I've seen a lot of love for Microsoft's newly branded search engine, Bing lately and frankly I just don't get it. Bing landed a couple of weeks ago with a huge ad budget (as I wrote in Microsoft Ad Wars Turn to Google) and a big splash, but I've used it and I don't see anything new here, but a pretty interface. Why are some people falling all over themselves to say how great they think it is?
Microsoft has decided that search engine wasn't an adequate term, so they came up with the much catchier name "decision engine." Do you get it? It helps you make decisions. They determined that most people search for four things: shopping, travel, health and local search and they are attempting to make it easier to do that. I've looked at this and I'm not sure why I would use Bing for shopping, travel or health since I've got that covered on other sites.
Local search could be an area, however, where Bing could shine, except when I did a local search for car insurance near my home town, I got a set of results that looked just about the same as the results that I get from Google, so where exactly is my motivation to change? Could it be a pretty, shiny interface?
Pretty, Shiny Things
One thing Microsoft has done well here is wrap Bing in a pretty wrapper, putting a lovely picture on the landing page, but there is really not much new here beyond the layout and a list of trending topics (a la Twitter).
Another new feature in the results is the Related Searches list along the left side of the screen, which provides a list of things you might want to search for if you can't find what you're looking for in the initial set of results. This seems to be one of the things that supporters really love, and it's a nice feature, don't get me wrong, but Ask.com has been doing this for a couple of years. Microsoft didn't invent this idea, they just moved it from the right side of the screen where Ask has it to the left side. Wow! Talk about innovation.
Momentary Surge of Popularity?
According to Comscore, Microsoft had some lift out of the gate with Bing, but you would expect this would any new product where there is a general curiosity about the hype. I'm willing to bet those numbers will drop significantly over time as people get passed the, 'let's try the new guy' and go back to the friendly confines of Google. There is some buzz in the press that Google is a little worried about Bing, but I think that's more manufactured than real. In April, before the release of Bing, Comscore reported Microsoft has just 8 percent of the search market. Google has 63 percent.
Not a Huge Threat to Google
I don't see this entry as a huge threat to Google. There are some nice elements. The travel engine's 7 Day price predictor, for instance, looks like it could be interesting, but some smart person will need to analyze the data to see if this really is an accurate predictor over time. I also liked the direct links to other travel sites, so you could price compare (an idea they took from TripAdvisor by the way), but overall I get the same experience in Kayak, a travel search engine I've been using. I might add Bing to my search (er, decision) arsenal, but I'm not making it my go-to source.
Bing is a decent search engine, but it doesn't offer enough separation from any of its competitors to offer any kind of credible threat. Sure, it will probably continue to get a short-term lift from the ad campaign, but over time, people will settle back in with the comfort of Google just as they always have. It's clear Google controls this market and Microsoft would be better off putting their money and effort elsewhere.