June 12, 2009
I Binged myself over the weekend to see what turned up. It sounds a little funny and maybe even a little dirty — or maybe like I hurt myself or stubbed my toe against the leg of the dining room table. But if Microsoft has its way, then that term will become as ubiquitous as the one referring to the 800-pound search gorilla we call Google.
If you’re like me, you’re intrigued about Bing, the new search engine from Microsoft. I’m intrigued because I actually like PCs and I like the most recent Microsoft campaigns — but I’m skeptical about the company’s search strategy. Working in this industry as I do, I’m familiar with the stops, starts and missteps that have defined Microsoft’s efforts in search over the last 15 years. I’m curious about whether the company can right the ship, so I decided to try Bing for myself.
As always, I began with the same two searches I start with on every new platform: “Pearl Jam” and my own name. The homepage of Bing is intriguing. It’s attractive because it changes and uses different pictures rather than the standard white page with search box that Google led with. I like it because it’s simple yet still elegant, but of course I was always taught to never judge a book by its cover, so I went deeper inside. Upon searching for “Pearl Jam,” I was shown some sites that rarely pop up on the first page of Google and I really enjoyed the nav bar along the left that redefines the parameters of the search. Upon searching for myself, I was intrigued to see Facebook profiles popping up, which is something I never see on Google. I dug a little deeper and came up with this brief analysis of Microsoft’s new platform.
- I love the “Explore” button; it becomes a way of launching into a surfing behavior. I may not know where I want to go, but I can certainly follow a suggested path.
- The dynamic nav bar on the left rail allows you to refine the category of search results, which is a great way of clearing the junk from the results that I’m just not interested in.
- The homepage is very cool, very picturesque, and easy to use. I like pictures and I like the inviting feel of the page.
- I like that it searches deeper Web pages, like Facebook pages, when you are searching for people.
- I like that it keeps my search history. This is useful when going back and trying to use search as a navigational tool for rediscovering something you found previously.
- I find the TV commercials annoying . That’s a big statement to make because I honestly and truly love the current Microsoft “I’m a PC” campaign, but not this aspect of the company’s efforts.
- I’m not too sure that I’ll remember Bing all the time, but I always remember Google. Microsoft definitely has an uphill battle to fight, much like Sisyphus, in that the company needs to break a habit, change behavior, and get people like me to stop using the built-in Google toolbar. I did install the Bing toolbar in Firefox to give it the old college try, and so far I’m happy with the experience.
- The user experience is not dramatically different from that of Google or other engines. The differences are subtle — and subtlety is sometimes lost on the public at large. The biggest hurdle will be in convincing the average user that these results are substantially better, because as many pundits have said, most people don’t know that search is broken.
My summary: I like Bing and I think it’s worth a shot, but if the results aren’t good, then it’s back to Google I go! And just for a laugh, check out what comes up when you search “Bing” on Google. A mix of news articles, energy drinks and Bing Crosby pop up, leading you to be unclear as to whether the name will ever stick.Here’s to seeing what happens over the coming months, because I love capitalism; competition can only be a good thing because it makes everyone better. I look forward to watching the rise of Bing and the response from Google as well as the swarm of other challengers in this highly utilized and highly combative category!
Here’s to all of you!
Cory Treffiletti is president and managing partner for Catalyst SF.