Bing. Isn’t this the sound a coin makes when it hits the pavement? In the case of Microsoft’s super duper new search engine, it more resembles the sound of Mo bonking Larry or Curly in the head with a frying pan. But then, they are doing some things right. Like any other major startup development (and Bing still is one) there are miles to go before MS search scientists sleep. Regardless of iPhone integration or other market driven advances though, there is the humanity of things. Here are just a few of this old search engine analyzers pro’s and con’s – quick view.
Bells and Whistles
Back when Barney Pell and company at Powerset launched Powerlabs, the idea of semantic search and even a kind of artificial intelligence was the professed end result. What Bing exhibits though is not anything like artificial intelligence or even “natural language search” – it is simply a little refinement of Powerset’s “reorganizational” approach to search. In the search wars Powerset and hakia were targeting long tail queries supposedly via some higher form of intelligence, not a different kind of compartmentalization. Don’t get me wrong, superior approaches to searching for users was and is a valid element, but as one of the writers and analysts who lived in the search trenches, this aspect is an automatic door lock on a luxury automobile. As Barney Pell admitted just before the MS sale; “baby steps towards natural language search.”
Maps As They Should Be
Google has made a living out of mapping where we live, travel, work, and where our interests are on Earth. Now comes Bing and a more fresh outlook on all things mapping. The biggest advantage Bing is approaching with their map element is in the look, feel, navigation, and potential flexibility for users. In fact, this article started as a far more negatively intoned basic look at Bing because of its relatively lame relevance compared to Google. The stupid thing cannot even find me very well for crying out loud? Their mapping changed my mind. A more modern and useful UI (its icons, and added functions), and especially the look of the maps from a geographer’s point of view, makes Bing’s refinement of this aspect significant. The screen below illustrates a little bit of this potential.
A more in depth article and analysis will be necessary to express Bing’s organizational and potential operational superiority, but I suggest you try these functions out so you can suggest them to Google.
Target Earth Shoppers
Bing’s “shopping” element is another offshoot of Powerset’s organizational approach to user utility. As an initial beta feature, not too bad at all, but as a highly accurate or relevant semantic or “intelligent” query result? Well, 25 results for the same book title at Amazon is not exactly Einstein intelligent is it? The idea behind this aspect is actually quite brilliant however. The “long and short” being; “If someone clicks on this button, chances are they are in the market for something.” On the negative side, being cast into the center of an online shopping mall may not be what many users want. This seems a little bit subversive, or at best too brisk an engagement.
Another positive/negative aspect of the “shopping” tab of Bing is their 5% discount on products purchased thru the system. The positive being obvious, and the negative being basically shipping charges enumeration for the user. A little subversive in intonation for me and maybe others who have been approached by door to door salesmen. A better approach? Tack this 5 percent onto other incentives from vendors, and the offering of “optimized incentives” wherever possible – then the press release about it. MS may actually be doing this or thinking about it, but it is not apparent at first glance. So, the shopping aspect of Bing is treading in dangerous waters. Why? Because most people are very connected to their pocketbooks and anyone reaching for them.
Videos – The TV of the Internet
Another very sensitive segment of the web is the video arena. Google proved that whoever controls this segment pretty much controls the most vast recreational (and now business) tool on the Internet. YouTube is video no matter who disagrees. For MS this is apparent obviously. Bing’s video section is coming along very nicely. The uncluttered and aesthetically superior look here is another offspring of Powerset’s original organizational matrix. From the pulldowns to the suggested or “home” suggested videos, Bing is doing a good job of engaging an audience. I particularly like the “news” tab here. Google’s variant seems archaic by comparison both aesthetically, and as a UI component. It was the best, but Bing has one upped them many times over. In my view Google can no longer rest on the laurels of YouTube to “get her done.”
More Organizational Magic
Images on Bing are far more aesthetically and organizationally beautiful than Google’s or anyone else’s. Bing uses a mouse-over function to display image information for one thing. At first this might seem inappropriate because data on an image is not immediately available, but once a user realizes the function – it makes the field uncluttered and far more suitble for pictures. The left sidebar interface with more organizational superiority, adds greatly as well. I should note here that MS has made the trade off of immediate, for aesthetics and actual function – not a bad move in what has become a long range search game.
The “other” tab of Bing displays a basically vertical list of other Bing element links. Why vertical? Why just links? Advertising later on? Whatever the reason, more of Bing’s organiational magic could have been utilized here. But clicking travel, for instance, reveals super crisp and beautiful tool for both helping users explore “going places”, and helping MS make money from hotels and car rentals. In my view, and experience working with cutting edge travel via Stay.com, Bing will have Yahoo! Travel trumped any day now. Like all the Bing components, Travel has been honed into a sort of “mechanically perfect” booking interface. Sure Powerset and hakia sold us William Shatner seeing us to the trip of our dreams, but the reality of organized superiority is not bad at all.
The Humanity Factor
I used to think Google was evil, begging Microsoft and Yahoo! to teach them a lesson. It is tough sometimes to admit when we are wrong, but boy was I? Bing has a lot going for it actually. Barney Pell and Powerset brought ideas and function to the table which any Google competitor surely needed to have a chance of competing. But, and this is a huge “but”, Microsoft could care less and has no idea what being humane is. This is my view, and I will explain why. Get ready for normative versus empirical evidence though.
Google offers transparent and in the end “actual” value at every end of the human spectrum. Where advanced organizational function via Powerset or MS solves some problems, much seems forgotten at MS with regard to real people. Take publishers for instance. Google welcomes those who work hard to provide content, offering “visibility” for providers and consumers. Got a problem with indexing? Real live support. Need information on SEO or technical problems? Real live support and documentation. Get a scoop and be the first to report a story? Main Google search page, and the world of Google gets it as fast as you can type it. Just one facet of a monumental effort on Google’s part to recognize you as a human being. There is much more, but let’s move on to Yahoo! and Bing.
Looking at Yahoo! as an “all in one” is one thing, but as a human powered business? For instance. We approached Yahoo! News about including our content there. 40 times. The closest we ever got to a live person was an email or two so nebulous as to what is going on at Yahoo! as to be worthless. Redirected to where we started from. Yahoo! has effectively run off, fired, or marginalized anyone who ever created not only an innovation, but those who considered human beings as necessary. All Yahoo! has left? Hardware loaded with their software. Bing, on the other hand, suffers from a sort of elitist and mechanical personality in my view. How could Bing be anything but organizational? This is all MS is. Buying Powerset looked at from this perspective, is so obvious it is crazy. I tried to talk with Barney Pell several times since MS acquired them. Basically, he nor anyone from the original team is able to comment on the slightest innovation ongoing? WTF is that MS? Top secret X Box 360 behavior huh? Call it sour grapes if you will, but there is something wrong when writers and interested conduits to market are cut off- no?
Change Hitting You In the Back?
Bing as a development appears stoic, mechanical, and even anal retentive (or obsessive compulsive) about organization. The people element seems addressed only as a function of effectiveness. Google, interestingly, seems more transparent and human oriented. Maybe the whole search war thing made me too skeptical? Being promised natural language or semantic search, and getting a better version of file folders, sort of burns me. Not for my sake, but for the consumer’s.
The Waggener Edstrom $100 million search sweepstakes is doing its job pretty well though. The search world is being spoon fed properly I suppose, “a little bing here and a little bing there.” The 21st Century model for incremental development no doubt. Humanity in search though? Take one news search for Zhu Zhu Pets for example. The little pets were cause for concern before Christmas as many heard. News at Bing and hakia reveals nothing of these concerns, only some marketing and general sales issues. Google on the other hand offers up relevance with more humane intonation. Check it out.