Microsoft Bing has done rather well since it launched. But there is much more to come, with the site set to evolve and expand in the coming months. In fact, Bing 2.0 could be just around the corner. Meanwhile, Microsoft has had to deny it has an obsession with porn after an advert for Bing was discovered on Google alongside search results for “pornography.”
Bing is truly managing to do something I never thought I’d see – it’s weaning people off an over-reliance on Google. I admit, I’d got to the point where I used Google automatically, never even giving another search (or decision) engine a thought. But then Microsoft launched Bing in May and I saw there was a viable alternative out there. I now use both on a regular basis and am happy the search giant has some big-name competition at last.
It isn’t perfect however, with some features needing to be tweaked and some obvious areas ripe for improvement. Andbeen that’s exactly what Microsoft is planning to do sooner rather than later.
Monte Enbysk, senior editor at Microsoft Office Live, wrote, “Bing 2.0, out this month, has some exciting new features. Imagine seeing maps plus pics from the neighborhood of a restaurant to try.”
As usual, Microsoft has played dumb over the speculation, stating, ““We’re very excited about some of the new Bing features set to roll out over the next few months, but have nothing to announce today.” But a release during September seems assured, with some indicating a launch this coming week. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see, and then hope the improvements are noticeable.
Less savory is the discovery of an advert for Bing on Google when “pornography” is searched for. TechCrunch made the discovery, so I have to assume one of their staffers likes perusing NSFW content while at work, and also doesn’t know that “porn” is now used instead of “pornography by all but the upper classes. Probably.
Microsoft denied purchasing ad placement on searches of this kind and concludes “free videos” is more likely to have triggered the ad showing up. Which may well be the case. But that doesn’t change the fact that Bing is widely regarded as the search engine to use to find porn. Microsoft might not like that reputation but I’m sure the traffic that comes its way as a result isn’t unwanted.
It turns out that consumers rely on images in search engine result pages more than Google and Microsoft execs thought. Knowing this can help SEO professionals better optimize sites, according to executives from both companies who spoke at the Search Engine Strategies conference last week in San Jose, Calif.
It also turns out that image search is very important. Todd Schwartz, group product manager of online services division for Bing at Microsoft, shed light on the types of queries that consumers search for on Bing, he says. Following “Web search” categorized as a “vertical,” images took the No. 2 spot.
Not surprisingly, R.J. Pitman, director of product management for global search properties at Google, believes that image search as a vertical sits at No. 1, rather than No. 2. The growth comes from the “more than 1 billion” camera phones being sold yearly, and the ability to share pictures. Google sees “hundreds of millions of searches daily across billions and billions of images,” he says. Images are no longer a “nice to have, but a must have” piece to promote businesses online.
Pitman says Google has begun to rank images based on the quality of the image. People need to stop thinking about the photos as images and look at them as digital bits of information, where pixels in the frame actually mean something. Google considers more than the sitemap feeds, title tags and attached metadata when ranking images. The search engine now looks at what’s in the image. It helps Google find and serve up similar images through object and facial recognition, according to Pitman, who says to consider these facts to better optimize “when building next-generation Web sites.”
For years, Microsoft has been struggling to chip away at Google’s dominance in the search engine market. And for years, they have been largely unsuccessful, mainly because their own search engine, Microsoft Live Search, produced unwanted and often irrelevant results.
But a few weeks ago, Microsoft released Bing, an updated version of Live Search, in their newest attempt to knock Google off its pedestal.
Although Bing is partially a rebranding of Live Search, it does include new features like instant previews of Web sites and videos.
Microsoft is so committed to Bing’s success that it will launch an astronomical $80 million to $100 million advertising campaign. That’s more than four times Google’s entire advertising budget last year.
It’s been hard to determine how Microsoft’s newcomer is stacking up against its two greatest competitors, Google and Yahoo!. According to StatCounter, one of the world’s largest Web analytics companies, Bing temporarily overtook Yahoo! in terms of market share. Currently, however, Google has 81.5 percent of the search engine market, with Yahoo! at 9.39 percent and Bing at 4.82 percent.
But one Microsoft employee, Michael Kordahi, thinks that some users might be prejudiced against Bing because of Google’s perceived brand name superiority.
He created a blind search engine that shows the search results of Google, Yahoo! and Bing in three nondescript columns. The Web site then invites users to vote for the most relevant results.
Unfortunately, the results were too erratic to name any consistent winner, prompting Kordahi to conclude that “some douche is gaming the system.”
I must confess that, as someone who has had bad experiences with Live Search, I prefer Google. Before I could adequately review the usefulness of Bing, I thought I should first experiment with the blind search engine myself.
So, in completely unscientific fashion, I typed in ten random searches – five single words and five phrases – and picked the results I thought were most valuable and applicable.
And the results were somewhat surprising: While Google crushed the competition with six votes, Bing received a surprising three votes, and Yahoo! just one vote.
It seems I find Microsoft’s search engine a fairly legitimate contender in the battle for supremacy, although Google is still the undisputed champion.
But how do Bing’s other search capabilities like News and Maps compare against Google’s?
Well, I certainly found that the Bing homepage looks pretty. The search bar is superimposed on a beautiful panoramic stock photo that changes every day. Each picture is embedded with invisible squares about the picture that users can click on for more information.
But while this design is certainly unique, Bing’s hide-and-go-seek feature is basically self-promotion masquerading as helpful innovation.
Each square merely redirects users to a search through Bing. For example, clicking on “Learn more about Flag Day” directs the user to a Bing search of “Flag Day.”
But Bing does have some helpful, interesting features.
Unlike Google, Bing’s image search displays the results in one giant scrollable window, thereby eliminating the annoying need to click on multiple pages. And Bing Cashback offers buyers to receive a small percentage back of payments they have made on participating Web sites.
These are Bing’s best features, however, and ultimately Bing still plays second fiddle.
Bing News lacks all the customizability, readability and wealth of information that exists in Google News. Bing only features 14 translatable languages to Google’s 41.
And while Bing Maps is speckled with aesthetically pleasing mountains and forests, it cannot easily display directions and locations like Google Maps.
We must remember, though, while developers have made significant blunders along the way, Bing is still being improved.
They failed to realize, for example, that Bing can mean “sickness” in Chinese (the nationality of Bing’s biggest audience), prompted a name change to “Biying,” meaning “must respond,” which Microsoft is coyly marketing as a “decision engine.”
And they received criticism when Bing’s filtering mechanism could not adequately block porn in its parental settings, which was quickly rectified when the company consulted 25 security vendors for assistance.
Microsoft is certainly improving its image as a legitimate search engine competitor. But the company needs much more innovative firepower before successfully waging war against the Google Empire.