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AOL Developments And A New Microsoft Search Engine: What Year Is This?

Two names are dominating tech news today: AOL and Microsoft. But if it's 1999, why is there a hybrid car in my driveway and a flat-panel TV inside my house?

AOL has returned to the headlines because its owner, Time Warner, has now publicly acknowledged the inevitable by announcing that it will spin off the company. That will officially end what a lot of people in the tech business would consider the Worst. Merger. Ever.

But for AOL's users, the story isn't over yet. A newly-independent AOL might decide to sell off its dial-up business to a third party (and probably should while there's still some value left in it). Its portfolio of Web services (the real future of the company) is probably in store for some sort of post-spinoff reshuffling once management doesn't have to worry about what TW HQ might want. If you're an AOL customer, I'd like to hear your take on the news -- let me know what you think in the comments.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has done a late-'90s thing of its own: It's launching a new search engine. And it's doing so in classic dot-com-boom fashion by adopting a new moniker of no clear relevance: Bing. (What was so wrong with "Live Search"?)

Most people will only see a preview of Bing at that page, but Microsoft says it should be available to everybody by June 3. The company's press release outlines how the new site is supposed to do a better job of presenting the facts you're seeking instead of just coughing up a list of links, then provide better ways to sort and sift through those results.

In a phone briefing earlier this month, Microsoft senior vice president Yusuf Mehdi explained that the company wanted to help people with the more complex searches -- beyond "where is this site" -- that often involve a long bout of trial-and-error for users unversed in search-engine query syntax.

Bing will also fold in an updated version of Microsoft's Live Maps -- one of my favorite Web cartography tools -- plus the helpful Farecast travel-search engine that Microsoft bought last year. It will not, however, do much for Microsoft's news and blog searches.

I will be taking a look at Bing soon; in the meantime, if you can get into the site, please share your impressions. If you can't, you can at least share your impressions of the name.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  May 28, 2009; 1:21 PM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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Comments

I don't think the name is totally irrelevant. Think, "Bing! The elevator has arrived at my floor!"

Hmm, that does sound lame, now that I think about it. But at least I can see some relevancy.

Posted by: deduck | May 28, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

How's "google" or "yahoo" relevant to search? Yahoo! was the king of search just a few years ago and Google is the reigning king.

Posted by: tundey | May 28, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Microsoft is hoping people will associate "Bing" with "Bling!"

Posted by: edlharris | May 28, 2009 11:30 PM | Report abuse

Just read another article on this:
BING - But It's Not Google !!!

Posted by: rcmc1615 | May 28, 2009 11:52 PM | Report abuse

"Billy Four Eyes" and his crew are disrespecting The Bing. Look for trouble. Somebody could even get whacked.

Posted by: featheredge99 | May 29, 2009 2:25 AM | Report abuse

"Google" is totally relevant to search; it suggests the vastness of the web, and the idea that you'll get zillions of results, which is increasingly true. It doesn't get at the heart of what's great about google, which is the relevance of the results. But it's better than bing.

Posted by: ravcasleygera | May 29, 2009 7:30 AM | Report abuse

I have really given up on Microsoft doing anything of value.

The last straw was their free online backup service. With it you can store 25 GB. That's quite a lot for free and I would drop my Mozy service... Yet, in typical Microsuck fashion they limit it to 5 uploads at a time and a 50 MB file size limit. Now how the f#&* am I supposed to upload my MP3s and other files with those restrictions???

Yes, Microsuck can shove it.

Posted by: cenzozabo | May 29, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I googled "worst merger ever" and it returned

Did you mean: worst murder ever?

Posted by: jimward21 | May 29, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Microsoft's philosophy of piecemeal and incremental product improvement worked allright in the 1980's, but it does not fare well in the 21st century technologies.

The name of a product is always secondary to the product itself; but if a name symbolizes anything, the new name "Bing" has more negative connotations (than that of positive).

Let's see: Google (googol) offers an ambitious promise. Yahoo (yuppily and yippily) is cool. Well, Bing (bingo) sounds like retirement.

Why not name it Eurek (eureka!), or BangBang (big bang) for vastly successful and ultimately broad.

Posted by: mniu | May 29, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully some brilliant Microsoft marketing strategist (there must be at least ONE) will associate the name with the famous Monty Python sketch where John Cleese, as a surgeon, famously says, "Get the machine that goes 'bing!'" and Michael Palin's nearly equally famous response.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | May 29, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

You at WaPo ought to buy the AOL branch in DC and surrounding. Considering all the crap AOL slams onto people's computers the dial-up people would be glad if your only software tinker was to keep WaPo as their homepage, terms of agreement which I recommend. At $7.99 / mo you guys could use the revenue!

I have found Cuil a bit superior in finding general product reviews. A hair more truth and less advertising lies.

Posted by: Jumper1 | May 30, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Rob: In reference to Farecast (now called Bing Travel), which you mentioned, I think Bing takes a step forward in terms of the travel-search experience.

I detailed my reasons in my blog, the Dennis Schaal blog, which deals with trends in online travel at http://bit./slw2h

Google doesn't own a Farecast, as Microsoft does, and Yahoo's travel partner is Travelocity, a great online travel agency, but it's not focused on providing the same kind of depth in terms of some of the rich data services that Farecast provides.

I took Bing for a spin this morning and see some interesting innovations, but none that Google or Yahoo won't be able to emulate in a short period of time.

One of the most interesting features in Bing is a mouse-over (actually, a mouse-to-the right) function that enables users to see a summary of a search result without having to click on the link and navigate to a new page. This is a huge efficiency step, saving the user from having to constantly hit the back button in the browser if a search result doesn't hit the mark.

In contrast to Bing, Google Wave (I saw a demo of it tonight on YouTube), could be a real disrupter as a new communications tool.)

Is AOL still really using dial-ups?:)

Posted by: DennisSchaalBlog | May 31, 2009 2:06 AM | Report abuse

Rob: I apologize for the double post, but the link didn't work in the first one.

In reference to Farecast (now called Bing Travel), which you mentioned, I think Bing takes a step forward in terms of the travel-search experience.

I detailed my reasons in my blog, the Dennis Schaal blog, which deals with trends in online travel at
http://bit.ly/slw2h

Google doesn't own a Farecast, as Microsoft does, and Yahoo's travel partner is Travelocity, a great online travel agency, but it's not focused on providing the same kind of depth in terms of some of the rich data services that Farecast provides.

I took Bing for a spin this morning and see some interesting innovations, but none that Google or Yahoo won't be able to emulate in a short period of time.

One of the most interesting features in Bing is a mouse-over (actually, a mouse-to-the right) function that enables users to see a summary of a search result without having to click on the link and navigate to a new page. This is a huge efficiency step, saving the user from having to constantly hit the back button in the browser if a search result doesn't hit the mark.

In contrast to Bing, Google Wave (I saw a demo of it tonight on YouTube), could be a real disrupter as a new communications tool.)

Is AOL still really using dial-ups?:)

Posted by: DennisSchaalBlog | May 31, 2009 2:10 AM | Report abuse

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