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Bing UI Changes Harken Back to Google of Old

Before I go into any discussion here I will admit that I use Google for about 99.9% of the searches that I do. I can’t say it’s because Google has better results than any other search engine because I honestly don’t take the time to compare. Instead I am one of millions, or more likely billions, here on the planet that have developed a Google habit. Having quit smoking a long, long time ago I can tell you that Google might be a more powerful addiction.

So the new UI changes by Bing are of interest but it’s not like I can compare my past experience with the engine to the “new” look. Here’s what Bing has to say from its blog post of today.

Bing is getting a new look. Starting today you will notice a fresh, de-cluttered experience designed to help you find the results you want faster. Over the past few months, we’ve run dozens of experiments to determine how you read our pages to deliver the link you’re looking for.

The results themselves are cleaner. Removing the “left rail” and minimizing the header raises the level of consistency and predictability while making it easier to scan the page and quickly find the information you want. Increasing the space between lines improves readability and optimizes the page for touch devices. Putting all our result annotations and social data in one consistent spot makes the page easier to use and understand.

So how does it differ? Take a look at the old

Versus the new

Is it me or does the new Bing look a lot like the old Google? The claim by Bing is that the less clutter (like removing the left sidebar) gives a cleaner experience. I agree. As I look around at posts from TechCrunch and others however, there are plenty of comments asking what’s wrong with the sidebar in Google for instance, especially if what it offers enriches the search experience? Once again I have to agree.

In the end it’s the quality of the results that still matter. You can put a different package on anything and make it look nice on the outside but unless the inside is different there is really no change. Bing claims that there is more here than meets the eye.

The new experience is more than skin-deep. You will also notice faster page-load times and improved relevance under the hood. After all, our goal is to help people spend less time searching and more time doing. And changing how we look is the next big step in doing just that.

Is this going to make me a Bing user? No. Will it make the world take a look in larger numbers thus shifting market share? I doubt it. Why? Because this change will be most noticeable to those who are currently using Bing while those who don’t (we’re talking the masses here that can move market share, not just the tech geek community) will never know this change even happened.

I am not trying to be negative on Bing here. I have had discussions with Bing insiders and their biggest problem is breaking the habit I mentioned at the top of the post. That’s a tough nut to crack no matter who is backing you. They face the reality that people use Google because they use Google. It’s ubiquitous and requires little thought so they do it (guilty as charged). Not many other brands enjoy that kind of “loyalty” and Bing is fighting against this day in and day out.

I hope that this UI “upgrade” makes a difference and there is ultimately greater competition between Bing and Google. I would rather this get fought in the free market than the courts, which is where Microsoft has tried to sully Google’s image thus trying to break the “Google habit” through legislation. That’s a bad move. Getting better and getting more users based on merit is a good move. But will any changes help break the “Google habit” for the masses? I sincerely doubt it.

What do you think? Is this move something that could help Bing in its fight against Google or are they simply spitting in the wind at this point?