provided mostly textual information, a list of 10 blue links that invite you to find the answers on your own. Search engines are now focused on extracting useful information from web pages and surfacing data in interesting ways.
In June, Google launched Squared, a Labs project that generates lists of entities related to your query and finds values for the associated attributes. Search for [dog breeds] and you'll find a list of breeds, suggestive images, information about the average weight and the country of origin.
Bing, Microsoft's search engine, has just launched a similar feature: visual search. It's just an early demo and it requires Siverlight, but it looks more impressive than Google Squared. Probably because Microsoft built the interface around images and used the attributes to refine the results.
"Visual Search allows you to quickly scroll through the galleries or do a one-click refinement using the quick tabs on the left, which are specifically relevant to the type of results you are browsing through," mentions Bing's blog.
Bing's visual galleries are more polished than the results generated by Google Squared, but Bing only shows galleries for a small number of queries like "popular TV shows" or "world leaders" and the information is obtained from structured data sources.
It remains to be seen if Microsoft manages to extend the visual search engine and dynamically generate results for any query. For now, you can play with the demo galleries.