Would you Bing that?

Earlier this week Microsoft Canada invited myself and a few other locals out to take a look at Bing. Here’s what you should know about Bing.

Bing is Microsoft’s new search engine. Bing is a re-brand of Microsoft’s old “live” search engine. The one no one ever really used. Bing is effectively front-end revamp, re-brand and relaunch of Microsoft search.

Another thing to know. Bing in Canada isn’t the same thing as Bing in the US. The US one has a lot more “stuff” to it. You may or may not actually like the cleaner Canadian version. Click to make these pictures bigger:

Bing USA vs. Bing Canada

I’ve been trying out for a several days. The best you can say for it is that it’s okay. It’s a fine search engine. This may not sound like high praise, but a) it’s far better than you can say for the last few search engines who’ve tried to take on the GOOG b) coming from microsoft, who are only finally starting to rediscover the internet in recent years.

And Microsoft really is trying to take on the google, or so they say. Actually how they say it is that users are unsatisfied with “search” and that they use the back button too much and that “search” takes them too long to find a perfect pair of shoes for example. But they say they are not trying to take on Google per say. As though taking of “search” is somehow a different than taking on the company that has 97% market share of search.

How do you get better than Google? Well this is tough, google being, let’s be honest, much of the time, almost brilliantly indistinguishable from magic. Then there is Google Inc.’s habit of generally simply awesome web applications all over the internet and then giving them to us users for free. Don’t you feel kinda bad not using google for search?

To do better, Bing’s strategy is mostly about trying to aggregate a lot of corner cases. Bing’s search results provides categories that are context sensitive to what you are searching for. Search for “Toronto” and you’ll get a lot of results categorized by city-ish and touristy-ish related subjects, search for “Australian Cattle Dog” and you’ll get dog pictures and categories like adoption and pets and rescues. Not bad.

Is Bing a serviceable replacement for googling? I would dare say that most of the time it is. Is there any reason you should switch? Well let’s not get crazy. Bing is by no means clearly better than google, it may be fine, but it’s not clearly ten times better. Ten times better is probably what it would take for most consumers to consciously and confidently make that decision.

And that’s what’s really so funny about Bing being better than google, is how much Bing looks like google. Though it’s front page is rather distinctive, Bing’s results, how to put this politely, “leverage a lot of familiar affordances” from google:

I Can’t Believe it’s not Google!

You know I bet if bet if you shipped a lot of OEM computers that just happened to have Bing set as the default search engine, that it might take a lot of ordinary users a while before they even noticed that they weren’t on google…

LINK: Bing

UPDATE/PROTIP: the image searching on Bing is actually pretty awesome. They give you a nice side bar frame to browse across images on multiple sites, much less back-buttony than google. Example. Click on a picture in these results to see what I mean.