Heard of Bing yet? If not, you soon will. Backed by a reported $100-million-dollar promotional campaign, Bing is Microsoft's latest grasp at double digits in the war for search engine market share, of which Redmond now owns between 5 and 6 percent (according to Net Applications' Market Share report). After months of beta testing followed by a public preview, Bing officially took over this week as THE search engine powering all of MSN. So, if you use any Microsoft services with even limited frequency, you'll be getting friendly with Bing whether you know it or not, and whether you like it or not.
But Microsoft isn't going to carve out a fatter slice of market share unless it can convince a new, non-MSN audience to abandon Google and to make Bing its second brain instead. Of course, there has to be good reason to do that. Very good reason. So this week I installed the official Bing add-on to Firefox and put the new kid on the block to the test.
First, though, a word about the name. Bing isn't terrible -- certainly easier on the ears than Wolfram|Alpha, and I suppose I can imagine myself one day "binging" the answer to something instead of "googling" it. But every time I hear the name, I can't help but think of Chandler Bing, Matthew Perry's character on Friends. Nothing against Matthew Perry, but I've already grown really tired of picturing what he's up to every time I get some search results back. Hey, at least they didn't call it "Schwimmer," right? Then again, was Bing really the best Microsoft could come up with? Surely Ballmer and the boys realized, as many bloggers have cleverly pointed out, BING is a nice acronym for, "But Its Not Google." Ha!
OK, enough fun. Let's see how this puppy performs.
The first thing you'll notice on the Bing homepage is the beautiful background image, which changes every day. One day it's a photo of a quaint Italian village, the next it's hot-air balloons, the next it's space, and so on and so forth. Each image is embedded with hotspots that you can click to search for different content related to the photo. It's an interesting little gimmick Microsoft hopes will give folks a reason to come back and visit every day. I think good search results would be a better reason -- and Bing more or less delivers.
This week, the band Rancid came out with a new album. When I search for "rancid" in Bing, I like what I see. The main part of the page spits out the standard search results you'd expect from Google (in fact, they're almost identical), though with nice photos of the band up there as the top result. Each result also pops up a little preview when I mouse over it, to give me a better idea of what to expect on the site that's being suggested. If a Wikipedia entry is returned (as they almost always are), I can click an "enhanced view" link to read the entire Wikipedia article right on the Bing page, instead of going off to the Wikipedia site.
The left column really differentiates Bing. Here, I find a set of contextual links pointing me toward images, tour dates, tickets, lyrics, downloads, interviews, and videos. Very cool. I follow the video link and am presented with tons of relevant video from all over the Web, not unlike Google's video search. And, similar to Google's video search, I can filter those video results by length, resolution, screen size, and source. But here's what Bing does that's fairly novel: When I mouse over the video thumbnails, a preview of the video starts to play. That's pretty sweet.
One of my favorite parts of Google is the instant knowledge it effortlessly returns, like currency exchange rates or what time it is right now in a given city. Bing handles these kinds of queries as well. And just for fun, I typed in "red sox score" to see what would happen.
Right there above the search results appeared the score of last night's game, the score of the game before that, and the schedule for the next four outings. A search for "yankees score" gives me the line score of the game currently in progress! Amazing...well, until I realize Google actually does the same thing. Who knew?
Next, I search for something that's been in the news recently: "air france." This time, the contextual links change from "lyrics" and "tour" to stuff like "news," "reservations," and "schedule." Again, the main results are pretty much what you'd expect from Google, though with one important distinction. The top result, which is the official Air France site, lists the company's customer service number. Wow. I try "ups" looking for the same thing and I nearly fall out of my seat. Not only is the UPS customer service number there, but I can track a package from right within Bing! Same with Fedex, though the customer service number is missing. I try "american express", "time warner cable" and "hertz" in hopes of locating that same magical nugget of ever-elusive customer contact information, but Bing comes up empty. Microsoft's search engine is loaded with features, but its actual content is pretty hit-or-miss.
For my next search, I try "always sunny in philadelphia," looking to see what kind of goodies related to the stellar FX comedy Bing will dig up. But the results are fairly generic, if not utterly disappointing. The main results are similar to what you'd expect from Google: the official FX page, the IMDB page, the Wikipedia page, the Hulu page, etc. But the contextual links I liked so much on the Rancid and Air France results pages are suspiciously absent. Since the show's full name is actually It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I type that out, and I hit the jackpot. The top result shows me playable thumbnails of four episodes via Hulu, and those left-hand contextual links have returned, to point me towards info on the cast, the characters, and even the theme song. You're telling me Bing doesn't know the difference between "always sunny in philadelphia" and "it's always sunny in philadelphia"? That's categorically lame, and something Google has no trouble figuring out. The Bing results page for "always sunny in philadelphia" didn't even suggest "it's always sunny in philadelphia" as an alternate query. Weird.
So, it seems Bing can deliver some amazing search results -- if you know exactly what to type into the search box. I'm sorry, but the reason Google is so successful, at least with me, is that it is incredibly easy to use and incredibly forgiving when it comes to both laziness and stupidity. If I misspell "its always surny in phillehlphia" into Google, I'm politely asked if I meant to type, "its always sunny in philadelphia." If I type the same butchering of the title into Bing, I get nothing. The best suggestion it can muster is Always Maxi Pads.
Here's the thing, though: Thanks 100 percent to Google, I no longer make even the slightest attempt to spell anything correctly when I search. I don't have to! I don't have to type in full addresses, either. If I type "2 park ave nyc" into Google, I'm shown a map zoomed tightly in on the location of PopSci headquarters. If I type the same into Bing, I get a map zoomed out a bit to include a florist's shop that's eight blocks away. To duplicate the Google result on Bing, I have to search "2 park ave new york ny." The difference of 9 keystrokes may seem trivial, but it really isn't when your patience and attention span are so minute they could only be measured on the molecular level.
In the end, that's why it's going to be tough, even impossible, for Bing to steal market share away from Google. To convince someone to leave Google, your offering needs to be 100 times superior. Otherwise, why bother? Bing certainly does do a few things better than Google, but those few things aren't quite enough.
What's with all the trying to kill google lately, anyway? Why weren't they trying to kill google years ago? A little late to the ball game, aren't we?
This article is of the lowest of the low considering it's (lack of) quality. This is NOT science, it's not even Fact, this is tech gossip which I think is so far from what PopSci should be publishing. PS used to have nice articles and I have been subscribed for a few years now, but recently there have fewer and fewer articles on science posted, and the ones that are unscientific- like this one- are so steeped in opinion that it's not even funny. I mean for crying on out loud! Isn't there any most science to post that you have to bring back "golden nuggets" from the 60s, 70s??? I can now with out a shadow of remorse say that I am unsubscribing from this rather very low quality "Science" blog. Bleh.
O BTW, I have used both google and Live/Bing for many years now and I honestly like Bing far more than any search engine I ever tried. That includes yhoo, goog, and a few others.
And no, I'm not affiliated with Microsoft, or and competing science blog.
Well, then would you recommend a better blog that's more recent news? Obviously PS is the first answer anyone, such as myself thinks of when wanting to hear about new and exciting things. Tell me, sir/ma'am, if there's something better that I'm unaware of. Please and Thank you.
I agree. The second that this site turned into blog-format it seemed to have lost connection with the magazine. Why are we reading an article on rather or not one web service is better than another? Isn't this an article more aptly suited for Engadget or Gizmondo?
rlenston, I'm sure you could find something here: www.bing.com/search?q=science+blog&go=&form=QBLH
As for me, I'm not too wildy into this sort of stuff so I can do without and LifeHacker's occasional "cool discovery/invention" article does me fine. (Just thought of Wired.com, that might be an alternative as well)
Wonderflex, My feelings exactly. That's why we have the whole life-hacker/gizmodo family.
Wow. LogicalValidity took me seriously. I figured I'd get trolled to death. Thank you, Sir/Ma'am. You are much appreciated. I do think, however, that I will be frequenting this site quite a bit, mainly for the high I get on the hype of things. I do have a tendancy to google stuff, at the very least, after I've read about it. On a side note, I think it's hilarious that you've linked to Bing.
I wonder if part of the $100 million budget went towards paying for Bing trolls to flood comment boxes on any article Bing-related...
Microsoft just wants to destroy all other companies and take over.. that's all it really is about. =P They have their hands in everything... Next I'll have to buy my milk and bread at the Microsoft-mega-mart. I better be quiet or I'll give them more ideas =O (they're listening you know????) heh...
No, it'll be "Micro-mart" spelt in blue letters with a little star... And to make it extra special, it'll be the size of a cities downtown. Eventually, entire cities will become Microville A1,D3,E9,A9E and we'll all live in a Microstate. Addresses will take the form: E5A89CmvA1B2msC4
Bing looks cool, but its not as good (not at all) at figuring out what the heck I'm looking for (which often, even I don't know) So sticking with Google.
Hey google is trying to steal some of the internet browser market from microsoft, but when microsoft gets into the search market its seen as hostile? As is stated by the article Bing does work really well if your input is perfect, but Google is much better at understanding whatever you type - most people have gotten used to just typing in whatever pops into their head and still getting good results. Bing you have to think a little more about what you're searching for.
Anyway this article does miss a few cool features and is not very thorough in testing its search capabilities. The Bing cashback for shopping seems to be the most interesting feature to me but I'm not so sure how it works.
"Hey google is trying to steal some of the internet browser market from microsoft, but when microsoft gets into the search market its seen as hostile?"
I'm going to have to agree with you on that one, except to point out the fact that Microsoft has already been in the search market for a very long time, so they're not really "getting into" the market as much as flailing their arms for attention. I think people have reached the point where we assume any act by Microsoft to encroach on a market is a hostile act.
Really, unless either company thinks they can do the same task spectacularly better than the other, all they're doing is throwing money down the drain. Why would I bother switching to another search engine, when Google already does exactly what I need? And why would I bother switching to a new browser, when I already have one that does everything I want it to? Granted, that browser is Firefox, so I guess Microsoft is 0 for 2...
Bing image search is awesome!! I got bored after typing in stuff into the general search, so I typed in Origami (FTW!!!) into the image search, and got rewarded with a huuuuuge page full of pretty images, and you don't have to click any next button, as it automatically brings more images as you scroll down. Another feature in image search that I found awesome, you can hover over the thumbnail of an image you especially like and click the button labeled "Show similar images", and it reloads the image search with results with somewhat similar images (obviously).
That said, it also sometimes shows up with a pointless image or 2 of chicks trying to look hot etc, but only occasionally.
^guy above me, microsoft grunt
Linux-Don't fear the penguin
Not sure if I want to try it yet, don't forget all the security issues Microsoft has with Windows
I recall Microsoft in the past having something called Smart Tags in IE offering additional information, but got forced to stop linking those smart tags to advertising.
So these hot-spots on the back ground image, do they provide additional information on the image, or do they link to advertising, and pay for things, like travel to the location where the image was taken?
Don't forget, MS does nothing unless there is profit, and it must be worried about open source OS taking over, it tried getting IE into 100% of computers, knowing that everything was becoming web based (today's free cloud computing apps, with advertising) it lost the browser wars, so now its going for Search.
And did not Google put out the Chrome Browser in competition with IE? (and Firefox)
I have found that while prettier than its predecessor, Bing is very biased. Simply typing in "linux" at the <a href="http://www.bing.com">Bing homepage</a> and seeing what suggestions are populated and you'll see what I mean (they're all Microsoft sites).
I actually thought Bing was kind of cool until I realized how biased it's results are. I'll stick with Google because it's better and I don't feel dirty after using it, heh.
why don't they just kiss and make up, Microsoft and Google? if they were to work together again, what other junk could they produce?
Google rocks. It would be cool to combine Microsoft's lame attempt with google so that it would benefit the consumer, but Microsoft would never go for it. Furthermore, if Google doesn't have any copyrights and patents to go over, why don't they take the good things out of But it's still not google?
Since Bing is using human input now to determine best results, I'd expect it to grow in market share as the results start becoming more relevant.
I get blown in the direction of Bing once in a while, never had any particular problem or success that was remarkable. That said, I'll still take Tux the Penguin. Linux will always be both simpler and safer, not even speaking about how much more functional the filing systems operations are. Never Run A Defrag Again, use FREE TECH!
I dont love bing, it doesnt worth Google at all, in my opinion...