Microsoft Bing: New Google or New Coke?
David Pogue in the NYT:
The name, presumably, is supposed to evoke the sound of a winning game-show bell. The cynics online, however, joke that Bing is an acronym for “But It’s Not Google.”
Here’s the shocker, though: in many ways, Bing is better.
That’s quite a statement, of course — almost heresy. But check it out yourself. It’s easy to compare the two, thanks to sites like bing-vs-google.com. Here, you’re shown search results from both Bing and Google, side by side, on a split screen.
At first, Bing is pretty much Google. Oh, there’s a big National Geographic-y photo on the home page instead of plain white, but otherwise it’s the same deal: a search box; a menu that offers to complete what you’re typing; and inconspicuous links to Images, Videos, News, Shopping and Maps.
Once you hit Enter, however, you can’t help noticing Bing’s more concerted effort to get you answers faster. To minimize the clicking, the hunting, the dead ends.
I dunno . . . the last really tough Googling I did was an effort to turn up a good graphic showing Soviet/Russian life expectancy trends and Bing was way worse on that score.
On the other hand, it’s sort of interesting to see what Bing comes up with in its “Related Searches” list. If I type in my name, I get a bunch of expected stuff, but also Maitland Ward. Huh? Who’s that? (Says here that she’s an actress born in Long Beach who attended the same university as me. Is that all it takes?) But even at that I’m lucky. Matt Yglesias gets paired up with Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter. Atrios gets Michelle Malkin and Atrio Insurance. Jane Hamsher gets Bill Clinton. (She also gets Jane Hamsher Death, which seems kind of ghoulish.)
Oh, and I like the background artwork on the Bing home page. Very soothing. Not enough to make me switch from Google on a regular basis, but soothing anyway.
E.D. Kain at The League:
But creating a competitive search engine is tricky. Not only are there already a number of other search engines – like Ask.com and Yahoo! – but even those don’t really compete against Google in any meaningful way. This is largely because Google has transcended mere brand status and has become a verb. Once something becomes a sort of universal noun, that’s bad enough. Kleenex did this in the tissue market, becoming pretty much synonymous with tissue. So whether or not you were using a generic tissue or a Kleenex, you called it a Kleenex. They transcended brand. But it’s so much more potent to achieve verb status, and that’s what Google’s done. You “google” something now – you rarely hear someone say “search.” You never hear anyone say “just ask it” or “just yahoo it” – or at least, I never do.
So I go over to bing.com and google something. I’m not sure I can “bing” it, even when, er, binging it. Consciously or not, I’m googling it, and I’m not sure that I can do the mental gymnastics necessary to disassociate the concept of searching for something on the internet with the verb google.
Google may not be the best at anything but they’re pretty good at everything. It’s mighty convenient to have my email, calendar, task list, and whatnot in one place. They’re all good enough that I’ve stopped looking for competing apps even though there may well be something better out their for any particular product.
I sincerely hope that Microsoft — or somebody — creates a viable enough alternative to keep Google honest, though. Google’s marketplace dominance gives them an awesome amount of power in determining which websites thrive and fail, which videos get seen by the masses, and whatnot. Having a ready alternative will make it harder for them to abuse that position.
UPDATE: James Fallows