Monday, June 1, 2009

Bing: first impressions

Last Thursday, when Microsoft announced their new search engine, bing.com, they were being ridiculed by many, because the website wasn’t ready and Google stole a bit of the thunder with their own announcement of Google Wave.

Today, it appears that nobody is laughing (unless they are ready the Onion coverage) as the positive comments keep rolling in. It turns out that – like in so many other cases – Microsoft usually gets it right on the 2nd (or 3rd) attempt.

But I’m talking about the technology, not the name. Whatever were they thinking, when they called it “Bing”??

In any case, I’ve been testing bing.com today, and I must say that there are indeed a few new and innovative things in bing.com that could convince people (myself included) to start using it instead of Google:

  1. Preview of search results
    For every page in the natural search result you get a short preview of the content of that page, or a short excerpt with other helpful links, for example when I hover over the entry for our XMLSpy XML Editor, a little window pops up to the right of it with some details:
    XMLEditorOnBing
  2. Automatic categories and web groups
    If you are searching for a fairly generic term, or if you’ve entered a keyword phrase that can be interpreted in different ways, the result will include a list of categories or “web groups” on the left side and the overall result list will also be organized with a few entries per such group, for example a search for “xml” will yield separate groups for “Specifications”, “Tools”, etc.:
    BingCategories
  3. Preview of video results
    Finding videos in search results is nothing new, but a live preview of the video just by hovering the mouse over the still frame is really cool:
    BingVideos
  4. Integration of reference materials
    Whether you are searching for people or for treatment for medial issues, one of the interesting things that sets bing.com apart is the integration of reference materials. For example, searching for poison ivy and then clicking on “Articles” on the left side, produces a full article within the bing.com platform that has been imported from Wikipedia. Similarly, I just found that when I “bing myself” there is a photo and a link to another reference article at the bottom of the search results – the information again appears to be imported from Wikipedia:
    BingAFalk
  5. Cashback when you buy items online
    OK, this one almost sounds like from a cheesy commercial, but when you think about it for a moment, it is really quite brilliant. When you register with bing.com you can set up a cashback account, which you can link to your bank account or PayPal, and then – whenever you search for items online and actually go to a vendor to purchase them – you get a percentage of the purchase price back. Especially in tough economic times, that can be a big incentive to start your next online shopping trip on bing.com instead of the “other” search-engine:
    BingCashback

To find out more about all the new features, I recommend reading the Bing Reviewer’s Guide that is part of the official press kit or taking this tour of bing.

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