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Microsoft Google! oO
Image by Daniel F. Pigatto via Flickr

In the past ten years, Google has become our e-mail service, our newspaper, our encyclopedia, our street map, and our little black book. Google is so integrated into our lives that it is treated like a verb. There is a reason why you never hear “I’m going to Lycos that.”

Being that nearly 74% of all search engine queries were performed in Google (as of 6 June, according to Hitwise data), a valid competitor entering the market not only has to perform to a certain standard, but also must differentiate itself.

Enter Microsoft’s Bing.  Launched June 3rd as a search engine competitor, StatCounter reports that Bing was the number two search engine worldwide one day later. In the US. People have been made aware of Bing, but the question is, how does Bing compare?

I spent an afternoon using Bing lined up against identical search criteria entered in Google.

Basic searches: After many random web searches, I found Google performed better in returning general search results. Not only did it prompt more terms when I began to type, but also with certain ambiguous search criteria, Google pulled what I was looking for.

For example, if “cabinet” is entered, it is not clear whether shopping and retail results or information about the US government is more relevant. At that point, the individual search engine must make an educated decision on what results to return. Based on the sheer volume of search data Google has, it knew that when I entered “cabinet,” I was looking for retail results. Google results even show local search business results for “cabinet”, based on my IP address.

If Bing increases in popularity, I expect there will be an improvement in search results because they will have a large enough database and enough search inquiries behind them to make similar educated decisions. One very helpful feature on Bing allows you to see an excerpt from the webcopy of the site without ever clicking on the link. This is very helpful as a user when determining which sites you are actually interested in visiting.

Video and Image searches: Both the image and video results on Bing have a nice interface.

The image results are displayed on one page instead of on multiple pages you have to click through. I like this feature because after four or five pages I get tired of clicking through results. The single page loads surprisingly fast, and only displays the related text when you hover the cursor over a particular image. Result? I viewed more results than I would have in Google images.

Bing’s video results also have a unique feature; if you hover the cursor over the link image of the video, it will start to play, allowing you to decide if you even want to visit that site without ever leaving Bing. Another great feature on Bing is the option to sort through video results by video, tv show, news clip or sports clip.

Mapping tools: One large drawback for me about Bing is the lack of “walking directions” and “search nearby” options within their maps application. Within Google Maps, from an established address, you can find driving or walking directions to a particular location or search for nearby establishments by type. I find this tool invaluable and I think as Bing develops, they too will have similar features.

However, mostly because Google has been working on these projects for much longer, I think Google will always be more accurate and advanced in these features.

The bottom line: Google is unsurpassed, but might face some healthy competition if Bing continues to develop innovative features while becoming more utilitarian.

Have you used Bing much since launch?  What do you think?