Bing: How Useful Is Microsoft's New Search Offering?

21 Comments

Picture 14Windows Live Search (s msft) didn’t go over too well with the online masses. Few, if any, moved from search industry leader (that’s an understatement) Google (s goog). I remember the worst part about doing a fresh Windows install was changing IE’s defaults from Microsoft’s Live services, and replacing Live Search with Google as the default search engine was first priority. So how does new search offering Bing stack up, especially from a web working point of view? You may have already formed your own opinion, but here’s my take.

Basic Search

Before looking at some of its more advanced features, let’s compare it in terms of a straight-up, simple keyword search on a subject close to my heart. Finding information on Apple (s aapl) is a part of my job, and I run Apple-related searches on an hourly basis, if not even more frequently, over the course of the day.

Searching just for the keyword “Apple,” I found the results fairly telling. Bing returned mostly product pages and sub-sections of the official Apple site. While useful to some degree, these pages are not generally the kind of thing that I’m looking for.

Google returns far more context in the first page of results, including Wikipedia results, news results, the Apple store, Apple Developer Connection, and Slashdot pages relating to the subject. This wider view provides much more material for actually accumulating knowledge about any particular subject.

No Blog Search

Bing looks a lot like Google, and it has a lot of the same features, in the same places. Along the top, you have different search options. A news search is available, along with videos, images, and something called “xRank“, which displays the most popular search results.

Notably lacking, though, is a blog search like the one Google has. The news results page in general is far less powerful and detailed than Google’s, and less easy to navigate. There are blogger rankings in the xRank results, but these appear to be more of a popularity contest and less of a useful feature.

More Advanced Searches

Using keywords to try to deliver instantly useful results for things like travel and quick calculation is definitely something that comes in handy in a search engine. Looking up “travel boston” returned nearly identical results in both search engines, though I did appreciate Bing’s “related searches” in the left-hand column. You can turn on related searches in Google, but they’re more hit or miss than Bing, and they’re switched off by default.

Performing a local search showed another vast gap between the two engines, though. Entering “restaurants near” followed by my postal code returned a long list of actual restaurants and a map displaying their proximity in Google, while it just returned a regular list of results, and not particularly useful ones at that, when entered into Bing.

Bing does calculations just as well as Google, though neither search engine provides a really smart or intuitive way to do currency conversion as of yet, in my opinion.

Verdict

For now, Microsoft still seems to be playing catch-up. Maybe it should stop being so concerned with name/branding changes, and start trying to make leaps in usability instead. This web worker is definitely sticking with Google, at any rate.

Will you be adding Bing to your search toolbox?

21 Comments

jrep

@Melvyn: that blind search is rather suspicious. Since I essentially always have at least one Google search in some window somewhere, I tried blinesearch with my most recent one. None of the results matched my Google result set … odd. One of the three was entirely empty, the other two were slightly different from each other. I picked one. According to the results, the empty blind search was Google … yet I’m still looking at my own google search, with that same string, and it’s definitely NOT empty!

Melvyn

Try this “Blind Search” tool to see 3 sets of results for the same search: Google, Yahoo, and Bing. The kicker is that you don’t get told which set comes from which engine and you can “vote” for the one which you think was best. Then you’re shown the sources:
http://blindsearch.fejus.com/

Jodi

My concern is relevancy. I get that Bing is a “decision engine” but how is it ranking these sites? Is Bing bringing up pages based on decisions they make based on what they “think” they know about you? I really don’t think I want Microsoft making my decisions. But maybe they serve up results differently, I’m curious. It seems like a lot of products appear so I’m skeptical as to whether it’s more a way to push product sales….

I have been dabbling and I found a blog search, but didn’t see it when I initially started my search. It was only after my SERP appeared that blog was listed in the categories on the left.

I’m torn, I see some benefits that Google is lacking and vice verse.

Simon Mackie

@Jeffrey – I agree, I don’t like the design. I think it’s going to take something pretty radical to shift me from Google – it does a pretty good job most of the time.

jrep

Also interesting are BingBing and GoogleOogle.

Here are some things that only one of those four searches showed me. Try to guess which search shows which hit:

Anything at all about Google besides its bare existence.

That there’s a consumer “cash back” program promoting Bing.

That Bing has a facebook page. And is on twitter. And has a self-promotion site called “discoverbing”.

jrep

How would you improve on Google’s currency conversions? “90 pounds in US dollars” seems about as simple as it could get, isn’t it?

Nick Bostic

I’ve played around with it a bit, but it just isn’t giving the quality results I’m looking for. It may just be a familiarity issue so I’ll play with it from time to time, but Google is still my favorite for now.

r0nald

Will you be adding Bing to your search toolbox?

this site sucks.

Dima-IMHO

I like it :) it looks like it’s even faster than Google…I’m just afraid they missed the boat, too late in the game? no?…

xm

I prefer the image search to Google’s, the news search seems a little lacking though. And damn, that bing.com homepage is horrible – I feel depressed just looking at it.

With Google trying to make inroads into Microsoft’s base markets, I guess it makes sense, strategically, for MS to try to put them on the back foot by improving their search game.

William

Early days yet but I like the UK results so far. Typical MS graphic spoils the front page.

I’ve put a tongue-in-cheek poll on my site :-)

smokey

i like the look of Microsoft’s search page, always have, just not so sure about the back-end functionality

Chris Ritke

I’ve been using Bing exclusively for a few days now and really like it – been able to find what I’ve been looking for quickly and like the little popup summaries… and just planned a trip with bing maps – works really well once you get used to it – except that it keeps defaulting to ‘Businesses’ instead of ‘Locations’ for new map searches from the toolbar.

I’m going to stick with Bing for now (funny how Google is starting to scare me more than MS these days)

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