When Microsoft bought Seattle online travel startup Farecast for $115 million more than a year ago, some people in the technology industry wondered why. The reason is now clear, with Farecast's technology on full display in the software giant's new search engine, Bing.com.
The newly launched Bing Travel -- which combines Farecast's airfare-prediction and travel-search tools with MSN editorial content -- is a key chess piece in Microsoft's new effort to challenge Google in Internet search. It makes Microsoft a bigger player in the online travel market, which has long been dominated by another company with historic ties to the Redmond company: Bellevue-based Expedia.
It's also a high-profile example of Microsoft benefiting from technology developed in its backyard. Oren Etzioni, the University of Washington computer scientist who founded Farecast in 2003, is watching with pride. Etzioni said he's happy to see his idea end up with a bang, not a whimper, to paraphrase poet T.S. Eliot.
"In this case," Etzioni said. "it's a Bing -- but close enough."
Bing Travel, at bing.com/travel, offers a new starting point for people seeking to book flights, hotels and other travel items. Bing Travel's search results pages pull together information from various sites to display fight details, fares and other key information -- reducing the amount of time people need to spend on airline or online travel sites.
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