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Microsoft's Bing: Yes, It's Not Google

After a few days of constantly switching search engines in Web browsers between my usual option, Google, and Microsoft's new Bing, something funny happened: I started not noticing which site I was typing my query into, since they both seemed to do about as well.

That doesn't make for a rave review, but it does permit the qualified, give-this-a-try endorsement for Microsoft's effort you can read in today's column.

bing_logo.jpg

That, in turn, is a higher grade than I'd expected to give Bing when I started work on the piece. Microsoft has a bad history of blowing millions of dollars on high-profile product launches for new online services and Web sites -- anybody remember when the company littered the Web with MSN's butterfly icon? -- that the company then neglects.

(Memo to people still running Microsoft's MSN Explorer: Get your data out of that abandonware while you still can!)

I should note that when I tried to find the old Help File item linked to in the above paragraph by typing "pegoraro msn explorer," Bing had that piece as its third result, while on Google it didn't even make the first page of results. That's the kind of performance that led me to think Microsoft may be on to something with its new site.

It didn't hurt that I've been turning to Microsoft's Live Search Cashback and Farecast sites -- now Bing's shopping and travel pages -- since last fall. Bing's simple, useful mobile site provided another argument in this site's favor.

Finally, I have one job-related reason to find Bing useful. Since I routinely copy links from search engines to share on this blog, in e-mail or in my Web chats, I appreciate how Bing doesn't follow Google's irritating practice of obfuscating search results' addresses for users logged into the site.

Yes, as the joke goes, there's a problem with Bing embodied in the letters of its name: "But It's Not Google." In particular, Bing does an awful job with news and blog searches; Microsoft doesn't even seem to want to compete with Google in that area. Bing also suffers by not being the default search engine in so many browsers (though you could say that's a fitting punishment for Microsoft's earlier antitrust offenses in the browser market).

But it's also fair to stipulate that one of Bing's stronger virtues is the fact that It's Not Google. If you don't want to give that one company a lock on your Web activity, you're going to need alternatives -- and Microsoft has more resources to throw into this effort than Yahoo, AOL, Ask.com or Google's other rivals.

For other perspectives on Bing, see these reviews elsewhere:

* The Wall Street Journal's Katherine Boehret complimented Microsoft's effort (and even uses "Bing" as a verb, something I'm not ready to do myself).

* In the Boston Globe, tech columnist Hiawatha Bray writes that while Bing isn't "sufficiently serious to catch up with Google," it's "good enough to make the Google-Microsoft contest truly interesting."

* At Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan evaluates Bing's search features and Greg Sterling compares the results Bing and Google serve up in response to the same set of queries; both say Bing is no "Google killer" but more competitive than Microsoft's older Live Search.

Have you spent any time with Bing? If so, how do you rank it compared to the other search sites you've used? Share your own report in the comments...

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 5, 2009; 11:18 AM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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Comments

The other day I was at a conference and Googled for "aitchison compositional data analysis". I wasn't too impressed with the results. So after reading your blog today I tried it in Bing, and got much better results. YMMV. I'm a big fan of Google (the company) and their outstanding products.

I too like the Bing mobile interface on my Palm Centro.

Posted by: jaepstein63 | June 5, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Really!!

What about Google's Advanced Find which lets the uder tailor the search expression, include specic words, exclude specific words, and, maybe best of all, limt the domain.?

Posted by: mitrich | June 5, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I wanted to try the search engine but it seems it is blocked from Army computers. Must be part of the Microsoft blockade.

Posted by: decINWarrenton | June 5, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

i agree with you Rob. Been using it as my main search with a tab for iGoogle behind it in Chrome. I find it to be fast and returning the same stuff as google. I like the layout, the video searches as well as pic search results. The picture of the day, so to speak, I can do with out, but I learned some things about Denali the other day that I didn't know.

Posted by: bbirdy202 | June 5, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Been using it in my office and I've been saying more "bingos" like never before. It's not yet blocked by Finjian or the firewall. I love the videos. ;)

Posted by: hangkok_2000 | June 6, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Been using Bing for a while now. I like it. The other day (being fans of the old Andy Griffith show) we wanted to find who the actor was that played Howard Sprague. On bing typing "andy griffith howard" gave me a list of things about andy griffith and Ron Howard. Ditto with Google. But Bing also had a nice helpful link on the left called "Andy Griffith show cast" which I clicked on and bingo I got the actor who played Howard Sprague. No way to do that with Google.

Your mileage may vary.

Posted by: evalsinca1 | June 6, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

@decINWarrenton - That might be because of the adult content that everyone has been talking about being found on Bing.

Posted by: ed2020 | June 6, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

@evalsinca1, I guess mileage does vary. I also entered "andy griffith howard" into Google and the answer to your question is in the first link. When I entered the same search in Bing, the same first link also appeared. So, in this particular search, both search engines gave equal results. The "helpful link" which appeared for you did not appear for me. Maybe it's random? By the way, those "helpful links" you mentioned DO appear at the bottom of page one for Google. You can also make them appear at the top (in larger numbers) by clicking Show Options at the top. On a side note, if you have used the Internet for more than a year, you'd know that to find the cast of any show, you're better off using imdb. I usually type the name of the show and including imdb. (or site:imdb.com if you are anal)... then click on the imdb link for that show, then the whole case and actors appears.

The thing that keeps me returning to Google is the fact that I can remove links from search results... promote links to the top... and add comments. Over time, this has made my search results a whole lot more relevant.

Also, Google lets me limit search results to recent results, past 24 hours, past week, or past year. I can view results on a timeline, and usually have a handy link to the definition of a word that, so far, I am not finding on Bing.

Inasmuch as Bing isn't nearly as useful to me as Google, Microsoft sure has some a long way from MSN Search. I think in some aspects they took a few steps backwards from Live Search, and I'm beginning to notice that they are slowly promoting more of their own stuff in their search engine, but it is still a decent start for being Microsoft and search. I applaud this attempt.

The commercials are a bit annoying, though. The commercials make it sound as if they have created something innovative and different from all of the other search engines out there. Sure, I could stick a unique antenna ball on my car's antenna and say that my car is the most unique one out there... but it doesn't exactly make it innovative or significant. Oh well, I guess that IS what marketing is all about. Polish a turd, then sell it.

Posted by: BIGELLOW | June 6, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

"...Google's irritating practice of obfuscating search results' addresses for users logged into the site..."

Have you tried this recently, Rob? The linked article is a year old. When I repeat his search for "RFC 1738", the result links are not obfuscated but go directly to the desired web site. (I tried both Safari 3 and Firefox 3 on Mac OS X; and yes, I was logged into my Google account.)

The URL for the search results page does contain other information besides the query string -- but if I want to send somebody a Google query and not the actual result link, I use http://letmegooglethatforyou.com (for the added entertainment value).

Posted by: RussellFinn | June 6, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

One concern I heard is that with the way BING displays videos, one could search for porn and watch the video without actually goig to the porn page.
This is a problem with schools that have filters and proxy servers.

Posted by: edlharris | June 6, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Looked at bing and impressed.

Need to knock google out as over rated and not a great search engine. Usual story of most used simply deadens innovation.

Instead of single search engine need the ability to choose. Scirus is probably the best search engine for scientific searches.

The best solution would be a selector next to the search text that would allow you to select the search engine for the search engine

Posted by: bsallamack | June 6, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Been on Bing as main search for five days over no. 1, and all good.
Video seaach is fab.

Glad to see an alt. to no. 1

Will stick with Bing for now, and hope they improve and keep up with no. 1.

Posted by: JuicyJuice | June 6, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Search is a very tricky business. We adapt to the Search Engine than it adapts to us (and the godawful privacy issues, involved for personalizing search like collecting data and search history and links clicked etc.) For a curious mind having two effective search engines is a must. How many times have to tweaked you query to make the search engine display any resourceful info. I can recollect in more than one occasion the imperfect search engines like. Yahoo and Live have delivered the result when Mr.Perfect Search Engine google did not. That is not to say Google is subpar or does not deserve their #1 position. The Search Engines are far from desirable and have long way to go, and when there is a great need for innovation having a search monopoly would not deliver the "promised land". So I have defaulted to Bing to ensure there is a strong #2, who would be the lever of competition and innovation. Bing is my primary but not the only search engine, I will use the services of Google and Yahoo and Ask when needed. For now I am impressed by Bing and there is little gap between the results Bing vis-a-vis Google

Posted by: srikanth_ | June 6, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

I just navigated to m.bing.com from Opera Mini running on my Blackberry Curve 8330. The page was in German. I'm in Chicago. Must be birth pains. -bwg

Posted by: -bwg | June 7, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

No surprise here. Again, ms copies, slightly alters, skews the facts, and takes full credit as if they are the originators. Go to their name-pirated search engine and type "bing unix" without the quotes and then do the same in Google - results in favor of ms in their program. For those "non geeks" in userland, bing is a unix program written 1995 by Pierre Beyssac and then ported to windows. Bing is written to "compute point to point throughput using two sizes of ICMP ECHO_REQUEST packets to pairs of remonte hosts". So who is a pirate here?

Posted by: the_piano_man | June 8, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

As someone who has little faith in Microsoft, I was surprised that bing works so well, I was expecting it to "bong" like most of ms's products. Yes I am a Vista victim!

Posted by: johnvincent | June 8, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, as ever, for all the comments... and now, to answer some questions raised above:

RussellFinn: That story's old but the problem hasn't changed. Try signing into Google and then right-clicking a search result to copy its link (as I did many times while writing the piece) and you'll see what I mean.

edlharris: I must confess that I did not test that particular use. But if you're so desperate for clips of people getting it on that you're willing to watch little thumbnail preview clips--yeesh, get a computer at home. Or try dating...

srikanth_: Thanks, that was one of the points I wanted to make in the piece.

- RP

Posted by: robpegoraro | June 8, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Rob, you're quite right about the difference you mentioned between the way Firefox deals with a right-click and «Copy Link Location» on a Google search title and a Bing ditto, respectively. I've never noticed this before, as when copying a link from a list I've always hilighted with my mouse and right-clicked to copy. There the two browsers are entirely equivalent. Otherwise, my impression is that Google offers more alternatives and better suits my needs (not so much shopping), but that for the most part they are near equivalents (running Firefox with Adblock Plus enabled, I don't see any ads, so I can't tell if these are more annoying on the one than on the other). From a user's point of view, I do findk it positive that Google is getting challenged on search - this will most likely stimulate the firm to further improve their search engine. One disadvantage with Bing compared with Google that should be pointed out here lies in their respective privacy policies - while Google retains user information for nine months (far too long, in my opinion), Bing retains it for 18 months, which is simply absurd. I hope that enough stink about this policy will be raised so that Microsoft is forced to change it....

Henri

Posted by: mhenriday | June 9, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

BING Has real Problems.. Microsoft made a quick entry with Bing ..Bing should have beeen dont some HOME WORK , its Beta version is launched with lesser time.. with so many issues.... whn BING is fingting with Google and Competeing with a Gaint in search and Video Successor .. how can Bing show dependency with Youtube player which streams in from Bing.. bing is showing Dependency with you tube and refernce of gooogle... WE ( USers ) Expected a Better compitetor for google .. i bet Google Rules and will rule..microsoft needs to work a Bit .. many loop holes in Bing.. hoping Bing will rectify its issues

Posted by: mahesh_katta | June 12, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

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