search engine

My Decision on Bing.com

I was with everyone else when the announcement of Bing.com was made. “A conversation engine? What the hell is that!?!”

Well of course, kids, that’s marketing. Microsoft couldn’t beat Google at search, so they just changed “search” to “decision.” So now they own the “Decision Engine market” because Google never thought of that particular euphemism. It’s not unlike when Starbuck’s started serving “Frappuccinos.” Ice blended drinks had been around for years, but since no one thought to call them, “Frappuccinos,” Starbucks became the winners in the Frappuccino¬†business.

But so what? Bing’s been out a little while now, and I’ve had a chance to tool around with it. And I am happy to announce, Microsoft has effectively become Ask.com. The layout and sidebar features offer the same content, and the results are of the same quality. If Ask is paying attention, they really might want to consider whether or not they’ve been in the decision engine market all these years.

Their media searches are much better than they have been, but this is more a sign that Microsoft has learned to catch up. It has videos from the major sites (Youtube, Vimeo, Viddler, Metacafe) as well as the media outlets and their own video. (Fox, NBC, USA Today.) The results are far less anemic than I remember MSN or “Live” results being. Welcome to the party, Bing.

Ditto for the image searches – a lot of content, not a lot of deciding. Is that unfair? Perhaps – but Microsoft made this label up, so they should have to answer for it. If I do an image search for, “pizza,” how exactly is this different than if I do an image search on Yahoo?

The web search results (I have to stop calling them “decision results” – it’s silly) are roughly the same quality as Google. The layout incorporates that “Universal Search” philosophy that has taken two years to become an overnight success. But those maps and images and accompanying information appear at the bottom of the page instead of the top. IMHO, It’s a rather lame way to differentiate themselves from their search brothers.

I also find it rather disappointing that Bing didn’t incorporate one of Google’s better features, offering the correct spelling of a word if you search using the wrong spelling. You see, I had no idea how to spell “Frappuccino” when I kept referencing them. While Bing didn’t clue me in to my error, Google did. It’s an easy feature that should have been included, especially since so many of us need copy editors in our daily lives.

Given the marketing budget behind Bing, here’s what I think will happen: They will continue to grab up more and more market share in search, just as they did with Live, just as Ask did two years ago. But eventually people will stay with Google, because they’ve been using it so long. They definitely have a better product then they had before, but the majority of users still don’t search things – they “Google” them. (Google’s own hand in redefining the market shows itself in this.)

So who will benefit the most from this? For now, my Dad – he got a Hotmail account sometime during the Hoover administration, and as a dedicated Luddite has no intention of switching to anything else. This means every search he does is on a Microsoft product. He is typical of his age group, so boomers will continue to be the base for MSN/Live/Bing, while the rest of us use Google, our Moms use Yahoo!, and Twitter Search will be the choice for the truly smart ass among us.

Microsoft’s one shot at getting a leg up will be to promote themselves as the search engine for pre-teens and teens. In ten years they will be in that target demo that Google has now, and those of us who are the current target… won’t. Microsoft definitely has the money to keep their advertising juggernaut running forever if need be. If they can manage no to re-brand themselves yet again, and do real work appealing to their future adult customers, then I think it will have a shot.

Breaking news! Yet another Google killer again for the hudredth time!

It seems every two years Microsoft announces some new development designed to compete with Google. First it was MSN. Then it was Live. (Yeah, that was a great idea.) Now it’s Kumo – due to release next week, and just as likely to change absolutely nothing.

Perhaps Microsoft is just so used to releasing ineffective “Google Killers” it no longer cares that each attempt gains them little ground over the long term. Their paid search is starting to do better for some markets, but overall they still get killed by Google and Yahoo!.¬†

Why? Well, Google has better search and Yahoo! has better everything else. The reason anyone still searches with Yahoo! is because they’re already using Yahoo!s other products – Answers, Mail, Yahoo! Radio, etc. What does Microsoft really bring? A lot of Hotmail users, who by and large are older users who were engineers in the 90s and are now retired. Hotmail was one of the first web-based e-mail clients, so those who stuck with it are an older demographic. They’ll search using MSN (sorry – Live) because that’s where they are anyway. Or, they are still using Internet Explorer because that’s what they’re machine came with, and their search engine is the default choice, and digging through all those options is far too much of an ass pain to bother with.

So Microsoft search is a hands down winner among the ludites and the lazy.

If they want to gain more ground in the search market, they simply need to provide better results. There will be a lot of talk about the results of Kumo in the coming days, but I discount this out of hand because frankly, if they knew how to give better results they would have just implemented it on their current platform and started bragging about that. Re-branding is way of changing people’s people’s perceptions without having to offer anything terribly new. If Microsoft is serious about competing in search, they need to cut it out with all the marketing about their latest new product yet again, and actually produce search results that give people what they need.

Ask did the same thing by bragging about their “algorithm” in 2007 – and it didn’t help them any more than it will help Microsoft.