The emergence of Microsoft’s new search engine a couple of days earlier than scheduled has taken a few people by surprise. Unfortunately, one of the biggest surprises is that Bing really isn’t the earth-shattering Google-topping platform that we were waiting for.
Aesthetically there can be no complaints about Microsoft Bing. The layout is clean and uncluttered; the daily image is rotated to provide an attractive background and landing page. But as a search engine does it really offer anything different? The answer, sadly, is not really. Results differ vey slightly to the dominant alternative in the form of Google, but it almost appears as if Microsoft has admitted defeat and created an improvement on Live Search without offering much in the way of uniqueness or diversity.
The idea of it being a “decision engine” – as touted by Microsoft – doesn’t do a great deal to mask the honest truth, which is that Google will remain the dominant search engine until somebody can come up with something better; which unfortunately (at the moment) Bing is not. Perhaps it is as good in terms of what answers it provides to search queries, but that won’t cause the seismic shift needed to topple the Google powerhouse.
Reasons for optimism still exist though. In terms of media and the presentation of results goes, Microsoft Bing is a real contender. Image and video search results are highly accessible, customisable and well presented. This makes Bing more approachable and user-friendly than many of its rivals. It has a big emphasis on locality, which gives it a slightly more tailored feel. Although most engines now have a ‘.co.uk’ variant or user sign-in, so the impact of this maybe slightly dulled.
There’s plenty of quirky tools to play with too, including a handy flight tracker that’ll instantly tell you where in the world any plane is currently. But Google still has that market cornered anyway, with the likes of ‘define:’ and ‘calculate:’ already available.
The positive aspect of Bing is that finally Microsoft have developed a search engine that is worth using. I very much doubt that it has been created with the genuine hope of instantly toppling Google, but more to restore some online credibility for a company that continues to dominate offline software. With Live Search Microsoft were in danger of becoming an Internet irrelevance, today, with the emergence of Bing that is no longer the case.
Their first target surely must be to oust Yahoo and become the world’s most popular non-Google affiliated search engine. Something that I don’t think it will be too far off. The clarity and simplicity of each page makes it a far more pleasant way to locate information. It’s not overburdened with redundant advertising or features – Yahoo take note – and it does try to offer a genuine helping hand when it comes to related searches.
From a search marketing point of view, this is a very positive change. Over-reliance on Google has led to complacency in some quarters – not least Google HQ – so having three competitive search engines will allow for further diversity and hopefully success for online advertising campaigns. If Microsoft Bing does take some users away from Google and Yahoo, it will have done its job and will make for some far healthier competition moving forward.