Bing – worth it? Time will tell

June 5, 2009

I’ve been alerted through work about the search engine Bing.

I’ve tried it for a few searches, mostly simple “phrase and word” searches like ‘”eastern front” terrain’ and ‘”eastern front” forests’. Then I compared results obtained to results obtained with the same searches in Google.

The results I got in the first 5 or so pages of results in Bing certainly seemed very retail-oriented…not so helpful when I am looking for fact or history-oriented. True, Google also returned many retail-oriented in its first few pages of results but it also yielded plenty of factual results early in results.

I felt even more unhappy with my results when I saw that prominently displayed at the bottom of each results page in Bing is the statement,Some results have been removed.” Clicking on that link does not let me go in and tell it to show me all results, regardless of adult content or not – frustrating. Why tell me they are removing some results and not let me try to find out why and do something about it?

Doing a bit of research into Bing – I was primarily trying to find Media Releases and the like trumpeting its availability to the world –  I found the follwoing two informative articles which I urge you to read,  “Discovering more about Microsoft’s Bing search engine” from The Guardian and “Microsoft’s bada Bing” from The BBC. The quotation from Shar VanBoskirk in the former is revealing – so much so that I went to the source that The Guardian used and reproduced what I consider the important information here:

* Bing focuses on delivering answers, not Web pages.  Microsoft research shows (and Forrester’s research affirms) that users rely more and more on search engines to deliver solutions…hotel reservations, movie listings, gift ideas, newsclip replays…not just a directory of Web sites.  Bing was developed to help consumers make decisions, not just to catalog content.
* Bing organizes content/results by searcher (not algorithm) relevance.  Using research of what types of results have proven relevant to former searchers, Microsoft has organized its Bing interface to deliver the content users are most likely to value, rather than just content that matches an algorithmic formula.
* Bing filters out results that aren’t relevant.  Instead of giving users an overwhelming volume of results, Bing acts as a concierge to help point users to the results most likely to meet their need.

That comes from the May 28 2009 entry on the Forrester Blog for Interactive Marketing Professionals.

My thoughts? 1) It’s delivering answers – but answers to retail-style questions first and foremost. I’m trying to make decisions – but I need lots of reports, observations, memories, photos and so on first. 2) Bing organises by searcher relevance. Who are these searchers? Why trust their judgement about my results? 3) Filtering by what rules/guidelines? Why can’t I turn them off if I’m not getting results similar to those which Google can?

Darren Waters’ article on the BBC website is also well worth contemplating, especially this quote:

But Microsoft is playing smart and is likely to say that it is trying to compete not with Google, but with Yahoo, currently the number two search engine in the US.

The reason is clear: Microsoft is so far behind Google in search that, in many respects, it is not even in the same race.

While Google enjoys more than 64% of searches in the US, Microsoft trundles along with 8.2%. But Microsoft is at least notionally able to compete with Yahoo, which enjoys 20% of the market.

My thoughts? 1) No wonder I’m not happy with Bing – it’s only trying to beat Yahoo! Search. Google has, in my mind, defeated Alltheweb, which was a serious contender, and until late last year I used it for all my wargaming research. Now I’m using Google because it indexes more content and more obscure yet valuable content, such is it’s power. 2) Bing is Microsoft’s search engine, tweaked and revamped. I never used it previously, because of its limitations – for now I’ll leave it alone, too.

On the plus side, Bing did show me Steven Thomas’ “Balagan” website, where I saw and read about his efforts in making terrain templates. Here is his page –  Modelling: Terrain Templates. I hope you enjoy it and it gives you ideas – I certainly enjoyed it. Well done, Steve!

(This post is one of those job-related, ‘Librarian issues’ posts that occasionally pop up here. Normal modelling/gaming/hobby posts will be resumed very soon!)

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