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.
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...
June 5, 2009; 11:18 AM ET
Categories: The Web
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