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Microsoft’s new Bing search engine – worth a look

bing-logoMicrosoft’s news about their new search engine Bing almost got lost in the overwhelming coverage of Google’s next greatest thing, Wave.

If you’ve read about these two new offerings, as I have, you’ve probably been mislead, as I’ve been. While Microsoft and Google are strong competitors in the “evil company” disputes, it’s clear that Google owns the hearts of the press.

I watched about 30 minutes of the Google demo of Wave. Very nice, some really great ideas, and appropriate for a relatively small group of people who talk very loud. That’s a preliminary assessment I’ll probably come to regret making because Wave is really a platform that will be used for others to develop applications – and those will make or break it. For now, it’s a great tool for collaboration – clearly better than what’s available today. But I’m sorry to say I’ve built four Wiki sites that nobody has used. Most people don’t want to collaborate, or don’t know how, or are just too lazy.

Now let’s talk about Bing (and I don’t mean Crosby). TechCrunch published a story saying it was live finally, so I went to try the new contender.

I did the usual searches – my name, some companies I’ve worked for, local cities. Results are nice, the interface is very clean, and I’ll probably still use Google just because. Inertia is hard to overcome.

Then I tried one of the searches Erick Schonfeld suggested in his article: “rollercoasters.” Got some nice pictures – but wait…

bing-menu-contextIf you look at the left side of the screen, you’ll see that Bing claims to know something about the images it’s found. You can filter the results by size, layout (wide or tall), color (B&W or color), style (photo or illustration), and people (faces, head and shoulders). Perhaps I’m stretching things a little, but isn’t this what the so-called semantic web promised? Well, whatever you call it, I like this feature. It’s not perfect, but it’s very smart, and unlike so much we see today, it’s not a solution looking for a problem. This is something I’ve wanted ever since I started writing this blog.

Bing brings another element of data knowledge that you might find useful. Try Schonfeld’s “sore throat” query, and you’ll see that the results are categorized: remedies, relief, definition, surgery (ugh) and more. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this in search engines, but it’s in the first product that could actually compete with Google.

Oh, while you’re looking at Bing, have a quick look at Kosmix, and check out their results for “sore throat.” It’s really lovely.

So, nice work Microsoft. Finally a serious competitor. And thanks for changing the name from Live Search. People may be crooning a new toon now that Bing is with us. (As Agent 99 used to say, sorry about that chief.)

Competition is good. Bing may re-light some of the passion in Google’s search. When you have as many users and as much success as Google has, it’s really hard to motivate (or allow) change. But Google is sure to answer with something richer than their current search, and we’ll all be better off.

In its early years, the software industry benefited from this kind of competition, but it’s long been dead. Microsoft owns applications, and Google owns search. The result is glacial development timetables for both – and often callous disregard of the needs of the customers.

This was just a cursory look at Bing – go take a look for yourself. It’s clearly worth your time.

Posted in Reviews.


7 Responses

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  1. EJV says

    Bing
    Is
    Not
    Google

  2. Smoky says

    it seems like Microsoft should stick with one name for their search engine functionality so that it has a chance to turn into a recognizable brand

    • Walter Feigenson says

      Boy, you got that one right! That’s what branding is all about. Of course, if the old brand is weak, like Live Search, then it’s better to change it. Well, actually it is better if you do it right the first time. MS certainly has the resources, and while product naming and branding isn’t a science, it’s a little bit more than an art.

  3. Jason Wheeler says

    I checked out Bing.com and am not too impressed. It will take a monster to knock Google out of the game.

    • Walter Feigenson says

      Jason, thanks for the comments. I’ve been using Bing since it opened up to the public, and in general, I think it’s a viable alternative to Google – and in some areas, it’s clearly better. There’s been a lot of talk in the industry about Google taking this as serious competition. The technology is good, the muscle behind it is enormous, and for the entire world, the competition is good. We need more strong contenders – Microsoft’s dominance in its areas is unhealthy, and so is Google’s. If we see Google step up their efforts, which is apparently happening now, then everyone wins.

  4. Carmen Gomez says

    BING search engine is just as good as Google. In my own personal experience, Google does give more releveant search result than Bing but the difference is very small. **

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  1. Daily News About Reviews : A few links about Reviews - Monday, 01 June 2009 00:44 linked to this post on June 1, 2009

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