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Summary:

Microsoft is hoping its new search engine, now questionably branded “Bing,” can grab eyeballs from Google and Yahoo — and is spending $80 million to $100 million on an extensive marketing campaign to make that happen. Its goal: To convince searchers that the “decision engine” in […]

bingMicrosoft is hoping its new search engine, now questionably branded “Bing,” can grab eyeballs from Google and Yahoo — and is spending $80 million to $100 million on an extensive marketing campaign to make that happen. Its goal: To convince searchers that the “decision engine” in Bing will help them find information better than regular old “search engines.”

But Bing doesn’t fundamentally change the way search works. The service tries its best to help users find information they’re searching for with fewer clicks — and does this quite well for many queries. Searching for “Red Sox” brings up scores from the last few games, the team’s record, and various other statistics. Search for “weather” and Bing does a reverse-IP lookup to figure out where you are and return weather results for that locale. Same thing if you search for “Chinese food.” The travel section of Bing is cool, letting you search for flights within the search engine, incorporating price prediction data from Microsoft’s purchase of Farecast last year, before sending you on to Orbitz or Travelocity to purchase your flight. Bing is a nice revamp of a B-List search product, but lots of small improvements don’t make it revolutionary enough to knock Google off its perch — and neither will an ad campaign.

In an interview with AdAge, a Microsoft exec said:

Search has been about number of results and access to everything, and when you talk to people, they don’t want everything anymore…Less is the new more. [People] want the right things for them.

That’s true, but Bing doesn’t address the fundamental issue with search engines today.

There is an old computing adage that states, “The computer does what you tell it to do, not what you want it to do.” Search engines work the same way. Google returns data based on the search query given — but users don’t know how to craft queries, using obscure commands and symbols, to get the information they want. It’s not Google or Yahoo’s ineffectiveness as a search engine that’s keeping users from finding what they’re looking for — it’s a lack of education in how to search.

When less-sophisticated searchers (my mother, for example) use Google to find information, they aren’t aware of the various tricks to filter results down and get exactly what they’re searching for. Using various boolean strings and site:-type modifiers in searches can quickly narrow a search to just the relevant information. Not knowing these tricks, or how to use them (which is why large universities have trained research librarians and teach classes on how to do research), can be a recipe for search-disaster.

The first ad in Microsoft’s marketing campaign, from JWT North America, came across to me as brash and confusing. An ominous voice-over intones, “While everyone was searching, there was bailing; while everyone was lost in the links, there was collapsing.” I don’t know if essentially comparing the financial crisis to users’ inability to find what they’re looking for on the Internet is exactly accurate. Ty Montague, chief creative officer at JWT, told AdAge, “We’ve been lulled into thinking it’s OK to spend two hours doing something that should have taken a few minutes.”

Bing is better at some things — a search for “cell phone” prompts the user with options for news, buying guides, providers and plans. However, if users had a better search query than the über-general “cell phone,” they would get considerably better search results. Will Microsoft’s next round of ads, equating Google with “search overload,” help it grab search share? Maybe, but I doubt users will go flocking to Bing long-term. Google is, for a massive number of users, “good enough.” It’s even become part of the vernacular. Users don’t “search.” They “google.” The clever features in Bing are great, but don’t solve the problem of “search overload.” To really fix search, the average user needs a class on how to effectively use it — and no 30-second ad spot during “The Office” is going to accomplish that.

  1. Bing travel is cool – Kayak must be bummed.

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  2. An old Apple search tool, Retrieve It!, (with a little dog that barked when the search was done) had a really useful little feature along these lines — a menu of search operators next to the search query box, and when you selected one it would show an example how to use it right under the search query box. It was simple way to show users how to get better at searching.

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  3. there are something fundamentally wrong in the auther’s brain. why does bing has to be a revolution to replace google? it is better in function a much better in user experience. i don’t know how you come with that conclusion, have you looked at what the users say? or you have the conclusion two weeks ago. it is sad.

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    1. Bing is not at all better in function.You may be right at your point as far as user experience is concerned but when it comes to function, google is having much better search algorithm than Bing. Google search results are way better than that of Bing.

      Also i agree with the author’s(jordan’s) point that you should have some basic search skills in order to get the best of the search engine.

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  4. Bing is a nice revamp of a B-List search product, but lots of small improvements don’t make it revolutionary enough to knock Google off its perch.

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  5. [...] to break Google’s sleeper hold on the search market with Bing. They’re even willing to throw $100 million into the endeavor. (Please, Stop me if you’ve heard this one [...]

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  6. You contradict yourself:
    [quote]But Bing doesn’t fundamentally change the way search works. The service tries its best to help users find information they’re searching for with fewer clicks — and does this quite well for many queries.[/quote]

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  7. I’m very curious, if Microsoft can win some of googles market shares.

    Maybe it’s interesting here: on http://www.searchengine-compr.com you can compare the search results of both tools directly. Quite interesting….

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  8. [...] I’m sure a million bloggers have already written about the power of Bing, but I find their lack of challenge concerning. [...]

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  9. The author should really try using Firefox extensions for google search. He would find that the result would be a search site that would be whatever he wanted it to be. It just not google but what you can do with it through firefox extensions that make it a better site than bing a ling. Knowing MS and there quest for control I doubt that it will have the same ability to morph itself to whatever you want your search site to be.

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  10. Google “Killer.” Why use such language? I do not believe Google’s competitive advantage and brand goes away for a very long time.

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