Sometimes, people just don’t learn…

Do you remember Live Search (don’t worry if you don’t recall it. It’s already been four years since its underwhelming launch)? It was Microsoft’s landing page/search engine and it was a dismal failure.  Overpopulated with random, irrelevant information, its demise in the wake of Google’s ascendency was assured.

So now we have Bing…the “Google-killer” from Microsoft (and it’s yet another example of “Me too” syndrom) that has been launched with much fanfare, riding into town on the back of a $100 million dollar advertising campaign (including a TV campaign. Wow. Advertising net-services on TV. That makes as much sense as advertising ear-plugs on the radio).

Microsoft’s chief executive, Steve Ballmer was quoted as saying, “When we set out to build Bing, we grounded ourselves in a deep understanding of how people really want to use the web.”  Really? So where’s all that cool functionality you promise in your little movie clip? Like the results that “french restaurant new york” query returned? Here’s a little fact you can add to your “understanding”, Steve: people want to do the stuff you show them they can do (at first I thought it was a log-in thing. So I created a Windows Live ID, logged in and…still nothing. FAIL).


Bing is branded as a decision engine – whatever the hell that means. Seriously. I actually asked Bing “How does Bing help you make a decision?” and got the following result:


Yeah. Not very useful (unless you count the nugget of being able to watch pr0n without leaving your search window. 🙂 ). To be fair, the result I was looking for was the last entry below the fold.

I asked Google the same question and received the following result:


A little more useful, methinks.

Anyway, I played around with Bing and Google for a bit longer, asking the engines the various questions and while I got not-so-different results, I still got them as 10 blue links. Nothing new there either.

So here’s the thing about Bing… For the most part, it does everything Google does. And that’s the problem. It doesn’t do anything new. Changing the way you display results isn’t going to make a difference. You need to materially change the way you get results. And I’m not just talking algorithms here…

Last week, I blogged about Aardvark, the social (media) search engine, which takes your (usually normative) query and sends it out to real people in your social network (and beyond) – giving you real results that are probably 99% trustworthy. Is it perfect? No, but it’s different and does what it says (and the fact that there’s built-in IM/Gmail Chat/Facebook functionality doesn’t hurt at all). I am unashamedly a fan.

On top of everything else, Bing needs to take into account the fact that Google (without having to prompt it too much) has become part of the global zeitgeist – and our vocabulary. When last did you search for something? When last did you Google something? And while it’s true that if Google goes out of business, it’ll lose its place in the dictionary, it’s going to take more than $100 million dollars and a pretty landing page to damage that presence.

Then again, Ballmer did saythat by the end of the next 5 years, he wants to Bing to be the second-best search engine. And at this rate, he may just get his wish.

By the way, does anyone remember who got the second highest number of medals in swimming at the last Olympics? You may have to Google it. QED.

“Bing – we’re just like Google. But we’re not a search engine. Um…”


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