Bing is the new search engine from Microsoft. The successor to Live Search, it aims to compete with Google with an original approach based on filtering the results by categories and some of the interface innovations that are quite attractive. Bing going to change our habits? Let’s turn this new "decision engine" as Microsoft calls it.
What we were doing on the Web before Google? The question is deliberately provocative, but the search engine is so ubiquitous that we would do even more to the idea of using another. Yet despite its many qualities, Google is far from perfect, and the idea of landing a competitor is in itself quite exciting. Certainly, Microsoft is not at its first attempt in this area, and we can not say that the previous, Live Search, was a frank success apart from some interesting subtleties such as the display image search, the engine does not shine by its relevance.
Regarding Bing, however, Microsoft announced a few innovations that could change the situation. The Redmond company considers a motor Bing decision rather than a search engine. The concept may seem purely marketing, but Microsoft puts forward some arguments, including the fact that Bing does not just deliver a suite of results sorted by relevance to a system: the engine of Microsoft automatically results by category, which is supposed to make research more efficient and pleasant, even before you click one of the results.
Bing Home Page
We saw, Bing wants to stand out from Google. As such, Bing takes part in a certain freshness and offers a home page for an original search engine. Thus, the user is greeted by a white background and a search box, but by a screen of the most beautiful effect. This may sound trivial, but later the "bling bling" does not stop there: in passing the mouse over certain areas of this picture, we see that certain areas are "tagguees" like the pictures and give Facebook access to links with the photo. In our example, a photo of Sidney offers some links to videos to travel to Australia, videos of the show Australian Idol (the local version of New Star), or to aerial photos of the famous opera house in Sidney Virtual Earth. The home page of Bing is updated daily and if you missed one, two buttons allow you to switch to one of the above. Although purely "gadget", this feature breaks somewhat with the austerity of Google (which we may also consider a quality according to their tastes). At the interface, we can see also a side panel to switch directly to the search for images, videos, price comparison, news, maps or airline tickets. Finally on the bottom of the page of links to research the most popular. We note, therefore after this tour will make Bing a hybrid between a search engine "pure", to only search for which it was launched, and a gateway to suggestions through the screen or research popular.
Bing: Presentation Of the Interface
What is the "decision engine" means exactly? The term seems somewhat tarnished, as if trying to stand out too much of Google and do a routine "search engine". However, beyond the marketing discourse, is quite clearly in the presentation of results. Just do a search on a city to this. For our example, we chose Berlin. With Google, the first query result suggests a map of Berlin with Google Maps. Note also the video search results (which only refer to the clip of the song Christophe Willem Berlin). All other results are presented as a list, by order of relevance according to the criteria of Google. Note also trade links on the right of the page.
Bing’s side, the results are automatically sorted by categories, through an issue of technology acquisition by Microsoft of the startup Powerset: in our example map, Hotels, Travel, Tour, Attractions, and Images. This breakdown of results is accessible from a side panel giving access to the sub category, but also within search results, where each category is separated by a heading (note still an oddity in our research: the group of years 80 Berlin squat just the first results. Only the results of each category are displayed. A link "See more results" provides access to detailed results. While some of these categories do not add anything other than sponsored results, others, like Maps, Hotels and Tours show in first result maps from Virtual Earth, including the locations of hotels, or even a calendar of cultural events coming into the city.
While it is possible to obtain in most cases, similar results in Google when searching more specific: "Berlin hotels" returns the same type of card with Google Maps, and "Berlin Weather displays weather logically local, even if the purpose of Bing is precisely to avoid these searches, the engine is supposed to "guess". In addition, some modules are currently a total lack of localization. Thus, under the category "Berlin Tour" has a cultural agenda, a good idea, but in this case, from Berlin, referring to shows in Cincinnati or Seattle! There nothing wrong: Bing is currently more developed in its American version, it is logically more substantial data on New York or Los Angeles. If one ignores the problem of localization, the approach proposed by Bing was quite interesting. Note also the presence in the side panel of other suggestions for research and history of your requests. Ergonomics Bing favors more return trips between queries.
Another advantage of Bing concerned about Google displaying thumbnails of the content at the level of the search results. A small mouse to the right of a result shows a pop-up containing an extract of the content (usually the tag "description" when available) as well as direct links to other pages on the site. In theory the idea is quite good because it helps filter the search results before they have clicked. In practice, you should use can be extended as Cooliris Previews, which allows you to see a mini preview of the site.
Bing Image Search
Compared to Google Images, Bing offers some additional features. Nevertheless, it is once again in the presentation of results that the Microsoft engine is distinguished by some rather nice touches in terms of ergonomics. Thus, where the display of Google Images is by pages of a number of vignettes, Bing can view all the results on the same page and scroll vertically at leisure, like a manager photos Picasa or ACDSee style. Four viewing modes are available: sizes 3 vignettes (without annotations) and a more traditional view that displays the name of the image and its resolution.
We also appreciate the presence of additional criteria for filtering images: besides the size, color or type of image (photo, drawing, face …), Bing offers some criteria such as available (square, wide or high) or the type of portrait for those (large plan, plan … American). Appreciable last detail the overview of a photo displays a context menu it allows you to search for images similar to those selected. It thus becomes possible to more easily find what you were seeking. The engine used to calculate the similarities we found quite relevant.
On the video, Bing and Google are roughly similar. Both offer search pages to display a multitude of results as thumbnails and a reader built into the page to play the videos without leaving the search, whether from YouTube, DailyMotion, MySpace or other sites. Regarding the viewing of videos, we can see a difference in ergonomics, the provision of Google Videos module allows you to scroll the search results without removing the viewing window. In Bing, it is located at the top of the page and you have to come back to watch the selected video. By contrast, Microsoft developers have thought of a more than appreciable detail, an overview of the video allows you to display a thumbnail, is included, which can already know what we are dealing before launching reading. Both sites offer some variety of criteria taking into account the duration of the video, the date or source (Dailymotion, YouTube …)
Bing Relevance of Search
Determine the relevance of a search engine is not an easy task. What is a successful combination? We could summarize it in a motion that the engine seems to have understood. For the query "India restaurant, is expected to first see a list of restaurants in India, if possible on a map, not an article that talked vaguely of restaurants and India. To assess the relevance of Bing face to Google, we have launched 10 research drawn on both the news of high tech, general news (politics, sport) or more generic queries. The complaints were made in french on the French version of Bing.
Queries about current high-tech
Our first series of complaints concerning the news of high-tech. News oblige, we conducted a search for "iPhone 3.0" on the latest firmware version of the iPhone. De nouveaux MacBook Pro étant récemment sortis, nous avons également effectué une requête « test MacBook Pro » (ou « MacBook Pro review » pour la version américaine de Bing). New MacBook Pro was recently released, we also made a motion "test MacBook Pro (or MacBook Pro review" for the U.S. version of Bing). Finally, the social network Twitter being in vogue in the media at the moment, we thought that many newcomers could search "Twitter Guide.
Of these complaints, there is clearly a discrepancy between the results from the Bing and Google. The most obvious is the query "Twitter Guide" which refers, on the first page, a link that is only really a guide to using Twitter. Regarding the iPhone 3.0 and testing the MacBook Pro, the results are those that go back to older tests. This problem is much less visible on the English version of the engine that returns results more recent and more relevant to the query on Twitter. On the same note, in the latter case, the news on Twitter, including its use by the Iranian opposition.
Queries on general news
In terms of more general news, we selected three queries, one on the aftermath of elections in Iran ( "Iran elections" or "Iran Election" for the Bing) and at Wimbledon ( " Results Wimbledon or Wimbledon results "for the Bing). Finally, we launched Wednesday morning, the day after the cabinet reshuffle, a request "government reshuffle." There is above all the lack of research news. Google is back in first position search on Google News. The Bing did likewise with a sub-category "Election News about Iran."
Finally, the query on the reshuffle returns only one result related to the reshuffle of 22 June 2009 from a blog. For its part, Google is full of news and pages on the news.
How Google and Bing are doing to find a restaurant, an airline ticket or the weather of a city? Regarding the weather, the two sites are a no-fault, Bing as Google have a weather graphic to 5 days. Regarding the search for a restaurant, a little less pink and there is a discrepancy between the Bing and his U.S. counterpart, displaying only the addresses of restaurants on a Virtual Earth map as the Google Maps. Finally, on the search for plane tickets, we note a fundamental difference: the American version of Bing offers an entire section dedicated to the search for airfare, we’ll see more detail.
Bing Tools of decision
We saw in the previous pages, Microsoft claims to Bing a "decision engine" rather than just a search engine. One aspect of this alleged difference in the ergonomics of the search engine, but Bing also includes specific tools to compare prices, search for airline tickets or finding hotels or restaurants. These are again reserved for the American version of the site, but their features are sufficiently interesting that we are addressing.
Search for airfare
Resulting from the merger of MSN Travel and Farecast, the search for airfare Bing is probably one of the most attractive aspects of the service. The feature is accessible from the home page via the menu option Travel. A priori, nothing special, the engine allows you to choose the place and dates of departure and arrival, and returns the results of flight like a price comparison. However, the interface offers several subtleties that make the experience quite interesting. Thus, the side panel of the selection page offers several flights sliders to adjust the time of departure and arrival and the tariff range, while several cases can filter the results by the airlines, or stops . The results are filtered out almost immediately. Note also an indicator seen the Price Predictor. This allows, as its name suggests to give you advice to buy (or wait to buy) the evolution of flight prices upwards or downwards. A detailed chart of this development is available through the display of a pop-up.
The search for airfare may also be displayed directly by entering a city of departure and arrival from the search box Bing. The first search result displays the flight more interesting, the icon associated with the Price Predictor. By clicking on this link, you will have access to a calendar of upcoming trips to the destination, each date being associated with the price of the flight.
Search for hotel or restaurant
The second research tool "vertical" refers to hotels and restaurants. Here, it is closer to what Google is proposing, namely a display of hotels and restaurant on a map and an aggregation of view of users. However, Bing goes much further in regard to the selection criteria. Thus, for restaurants, you can filter the results according to the note of users, type of kitchen (with a selection more extensive than that of Google), the atmosphere, payments, or the arrangements for parking. Regarding hotels, the criteria also include on-site amenities (mini bar, wifi, swimming pool, car rentals …)
The search for hotels in the framework of a journey is also a module-oriented book, available from the Travel section. The interface is similar to the search tool airfare and again offers interesting features such as charts of price comparison with other dates than those chosen, the possibility of locating on a map with a place to see nearby hotels, filtering according to the facilities or the number of stars of the hotel, the selection cursor to the price range or an indicator of "good business" (deal, average or not a deal).
We end this overview of decision tools Bing with section Shopping. It takes the form of a price comparison of the most classic. You can access from the home page but, like other modules decision Shopping results will also appear on the first page when searching on a web product. The comparator works the same way as in web search categories: for a given product, it will collect data such as different brands offering products related to research, the different prices or types of products found. It should be noted, in the spirit a bit more commercial, the possibility of obtaining a discount (the Bing cashback) on certain products. It is possible to filter the products available that offer.
Bing think that at the end of this presentation? The overall impression is positive, at least in regard to the American version of the engine which is currently the most advanced. The challenge of competing with Google is obviously dared, and it must be admitted that Bing has some features that bring a little freshness. Automatically categorizing search results into sub categories, the engine certainly makes the search more enjoyable, especially since these categories vary depending on the type of query and we seemed quite relevant in our tests. Some subtleties in the interface, some of which were already present in Live Search, Bing also allow to stand out from the austerity of Google.
It is also noted greater use of data directly accessible to the research: in addition to maps, weather already in Google, it was observed during our requests some interesting if properly exploited, such as calendars cultural or sports scoreboards. As a result, Bing seems to push further the idea of a search engine that not only provide gateways to information, but provides its own answers to questions that the user arises. Unfortunately, as we have indicated throughout our presentation, the essential features that allow Bing stand out from Google are currently limited users.
Bing is quite promising, but happen to win the face for Google? A prior, the patterns seem well anchored. For the overwhelming majority of users, the words "Google" and "research" are intimately linked, so it does not even come to the idea to use another search engine. Nevertheless, several statistics could play well in Microsoft’s favor. It seems illusory to see Bing reverse the trend and become the major search engine, but it might as well take the example of Internet Explorer. There are still five years, it seemed absolutely unthinkable that another browser has the slightest chance, and the association of ideas was the same for the general public, the Internet was an icon of a blue ringed E a ring. 5 years later, Mozilla Firefox reached a market share of 50% in some countries. The reasons for the rise of Firefox are reflected mainly the lack of security of Internet Explorer, and its lack of innovation. Similarly, one could imagine that some of the users will eventually tire of Google. The first figures to use Bing appear in this way: if Google is still very far ahead of Bing, there has been a rise in market share from Microsoft since its inception: about 9% at the end of life "of Live Search, it rose to 11% during the week of launch Bing and, apparently, 12% the following week. Harand Pierre, Director of Internet general public prefers to talk yet of a curiosity due to launch a new service and believes it is too early to draw any conclusion. His caution seems to be shared by Steve Ballmer who had recently spoken on this subject. In any case, if this score has not yet worrying Google, however it might be dangerously close to that of Yahoo, currently a second with a market share of approximately 20%. Planer and see again the shadow of Microsoft on the search engine emblematic …