This is the second part of my ongoing review of Microsoft’s new “decision engine,” Bing. Read Part 1 here.
Reading the Bing Commentary
In researching my opinions on Bing News vs Google News, I caught some interesting headlines on Google News about Bing. Two of them could not have been more different.
One was from Mike Elgan of Computerworld, who painted a dystopian future about how terrible the world will be with Microsoft’s “decision engine” making all of our decisions for us. He derides the “best match” feature, even though stating a fact is something search newcomer Wolfram|Alpha does quite nicely. He also seems to think that accuracy and popularity are synonymous, but then again he probably also thinks Darth Vader said “Luke, I am your father.” Of course, this opinion was based on a video, and not actually using it, but that is beside the point.
Somewhere along the way, Mike forgot that we are all humans, capable of making our own decisions, and somehow decided that Microsoft’s plan involves actually making the decisions for all of us. You can’t blame him tho, because he assumed that Bing is wired into everyone’s cerebral cortex, and that the technological advances in Bing were centered around new computer code that could override human free will and program humans to do whatever Microsoft wanted.
Look Mike, this argument applies just as much to ComputerWorld, or Google, or any other website. If you, as a human, don’t use your reasoning skills to make your own decisions, it is a PEBCAK problem, not a Microsoft problem. But you may want to put an extra layer of tin foil around your hat, just in case.
The other comes from Barrons, and has a great money (literally) quote:
People certainly found it appealing. One fund manager I chatted with said that not only does he intend to start using the service when it launches June 3, but also that he is mulling whether to short Google. I was a little startled by that response, but you can see his point: Microsoft might be able to nibble some market share away from Google at the margin, and slow its steady march to complete domination.
It will be very interesting to see what the market does in the next few weeks in response to this new search product.
Sorry for the detour… back to the review.
There are too many new sites on the Internet. Microsoft is as big a culprit as anyone else, it has no fewer than four major news sites. It is clear that Bing News will replace Live Search News, but what is unclear is what will happen to My Live. Hopefully nothing major, since it is my RSS aggregator of choice.
There are no substantial changes here. It would be neat if Microsoft combined the Powerset technology with my search history to suggest news that might be interesting to me, similar to the way Suggested Sites works with IE8. Then it might end up doing what Techmeme used to do, which was bubble up obscure posts about things going on that I might not be aware of. This is something that Google does already, though I don’t use it because I don’t like Google tracking my search history.
I will say that I like Bing News better than Google, for the exact opposite reason than for Search: there is less information on the page. Google News is designed by people who write code, so they don’t mind if their eyes are constantly bombarded by text. Bing doesn’t try to be MSNBC (or MSNBC clone Yahoo News), it just gives you a few links to what is going on, and an easy way to dive into a topic to see more. And I like that.
Images and Video
You know, it’s funny. I was going to write this whole section on how Bing expands on image and video searching by providing new features like live filtering by metadata, or mouse-over playback for videos. Then I went to Live.com to compare the old system to the new Bing… and they’re pretty much exactly the same. Because I had never liked the results from Live.com, I never really dove into the other features and gave them a shot. Maybe the improvements with Bing on the semantic side will finally give Microsoft the credit they deserve in other areas.
For me, Bing Images is the clear winner. Their filter tools make it easy to get to the image I’m looking for, and it appears that the search results filter duplicates very well. Google
But just for argument’s sake, I’ll show the side-by-sides anyway.
With Video, Bing is the winner again. With their mouse-over playback, you don’t actually have to click through to YouTube to get a preview of the video. Google won’t ever do that, because they are trying to drive as much traffic as possible to YouTube. Google opted instead to “borrow” the layout from MSN Video, without borrowing any of the aspects of the design that actually made it interesting.
And thus ends Part 2 of my review. In Part 3, I’ll tackle Shopping and Travel.