With the launch of Bing this week, a new search service arrived to take on Google. And, unlike other small challengers, since Bing is from Microsoft, it actually has the potential to stick around long enough to make some inroads on Google.
But how is Bing as a search engine? Since it launched on Monday, I've been using Bing heavily for nearly all of my Internet search needs. And so far, I like much of what Microsoft is doing here.
In general, Bing is more attractive than Google and has a lot of nice interactive touches. Once you've entered a search, the results page in Bing provides a variety of information.
On the left-hand side is a menu to further sort searches and it appears to be contextual based on the type of search, so for example a search on Tom Brady will bring up different contextual sorting options than a search for Leonard Cohen. Also on the left-hand side is a set of related searches and a list of the user's recent searches.
The middle is the main results list and this will be familiar to any Google user. But there are some nice touches. Hovering on a bar to the right of the result brings up a small window with more information from the linked site.
One of my favorite Bing features is that when clicking the advanced options, a small in-context window slides up without ever reloading the page, with I preferred over Google's entirely separate page for entering advanced options.
Also much talked about already is the video search in Bing. When searching videos in Bing, the thumbnails provided in the results can be played directly within the results page.
This is fairly cool but can also be annoying as any errant mouse gestures can inadvertently start a video playing. Interestingly, this in-place video feature is enabled using Adobe Flash and not Microsoft Silverlight.
A lot of effort within Bing has gone into trying to provide an improved shopping experience. This includes a cash back account where discounts for Bing users can be earned.
However, in some ways the shopping experience within Bing was one of my biggest disappointments.
If you click on the shopping link in Bing and search for items, the results are not as interactive as the standard Web searches. On the results page, all links are actually to another Bing page. To see which vendors are actually selling the item requires clicking the link which then sends you to another Bing page where the seller is listed.
Compare this to the Google shopping feature, where the seller is prominently displayed in the results. To me this is a must-have feature, as there are some sellers I prefer to do business with and some I won't waste time with no matter what the price they are showing.
Bing does a nice job with photo searches and, while the maps and news searches aren't as good as in Google, they were perfectly acceptable.
So far my first impression of Bing is pretty good, and I will continue to use it in my set of search tools. But we'll have to wait and see how the service progresses over the coming weeks.
To try out Bing go to www.bing.com.