Release Date: June 3, 2009
Tech Type: Search Engine
Part II: Searching in the Dark
It’s dark. Dark as hell. I didn’t want to come this way, the dark way, but I had to. It’s meant money, lots of money, stress, blood, and a little bit of crying, but I had to. Not just for me, but for the world. They need to see this dark jungle for what it truly is.
People walk blind, my friend. They walk in a daze. They don’t know where they are or how they got there, but there they are. And it’s dark. Dark as hell.
This is my damned death sentence, trudging through the heat of Microsoft’s jungles. If you read the first installment, you know that I’ve decided to plunge headlong into Microsoft’s whole damned ecosystem. I’ve gotten a Windows Phone, Xbox 360, Zune Pass, Dell laptop running Microsoft Signature Windows 7, and all of the software: Hotmail, Windows Live, Bing, Skydrive, everything. The boys back at camp are calling me “Gates.” Haven’t decided if I like it or not. Doesn’t matter. They’re clueless.
They turn on their computer running Windows. They know what it is. They know it came with their computer. It was either this or Apple and they didn’t have $1000 bucks to blow. Otherwise, they could care less. They just want everything to work and pray to their god that they don’t get a virus. That’s why I’m here, to shed some light on their dark, tiny little worlds.
So here they are by the millions, signing onto Windows and then getting on their browser. Clicking mindless until they get to their Facebooks or their porn. Facebook, porn, Facebook, porn, Facebook, and so it goes. Then they want to find out how old Betty White really is. Where do the sheep go? That’s right. Google. They always Google it.
I know better. I know what I’ve done. I’m deep in the heart of Microsoft. I get caught with Google and they’ll shank me with a shiv in the shallows of my shin. No. Here they use Bing. Here they Bing it.
And so I do.
Okay, I’m done with my dramatic Conradian prose. It’s time to review Bing.
The first thing you’ll notice is that Bing is not sparse like Google. It’s got a lot of visuals going on. Go to Bing.com and you won’t find white space. You will find a beautiful photograph with some information at the bottom: popular searches, search history, images, and videos. Up at the top you’ve got a standard Google-esque navigation bar with all the search options, Hotmail, MSN, News, and more.
It’s darker than Google but visually I like it better already. It’s got a giant photograph with little roll over info squares on it that have search suggestions based on the context of the photos. Today’s photo is of a vineyard. It’s pretty. I like it.
Once you search, things get a little more similar to Google but still completely different. I decided to search for “bing” and got 289,000,000 results. The first one is bing.com/editors-picks. It’s got other search engines there. How big of them. Then beneath that is the Wikipedia page for Bing. Under that we finally have the pure Bing.com link, and then images of bing from bing.com/images.
If you look off to the side you’ve got related searches, and if you sign into Windows Live and/or Facebook and/or Twitter, it gives you stuff your pals have said or liked regarding Bing. There’s not a lot there from my friends. The sheep all use Google.
After using Bing for about 2 weeks straight, I have to say, it’s better than Google in many ways.
First, It’s got less spam in the searches. There aren’t as many shitty websites that have been bought up and then abandoned. That happens within about 10 results on Google. On Bing, I didn’t get an irrelevant site for about 4 pages in most of my searches. I also found that searches were at least as accurate as Google in every case.
Searching for everyday things, mostly related to tech news (which I am always on the hunt for) was delightfully accurate. I prefer Bing’s News section as it usually has some relevant articles. I’m not saying that Google isn’t great at news searches, it is awesome, but Bing feels more cohesive and timely.
Bing Maps is simpler than Google Maps, but it’s just as good and has a better list of relevant area businesses in my opinion. Maps and Local search works great on my Lumia 710 and it’s much faster than any Android Google Maps Search ever has been. When you are out on the road and need direction in a snap, Google Maps is rarely up to snuff in terms of quickness. Local Scout is a much talked about app on Windows Phone. It’s basically the Local search section of Bing with reviews and ratings. I find it to be more comprehensive and, again, way faster than Google Maps.
For whatever reason, Bing image search is a cut way about Google Images. I wish I could tell you why. My hunch is that Microsoft only adds the awesome pictures and gets rid of the bullshit. I challenge you to look up any kind of image you want, I can guarantee it will be a better search on Bing than Google.
Since Google video is dead and relies on YouTube, Bing Videos does a better search job there too. The HTML 5-enabled video search lets you see the videos right on the search page and it pulls from many sources. It’s better than any other video search experience out there.
I don’t want you think this is a love fest. Bing’s search customizations are about half as good as Google’s. Also, the additional search categories such as weather and entertainment are rarely seen unless you go get them from your little control center cog in the corner or up top at “more”. Both of which take you to a different page. Not good. Search options should be more readily available. It’s standard now. Get with the times, Bing.
One very cool thing about Bing is the Bing Rewards program. When you sign in to search you get Rewards Points. This is excellent if you are a Microsoft fan. The Rewards Center has charities, Xbox Live passes, Microsoft Points, airline miles, and lots of products available redeemable for Reward Points. With the amount of searching I do, if I can get something, anything, in return for the searches, it’s worth it.
Some of the minor things I like about Bing are the Hotmail integration, the advanced media filters which let you search by image properties, sublinks within a website, Instant Answers, and social media integration that isn’t ruled by a single network (I’m looking at you, Google+). I’m also interested in the Bing Fund, an angel investor program by a small group at Bing led by Voodoo PC creator and former Xbox General Manager Rahul Sood. It plans to fund and foster new search service startups. That could yield some great new search innovations.
Listen, Google heads, let me level with you. Once you get past the shock of not searching with Google, Bing has a better interface. Are the results better? I can’t say 100% scientifically, but I can definitely deal with Bing’s results. Another great thing is that Bing isn’t quite as interested in your information as Google is. Bing just wants you to search. It’s meant to supplement Microsoft products, so they aren’t trying to take your soul from you.
Overall, I would say Bing deserves better. It’s a national pastime on the web to hate on Bing (and more broadly, Microsoft) and shower Google with love and leg humping. I’m a firm believer in the web diversity. Google is doing fine. It’s time to go try other things. I’ve reviewed DuckDuckGo, the little search engine that could and I still like to use it for a host of reasons, but with Bing Rewards, great media search, and extensive services like Maps, Local, and all the others, Bing is Google biggest threat. The big question is: Is Bing better? The real answer is: It’s up to you.
If you use the Microsoft ecosystem, don’t stay in the dark about the different services it has to offer. Bing is good, especially for Microsoft users.