Whether it ends up being akin to Custer’s last stand or not, Microsoft has just announced Bing, as it desperately tries to find a way to take market share away from Google.
Whether you love the new name or not–personally, I think it’s a huge improvement on Windows Live Search–you owe it to yourself to go and try Microsoft’s revamped search offering when it launches on June 3. And by “try” I don’t mean enter one search query and make up your mind, I mean give it a solid week or two. You might just find that Bing pleasantly surprises.
At least, it surprised me. I’ve been playing with Bing for a couple of weeks now and I’ve been looking forward to today’s announcement. I’m not sure if Bing is good enough to break my Google habit, but there’s a lot under the hood to make me seriously consider switching from the all powerful, all knowing, Google.
It’s best to think of Bing not as a search engine, but a decision engine–which is exactly how Microsoft is pitching it. While it may seem like a term you create, so as not to appear you’re going head-to-head with Google, I think decision engine is a great way of describing Bing. Microsoft wanted to build a user interface that helped the estimated 42% of us that are constantly unsatisfied with our initial search results, and I think it has achieved that in Bing.
“Today, search engines do a decent job of helping people navigate the Web and find information, but they don’t do a very good job of enabling people to use the information they find,” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO in a statement about the launch. “When we set out to build Bing, we grounded ourselves in a deep understanding of how people really want to use the Web. Bing is an important first step forward in our long-term effort to deliver innovations in search that enable people to find information quickly and use the information they’ve found to accomplish tasks and make smart decisions.”
Now, before I show you some of the cool new features, let’s acknowledge that Bing clearly draws from the advances made by search engines before it–Ask.com arguably made the first move in changing the “first ten links” approach to search results. That said, I think Bing brings its own personality to the table.
OK, so let’s look at a few of the new features. For fun, I’ll start off with a comparison with Google.
So, despite by Carolina Hurricanes losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins, I’m still interested in the Stanley Cup finals. So, let’s start there.
Pretty good. We have news, relevant results, and some YouTube videos.
Better than Google? Let’s see, I have recent scores, relevant results, and you’ll see to the left (and bottom) of the screen that Bing has some neat refining options.
OK, so perhaps you could argue that Bing is just using a different UI, not necessarily better. OK, let’s take a look and some other cool features in our search result, shall we?
While the snippets used by Google and Bing are helpful, what if I could get further information about a web page, without actually leaving my search results? Well, simply move your mouse over each search result and Bing will provide an expanded snippet–even drawing meta data, if available.
What if you’re more of an audio-visual kind of person? Click the “Videos” tab and you’ll not only get video results, but you can mouse over each thumbnail and it plays right there and then!
How about static images? OK, so when you click on “images” you expect to see images of, well, the Stanley Cup. But what if I want to see images of players celebrating with the greatest prize in hockey? Well, Bing will help me find similar images:
Et voila, I can browse similar images until my heart is content.
Not a hockey fan? Here are a few other neat things that come standard with Bing.
Shopping search is built in–complete with user reviews and scoring.
What about travel? Tell Bing your departure airport and destination, and it will help you find the best price and predict if that price is on the rise or fall.
There’s a lot to like about Bing and really only one thing not to like–it’s owned by Microsoft. Not that it means it should be dismissed, but I know a lot of us will likely not touch anything created by Microsoft. That would be a real shame, because Bing is the best advance in search technology in the past few years. Sure, it’s far from perfect, but it’s equally far from its Live Search predecessor.
I plan on giving Bing a fair shot at replacing Google as my default search engine. It’s got about a 20% chance of succeeding, but that’s a big improvement over Live Search’s “when hell freezes over” chance.