If the new Google interface design is any indication, it appears that Google might actually be feeling a little heat, or at least some influence, from Bing. Danny Sullivan, who has been covering search for years, had a post in his Search Engine Land blog last week about the new interface overhaul Google is undertaking for its core search product. When I looked at the screen shot that Sullivan provided, it's hard not to see the Bing influence here.
The question is what does it mean? Well, first of all, it means competition is good for consumers, a point I've been making since I started this blog. Bing's clean interface is one of its core strengths and it didn't go unnoticed by Google. But does that mean Google feels threatened by Bing? Not necessarily.
How Do You Generally Search?
I don't know about you, but when I conduct a search I generally start with Google. I have my search box in Firefox set to Google by default. I enter my search criteria, press Enter, and usually I find what I need in the first several results. I don't tend to look much further, and I don't look at the other stuff like content filters. If I do a News search, I might click a date filter in the left column, but beyond that, I don't tend to use any of the other tools that show up in the interface.
For someone like Sullivan, who is a great blogger, reporter and search guru; he's always paying attention to this stuff because it's what he does. But for the average searcher, most of the extraneous stuff is just that. It's nice to have on the oft chance you need it, but if the search engine is doing its job, chances are you very rarely (or never) use the bells and whistles. Bing has some nice tools for filtering or narrowing down your search criteria, but I wonder how many people use them?
What's Wrong With Using Google?
Last week, I had a long exchange on Twitter with Disa Johnson, who runs the site Search Return.com. Johnson suggested to me that Google had lost its way. For her, Google wasn't a search engine, so much as an ad revenue generator. Further, she didn't like that they had spread out into Gmail and other tools, much less a browser and an operating system.
For me, however, I use Google because the search engine works--pure and simple. It gives me the answers I want quickly and efficiently most of the time. I also use Google Docs, Gmail, Google Reader and several other Google tools. I do so because the tools are free, convenient, and as a friend of mine says, "It's Google. They are going to constantly improve it."
Should Google Worry About Bing?
Generally, I don't think Google has a lot to worry about where its core search product is concerned. They consistently control anywhere from 65-70 percent of the search market, but there are warning signs on the horizon. It appears that Microsoft and News Corp are in talks to implement at least parts of the plan I outlined in my recent post, Mark Cuban's Plan to Kill Google. The jury is still out whether that will matter because as one commenter pointed out in my post, while News Corp (or any site) can block the spiders from finding it, it won't stop others who link to that site. Others pointed out that if you pulled out the top 100 or top 1000 sites from Google and moved them to Microsoft, others would gladly take their place. Neither does it mean that there would be a mass exodus from Google to Bing.
But Johnson thinks users are more fickle than that. She believes it could turn on a dime. I'm not so sure I agree, but it is clear from the new interface design, that Bing is at least having some influence on the Google design team, and for us as consumers, we can rejoice. As long as Microsoft acts as a check on Google and pushes them to make improvements to the product, the better off we will all will be, but extrapolating that into a massive Google meltdown, is to me, taking it all a bit too far. Google isn't going anywhere any time soon.