When you search for a software download on most search engines the official site of the program may be listed as the first result there. Sometimes, that is not the case and this happens often for lesser known applications.
Instead, you may see download portals listed there with the developer site nowhere in sight. That's a problem, not only because many download sites have started to use download wrappers to earn money at the expense of their visitors, but also because malicious sites may exploit this to distribute malware.
While that is happening in the organic results, that is the part that is not advertisement-based, it is even a bigger problem if search engines displays ads on the page, often at the top of the results, that exploit this as well.
Experienced users may not have problems identifying legitimate sites from illegitimate or questionable ones, but people who are not well versed when it comes to the Internet may fall pray to these practices over and over again.
Microsoft attempts to change that by improving software search result pages on Bing. While that leaves still something to desire, it improves the the user experience significantly.
When you search for a program now, you may get a sidebar entry that provides you with information about it. Among the information, most taken from download portals such as Cnet or Softonic, is a link to the official website of the software.
You may find additional information here but since they are curated by software portals, I would not trust them necessarily to be accurate.
The important bit is that Bing highlights the official link that users can follow to visit the site and download the program.
That does not mean that there is no risk involved in this regard, considering that official sites may very well offer adware installers as well, but it means that one step of the process is more secure than before.
Not there yet
While the highlighting of the official website of a software project is a step in the right direction, it is still flawed in several regards.
If you search for lesser known programs, URL Snooper from Donation Coder for instance, you won't find a link to the site in the sidebar. Instead, you only find a link to CNET.
In addition, the CNET link is placed before the official link in the organic results.
There is something else that Microsoft could add. If you search for a software developer, say Donation Coder or Nirsoft, sidebar entries are not displayed at all.
I'd expect that Bing would list the official site here as well and not only in the organic results. While the company does display entries for some, those with Wikipedia entries it seems, it should consider adding information about others as well.
With that said, it is clear that displaying the official download website is beneficial to the user and something that Google and other search engines do not offer at this point in time.
One could say that covering the major programs is enough to protect most users searching for software downloads. While there may be some truth to that, it is the lesser known programs that are often harder to find.
Still, it is a great feature that most Bing users will surely appreciate.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.