So I've been using Microsoft's overhauled search engine Bing for a couple weeks now, and this is what I conclude: Bing is great. Results leave me concluding Bing is every bit as good as Google right now, better in some results, and more eye catching.
However, as I detail later in this post, I'm not leaving Google for Bing (neither is TechCrunch's MG Siegler). Sorry Microsoft.
GigaOm's Jordan Golson was hardly moved to "Bing," while Google Operating System's Alex Chitu was unimpressed enough to call Bing a prettier Live Search. Ewww. I think Bing has more bang for the buck than Chitu gives it credit for.
With related searches on the left screaming out to buy things, it's more e-commerce friendly than Google, offering several options for the query "furniture outlets." A search for "pizza" delivers me a Wikipedia entry on the popular American food, along with options to buy pizza from Domino's and Pizza Hut.
"Decision Engine" indeed. The pull-down menus in both Google's and Microsoft's search boxes suggest those restaurants and other options. Search Engine Land's Greg Sterling conducted his own test with screenshots.
Both Google and Bing offer local business links for pizza joints, though Bing had me living in Wallingford, Conn., nearly 30 miles from my hometown of Trumbull, which is where Google has me targeted. I had to set a Trumbull preference in Bing.
I don't recall doing that for Google; it learned I'm a Trumbull man from my searches. Bing clearly needs to learn more about me to serve me better local results. And that's one of the challenges Bing faces.
Google has long been serving me searches, so it's had plenty of time to get to know me. I'm one of what comScore claims is 65 percent of the world's searchers who are currently using Google. I have become comfortable with Google's Web services and letting Google make my Web surfing life easy.
I know Google and Google knows me. It's a cozy relationship. I see nothing in Bing that would make me strike up a similar relationship with that search engine. Call it convenience and brand loyalty. Bing is good enough, but hardly better. It gets style points for being prettier, but it isn't any more practical or efficient or accurate to my eye than Google.
Microsoft lacks fundamental relationship building blocks of search: brand loyalty. Thanks to years of should shrugs, mismanagement and indecisive dithering, Bing has to get to know searchers from scratch, and vice versa. Do you really think Microsoft has the time to make up the ground? Do you really think users will invest their time?
Microsoft's leadership does, or at least that's the company line according to
"I think there are many years of great innovation left in the search space. In our research there was a lot to be optimistic about in terms of ways to improve the experience, whether it's better understanding what the user intended, better understanding of the content itself, more orientation on what people are trying to get done, the tasks they're trying to complete, decisions they're trying to make."
I agree with Ballmer that search will evolve. I also agree that search engines will get better at understanding users. It's happening daily at Google. The problem is that, barring some super breakthrough in tying users to their quests for quick information, Microsoft isn't going to trump Google ... ever. Despite Bing's quality, Microsoft still has too much ground to make up.
As a counterpoint, you might throw out the fact that comScore claims Microsoft Bing grabbed two percentage points of search in five days (Microsoft's share of search engine results pages in the U.S. increased from 9.1 percent to 11.1 percent).
I'll quickly remind you that upstart search engine Cuil rapidly tallied search share on strong press and word of mouth before flagging into disaster. If Bing's user base marches along with similar growth a year from now, I'll be impressed.
But it will be tough because it's just not that much better than Google, even with the
new and improved porn filtering ReadWriteWeb notes. But don't take it from me: Danny Sullivan's State of Search is a must-read for search followers.
It's long, so if you can't make time to read it, note his gist: "Google's not broken; people like it, and there's no compelling reason for them to switch to Bing, much less the more established Yahoo." Sullivan also deconstructs Google CEO Eric Schmidt's comments on Bing to Fox.
His colleague Greg Sterling adds: "To be candid I don't see myself giving up Google, especially given the default Firefox browser integration. But I can also honestly say that while I almost never used Live Search except to write about it, I will indeed use Bing."
I'll keep using Bing because it's my job to assess Google's rivals, but I'd still rather Google than Bing. How about you?