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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bing It On Microsoft. I'm Ready!

Much in the same way that the word Kleenex has become synonymous with facial tissue from all brands, and Tivo has done the same for DVRs, so has Google become the de facto standard term used to describe an Internet search. Just “Google it,” you’ll often hear people say. Ever since 1998, Google has been the search engine of choice for many (myself included), much to the chagrin of former search titans like Yahoo, Lycos, Alta Vista, and Ask Jeeves.

Not to be outdone, Microsoft also jumped into the game in 1998 with MSN Search. This later became the horribly named Windows Live Search, then just Live Search. I suspect one day someone at Microsoft with some guts (and influence) must have finally said “this is just stupid; we need a catchy name and unique features.” And so it was that just over 10 years after their failed attempts with MSN search, Bing was born in June of 2009.

In the three years since its introduction, Bing has managed to mature quite nicely. So nicely in fact that Microsoft now thinks Bing is ready to dethrone Google with a throw down reminiscent of the old Coke vs. Pepsi blind tests. This week, they’ve introduced the humorous pun of a website “Bing It On”. The site challenges you to perform five successive rounds of web searches. With each round, you search on terms of your own choosing, or using terms suggested by Bing, and then compare the results in side by side windows devoid of any branding.

I found the process really interesting and noticed that it was often very hard for me to tell if I was choosing Google or Bing. In the end it turned out that I picked Google in all five rounds, but I honestly had no idea until I saw the final results. The results are that similar to each other. Perhaps it was my longstanding familiarity with Google that subconsciously led me to choose that result.

So if they are so similar, why use Bing? Well, I haven’t used it enough myself to give the features a proper rundown, but I am aware that it has some cool and unique features that go beyond a simple presentation of search results. Bing must certainly be cool enough for many as it has allowed Microsoft to nearly double their search engine market share from 8.4% in June of 2009, to 15.6 % in June of 2012. I should mention though that Yahoo searches are actually powered by Bing as well, but the look and feel is totally different. With Yahoo numbers added in Bing isn't all that far behind Google. 

I think for now I’ll stick with Google search, but Microsoft’s marketing engine has certainly got my attention. What about you? I’d love to hear your opinions and the results of your blind tests in the comments below.

Take the Bing test now at: