Finally the past speculations became a reality – Microsoft has re-branded their live search and came up with a completely new and innovative engine called Bing, which can be accessed at bing.com.
The reason I call it innovative and new is because, this is the first time I’m seeing something positive from Microsoft. At least now they are trying to look straight instead of trying to eat out other companies.
They did a complete re-brand of their Live Search which was previously known as MSN and sometime last year there was a rumor that they wanted to call it Kumo (which probably would have been a complete branding disaster in my opinion).
But luckily they came to their senses and named their revamped Search Engine -> Bing. Now couldn’t they just work on their existing brand “Live” instead of creating a whole new brand “Bing”? Well probably they could, but i really don’t wish to go into any debate on which would have been better and such. They have re-branded their search to Bing already and that’s how it is (and hopefully that’s how its going to stay..).
My only advice to Microsoft would be to stick to a brand and give more emphasize on the core of the product/service that they are providing. If people are not using their search engine, definitely there is a reason behind it and changing names and creating fancy TV ads doesn’t make the problem go away. After a while people eventually figures out that this new hyped brand is actually the same shitty MSN search.
Now this post is becoming a bit ‘anti-microsoft’ … so let me change my approach for a bit and say what I feel about Bing.
Bing Search is Awesome!
Yes I said it! I never thought I’d complement a search engine that is not Google. But I guess I just did. The reason I’m probably the last one to report this Bing story in the Blogosphere is because while everyone was busy writing about Bing on their blogs, I was doing some extensive testing with Bing. I have played with the engine day and night, making it exhausted and taking it to a level that my ip was probably blocked out from Bing for a while.
And after comparing all the data, I can say that Bing is awesome and It is a pretty good alternative for Google & Yahoo Search. But is it perfect? – Hell no! There are tons of issues with bing, that I’d definitely address in my blog (which is why i even created a new category here called “bing”, where all my bing related posts will go).
My Take on Bing.com
There are many things that I like about Bing. None of them is probably original, majority of the features that I’ll highlight here are probably already implemented inside Google & Yahoo. But I don’t think for a user its important to know who has implemented what first and so on. As long as the search engine is user friendly and has everything that a user needs – he will be happy to use it. These are some of the things which bing has really impressed me with:
1. Speed: Bing.com is pretty fast, the home page has a high quality image which takes a bit of time to load on slow connections. However, when you put in a search query and click search the result page comes almost instantly – just like Google. Previously with both Msn & Live search speed was a major issue. People loves Google because of its lightning speed. Well certainly Bing is almost catching up with Google on that regard. Since Bing is still new I believe they can still do a lot more tweaks and make the engine even faster in future.
2. Auto Suggestion: Bing automatically suggests search queries as you type in the search box (very similar to what Google does now). Its a very neat feature which saves a lot of time when you are searching for something very obvious but unsure of its spelling and how to phrase it properly and so on.
3. Look and Feel: Many people complained about the design of Microsoft’s previous search engines. But personally this time I have found Bing’s design very soothing and consistent throughout their site. The high quality picture on the home page does make it look very cool compared to Google’s simplistic design (However Ask.com has been doing this for a long time already and they even let users to choose their own background).
4. Best Match: Microsoft calls this feature of Bing – “Best Match”, which basically refers to the ability to get relevant information instantly without leaving the search results page. Google has been doing this for a long time for many queries like time (e.g. Time Tokyo), currency conversion (e.g. 1000 USD = ? EUR) and also flight and package tracking of different providers.
Apparently Bing.com also has couple of neat best match queries to get relevant information quickly. Best Match results include customer service numbers for retail sites, the ability to track a package right from the search page, deep links to common pages within the site and much more.
5. Site Preview: This neat feature of Bing allows you to hover over a search result to see a preview of the site’s content, which helps you determine whether the site is likely to contain the information you’re looking for — before you make that click. Well this is definitely useful, however the hovering feature only works when I move the mouse towards the end of the the listing which is pretty annoying! Moreover, I figured the preview is very small so it doesn’t really tell you much about the website anyway. A small snapshot of the page would be nice, something like what snap.com is already doing. But again this is a feature that not everyone may like, so keeping all these additional things ‘optional’ may be a good idea.
6. Instant Answers: Bing also provides near instant answers to many queries. For example, entering a flight number will return the most recent flight information and display it prominently in the results, saving the hassle of going to a separate page. Other Instant Answers on Bing include stock prices, local weather, sports scores and more. This feature is also not new as both Google & Yahoo have been doing it for a long time. But its really good to see that Bing has really caught up with most of the useful features of both Google & Yahoo.
7. Related Searches: Bing does show some good related searches when you search for a term. This definitely helps to refine a search query and also come across other useful and related terms.
8. Image Search: Bing has a pretty awesome image search. Occassionally images do appear within the web search results for certain queries, just like Google’s Universal Search. However their dedicated Image search page is also pretty neat and has a very handy left hand sidebar to refine the search by size, layout, colour, size etc.
9. Travel Search- Bing has a very cool search interface for travel related searches. You can just enter your travel particulars and bing automatically searches different travel portals and shows you hotel prices, air fares and so on.
10. Shopping Search – Bing also have a dedicated interface to deal with the shopping queries. It sort of promotes the previous Microsoft Cashback program. Try doing a search for any product and you will get a pretty good idea of what it does. (E.g. Nokia E63)
Bing Product Tour Video
Bing vs. Google – Search Result Quality
To me, the quality of the search result is the most important factor that leads me to decide which provider stays as my default search in my browser (currently its Google in all my 3 browsers – Google’s Chrome, Firefox & IE 8).
Bing provides a nice way to do a head on head comparison of Bing & Google, they named the feature – Bing Search Challenge. Basically it opens both Bing & Google on the same browser window and let you perform a search on both on them and match the results. [This isn’t new as well, it was done by Hakia way back..]
But its a good way to convince people who are thinking about making a switch that the engine that they are about to switch to is indeed better and provides better results. I have tried a number of queries in both Bing & Google to perform a side by side comparison. In most cases I noticed that Bing did pretty well compared to the old Live.com results. However still in most cases I find that Google can interpret the natural language way better than bing. However for many queries Bing actually performed better than Google! I’ll try to do a separate post with all my test search phrases and the result comparison. But for now you can take a look at Greg’s post in Search Engine Land.
There are lots of other things about bing that I would still like to mention, but due to a bit of time constraint I’m ending this post here. If you want to learn further on bing you can head over to their PressPass page, which contains a lot of information on each of the bing’s features.
Also if you are a twitter user you can follow the bing team on Twitter – (@bing).
So have you tried bing.com? Whats your feedback? Please share in comments!
Update: Are you a Webmaster? Try Bing Webmaster Center today!
What others are saying about Bing?
Bing Off to a Good Start: Takes #2 Spot Ahead of Yahoo – Read Write Web
Microsoft’s Bing Vs Google: Head To Head Search Results – Search Engine Land
Microsoft Bing: Much better than expected – Cnet News
Microsoft’s Bing Search Arrives Early, and Impresses – FastCompany
Bing off to solid start, but not that good – CNet News
Bing Opens Up. Is It Good? It’s Too Early To Tell – Mashable
Bing Goes Live—Here’s What You Can Do With It – Lifehacker
Bing.com; Is it Worth Switching from Google? – Marketing Pilgrim
Bing: How Useful Is Microsoft’s New Search Offering? – CNN
Microsoft vs Google: Bing It On – Sitepoint
Live Search : The sound of found: Bing! – MSDN Blog