01 August, 2009

To Yahoo is to Bing is to.........

About two years ago, Windows Live Search which was MSN evolved in to Live Search; but that didn't have much impact with users: Microsoft was still lagging behind Yahoo as a search engine and very much behind Google. Redmond had to come up with some thing. Desperate for a break, they came up with 'Kumo' which became 'Bing'.

And, now, unfortunately, Yahoo has teamed up with Microsoft; this is unfortunate in that, Microsoft will take over the technical side of Yahoo's search offering using Bing and AdCenter technology to become the exclusive provider of search on Yahoo for 10 years. This teaming up between the two and this deal, is all because of one and only one reason: Google. For years now, Yahoo and Microsoft have been trying hard to beat or at least - catch up with Google, but they have dismally failed. And now Microsoft has silenced Yahoo and for 10 years the Redmond company will only have Google to think of and focus on; and Yahoo will not offer any competition to neither. Will the strategy work and can Bing catch up with Google?

I very much doubt that. Microsoft has this habit of being loud and outspoken, while Google is completely the opposite of that. Google does things quietly and without making much pomp out of them: through the years, they have been releasing one fine, very useful product after another - many of which few people even know of. Without sounding off and without making much noise about the products. While on the other hand, both Yahoo and Microsoft would make so much noise on 'updates' or on any new product that they come up with; however small or useless it is.

For instance: both Yahoo and Microsoft made too much noise trumpeting their 'new' email services. And we all waited for and we expected them to provide; they didn't. Instead, to date, Gmail - as simple as it is - is still the best email service one can think of. But it is in online search that both Yahoo and Microsoft utterly failed to catch up with the giant; whatever the two came up with, however much they tried, they simply remained behind. And it didn't help that Yahoo and Microsoft, every now and then, through the years, announced 'updates' and 'new' products without much success. The flip-flops haven't helped either: MSN Search, became Windows Live Search became Live Search became Kumo and now it is Bing; this constant changing doesn't help. No wonder some are joking that Bing is an acronym for “But It’s Not Google.” And the tendency for Microsoft and Yahoo to imitate Google, only makes it more difficult.

For the last two months I have been using Bing regularly; and well, Bing, which is in actual fact the same 'Live' search but only with a few cosmetic changes and tweaks, is still way behind Google. For a final analysis, a few moments ago, I used the website that gives a side-by-side comparison between the two: Bing and Google - to search for a few items that are closer to here. I did searches for: Islam, Hadhramout, Hadhramaut, Al Mukalla, Socotra, Soqotra and Yemen. While Google would give a complete set of results - websites, videos, images, the news, blogs and so on, and suggestions for more at the bottom; Bing's results to the queries simply gave major websites. Another big difference between the two, is that: for most results, Google had a not only 'cached' to click on, but another useful way of refining the search further - 'similar' - to click on.

Overall, with my experience with Bing for the last two months, I found Bing very good and helpful in several ways. Much better than what I had expected. It gives results fast, has a unique interface and has a left-hand navigation panel that lets users click on related or recent searches, and a center panel that groups the search results into what Bing deems are logical categories. It's that left hand panel that was their best innovation and gives Bing some edge; except for one problem: on the 'video' page Bing has a feature which allows the user to use the cursor over a video thumbnail and see highlights from the video play automatically - this won't work well with conservative societies like ours, because that allows any one, any where, where there is Bing - to watch previews of any videos.

Still: Google is Google. Google does not only have an excellent, successful search engine; it offers many other fine, very useful products and services which complement each other. Bing is still way behind to catch up and sway most users to it. For Bing to catch up, it has to offer as many other good and useful complementary, matching products and services; not just a search service. And I have no doubt that Google will still lead for a long time to come. I have no doubt too, that, in desperation, Bing will regularly, pompously, announce many more 'major updates', 'new features' and changes. Who knows: maybe, while Yahoo for 10 years is in shackles, even the name 'Bing' might be changed.

Image: seablog