Bing has now been with us for a little over a month now, and I was excited to hear about Microsoft’s latest offering. Something over the past couple years at Microsoft changed, as I’ve gone from strongly disliking their products to being able to actually use them in my day-to-day life. An example of this is the Windows 7 Release Candidate, which runs fantastically, and so far has been much more stable than my previous Windows XP and Vista experiences. Whatever they are doing culture-wise over at the Redmond campus seems to be working though.
As much as I would like to give Microsoft credit for their Bing offering, I am reminded by the shadows of their previous release: the MSN Network and Windows Live Search. Both of those products left a terrible taste in my mouth and I found them to be incredibly user unfriendly. It has taken years for Microsoft to finally get it right, and it seems that they have in a big way.
The first thing I noticed was the clean interface. I want to say Google-like, but there is a distinctive design use there that separates it from the competition enough to be called unique. But it isn’t the colour scheme that I’m particularly interested in; I’m much more interested in the search results and feature capabilities. On those two topics I was pleasantly surprised by the relevance and clarity of results provided. My measure of usability relies on two things: how simple of a search I can do to retrieve the content and how relevant that content actually is to my needs.
Now, I have been using Google for years, I think I started when I was maybe 14, after I got tired of dealing with the poor returns of the heavyweights of the time: AltaVista and Ask. I used Google once and was hooked. Bing almost did the same thing for me as Google did to the previous reigning champions: it got me interested in my search results again. With their snippets of information beside each search, the cleanliness of the results page and most importantly getting me to my relevant content fast. It perplexed me how much I actually enjoyed using their service, and as of right now I use Bing as my default search provider.
Now I don’t tend to use many of the other services provided on a regular basis, such as image search and news group search, but from the little I use the services, I say that they are at an equal trade off: Google is a little faster, whereas Bing has a few more nice UI features. That being said, I don’t really consider those categories when I am comparing the two engines.
Overall, I have to say yes, Bing must be a real competitor to Google, since it seems to be swaying quite a few users back the Microsoft way, even for a short while. Also based on the fact that Google seems to be alert to this new competitor is interesting, as shortly after Microsoft began to see success with Bing, Google announced their entrance into the desktop operating system market. Now if that isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to Bing, then I don’t know what is. It will be interesting to see how these two giants battle it out over the next year or so, and it will also be interesting to see what people have to say about their experience with this new search competitor.