In case you have been living in a cave, you may have noticed that Microsoft released the preview version of it’s latest search engine today. It’s called “Bing!”. For starters, I am a bit of a pessimist when it come to non-google search engine initiatives because honestly – they’ve all pretty much stunk. Also, I’m a pretty huge fan of google in general. Their search engine, apps, gmail, maps, google earth, good code…you name it, I’m a fan. Anyway, continue reading for my early impressions of “Bing!”.
It Has a Fancy UI
Yeah, so does ask jeeves….and that’s no google killer either. It is a differentiator though, and that is what will be needed to challenge google. The welcome screen is flashy, and uses beautiful imagery in place of google’s stark white screen. That’s just eye candy though. The fit and finish of everything is good, live maps is well integrated, and the AJAXified interface is generally implemented tastefully. Assuming the Bing! development staff are no strangers to IE, I would also assume that the site degrades rather gracefully (ba-doom-ching).
This is the best part of Bing. I tested out it’s video seach using the term “Devo“. The video results are pretty strong, culling videos from various sources (youtube, myspace, etc) and presenting them in a space efficient manner using thumbnails and filterable by length, screen size, resolution and source. On mouse-over of each result, it plays an excerpt of the video with sound. This is awesome! Microsoft, you win this round. While google’s video search is effective, it’s result presentation and inability to preview inline is pretty weak.
Another thing that struck me as slick was the other types of DEVO related searches that were presented, including Images, Lyrics, Songs, Albums, Fan Clubs and Interviews. Not too shabby. I wouldn’t mind seeing a product search tossed in there as well for the next time I need to find the best price on a new energy dome.
Since long before Microsoft purchased it, I have been a fan of the travel site farecast. As far as buying plane tickets goes, farecast always finds the best price, IMHO. It also offers some cool statistical analysis tools that help you to predict the best time to buy your tickets. Farecast is a big asset and will surely help Bing! get exposure. On a small technical note, although seemlessly integrated, it appears that the original farecast code base (presumably done with Java STRUTS) is intact telling from the “.do” file extensions.
At Delphic Sage, we are big fans of the Lucene project. Search is a big, complicated ball of wax and we have long used the open source lucene project to offer our clients sophisticated search functionality without having to reinvent the wheel. Microsoft had the same idea, and built Bing! on Hadoop, which is part of the Lucene project dedicated to the processing of huge amounts of data on cheap hardware. Microsoft also made large code contributions back to the project, which will surely help win over some hearts in the open source community.
Actual Search Results
I’ll be honest…time will only tell on this one. I could write up a comparison of some sample searches between Bing and Google but most terms are so hit or miss and the sample size would be so small that it would be pointless. It’s totally unscientific, but I base my google allegiance on a warm and fuzzy gut feeling that I have developed from using google successfully to solve problems day in and day out over many years.
I expected Bing! to be crap, but it seems pretty good, and it seems to be better than google at a few things (video, at least). Hopefully they keep improving, as a little competition in the search engine segment would surely be a good thing. How the tables do turn.