Bing! Cherry Picking the Internet with Microsoft's New Search Engine
Bing leverages the power of Microsoft's Live! Search and Silverlight GUI technologies. Is it a cherry or a lemon?
Microsoft touts Bing as a Decision Engine. Visions of uber-intelligent software agents combing the Internet come to mind. We wanted to see how smart Bing can be, so we plugged in a search that seemed intuitive to us: Cherries 90210. Hoping to see fruity sites related to the 90210 zip code, we were presented with 3 sponsored links offering online cherry-related products (2 fruity, one jewelry). The first non-sponsored link, including a map, was a modeling agency in the 90210 with "cherries" its' the name. So far, so mediocre. The next link referred to a nondescript torrent and, adding insult to injury, it was broken. Clicking on it resulted in a 404, "Page Not Found", error.
Before you get too excited (perhaps you work for Microsoft), we know that a broken link isn't the fault of the search engine. On the other hand, a high-tech Decision Engine should contain the horsepower to filter out useless content or at the very minimum flag it as such. To be fair, we submitted the same search to Google; the top 10 results included no broken links and no torrents.
Starting from Scratch
Getting away from the cherry analogy, we next tried a pop culture search; "Jon and Kate" (quotes included). Results were fresh. The first link was a prebuilt Bing search labeled News about "Jon and Kate". Clicking on that link zoomed us to another Bing page chock full of info from various news sources such as The Philadelphia Daily News, Access Hollywood, The Edmonton Sun, and The Rocky Mountain Telegram. Links to videos also appeared on the page. All in all, adequate but decidely not earth-shaking. Google provides remarkably similar results.
Search for Plane Tickets
Millions of airline reservations are researched and sold online. Google AdWords reports about 450,000 searches monthly for the phrase Plane Tickets. Surely Bing has a new take on such a popular search. Although we are too busy writing HubPages to travel, we plugged in our search for Plane Tickets (no quotes).
Results were vanilla. We saw 3 sponsored links at the top, 5 sponsored sites at the right, and standard predictable unsponsored links such as PlaneTickets.com and CheapTickets.com. At the left of the window was a list of links titled "Related Searches." No indication was provided as to whether or not the Related Searches links were sponsored. The page wasn't even rendered in Silverlight; it was generic HTML.
What Makes Us Happy?
We want our socks knocked off in the first 30 seconds. It didn't happen.
If Bing is a decision engine, then Google is an older and more established decision engine. Silverlight technology offers a somewhat unique browsing experience, but enhanced graphics are worthless without dazzlingly intuitive search assistance. When a human searches on Plane Tickets, she probably wants to buy some. Instead of producing the same tired set of links, Bing would be better served offering up a Silverlight tour-de-force acting as a front-end for popular reservation engines. There's probably more to Bing than what surfaces in the first 5 minutes of use, but who has the time anymore?
Bing, reach through the monitor and grab your audience in the first few nanoseconds. It's probably the only chance you'll get.
Do we want busy?
Good grief, there's stuff all over the screen. Links and hovers and filmstrips and lagniappes distract from all I want to do, which is search for a link to grilled cheese recipes. Overwhelming, it is.
We trust that Bing benefits someone, but bewildering we find the interface to be. Microsoft hires smart people to figure out what we customers truly long for: it this it? We might not know.
Google's white background seems soothing. Their hipster graphics commemorating something uncontroversial are easily overlooked when the web search is paramount.
Search results aside, getting past the overwhelming first impression becomes possibly problematic for Bing users. No one looks past the first 3 results anyway. We might linger longingly over the lush background. We could hover our pointing device, if we're even using one, and bask in the thoughtful trivia provided by Microsoft interns and lawyers. Eventually we have to type something in the box and venture out onto the Internet. That's what a search engine is for.