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An interesting change took place at Microsoft Live Search over the weekend. It turned into Bing! After MSN Search and Live comes what Microsoft calls a “decision engine.” With a new name, a new look, and some new thinking, the software giant is clearly trying to play catch-up with Google.
At a first glance, Bing looks pretty nice. The start page has a clean and welcoming interface, although Live Search had a similar look and feel as well. Search types (images, videos, news etc.) are on the left side as opposed to the conventional top. With the addition of Shopping and Travel options, Bing is apparently hoping to score more relevancy points with its users.
Once you enter a search term or phrase, the result page is pretty clean and inviting too. Once again, the left side is reserved for related search and search history. The links for search types, however, now move to the top.
I like the search history because it leaves a trial so I can trace when I am shooting search phrases like crazy. Enter a term like “digital cameras” and the refinement options (yes, on the left side) are pretty nice too.
As a user, I am thrilled that there are no ads cluttering my result pages. But, as an AdCenter advertiser, I am not very pleased that my ads are not showing for my target keywords. I would think that this is temporary and ads will soon start showing up.
No matter how appealing the interface, ultimately, it’s the results that matter. For years, MSN Search and, later, Live, have been plagued by lack of relevant search results. It remains to be seen how Bing serves up search results. Early indications, based on my own sample phrases, were mixed. In some aspects, the results seem to give me what I was looking for, while at other times, they were not much different than a Live search result.
Google commands almost 65% of the search market share. At only 8%, Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do. With their muscle power, they have the capability to make big strides, but if history provides any lesson, it will not be easy. Already I am hearing comments about the Bing homepage not being friendly to color blind people, and the image search being slow. But these could be launch related hiccups.
So Microsoft cannot say “bingo!” yet. In their announcement, Microsoft says that it started over. This demonstrates a desire to seriously compete in the search marketplace (as if we didn’t know that). As for me, I am very happy with Google for now. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t use another search engine if the results are to my liking. After all, competition is the key to innovation and, if two giants are competing, something good might come out.