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Bing.com – another search engine from Microsoft

snapshot2Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’d have heard about Bing. Bing is Microsoft’s latest attempt at a search engine to challenge Google – and last Monday, they released it for public use. They did MSN search, Live! search, and now Bing. Let’s see if I can actually make a ‘search engine review’ interesting and informative. I hope I did- but that’s for you to decide.

Now, I might not like Windows, but that doesn’t mean that Microsoft can only create crappy products. I’ve played Halo, and it’s fun too :) So I decided to try out Bing – this means only using it for all of my web searches throughout the week- and here I am with my review.

Bing is stressed as a “decision engine”, not a “search engine”. It’s meant to be able to provide useful information to help you solve tough decisions, instead of only being able to give you information on a subject – or at least that’s how their little beta introduction portrayed it to me.

I started with some basic searches – those searches that are meant to find out information. Google normally does pretty darn well on these by throwing me right at Wikipedia – you can’t go wrong there, but Bing apparently did. Searching up simple economics terminology (I had an economics exam) would throw me at past year economic sources, news articles, everything – except for “what it means“. A quick poke through some keywords proved that Bing didn’t use their search as a command line – in other words you could do fancy thing like `define: foo` or `"foo" -bar`. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you probably aren’t using Google effectively for your searches. Horrible first impression.

However, certain things did jump out, such as little tooltips that extend on the description, as well as more relevant searches and “links on results page”, oh, and a bunch of new fancy options on the Image search, as well as a load-on-demand thing that’s really nifty that you’ll just have to see for yourself. However, it’s no use saying how good the tech is, it’s better to see how useful the tech is.

So I then decided to see how good Bing was at being a “decision engine”. I threw a couple difficult questions I had floating around:

  • What career/university path would be suitable for me?
  • I have a hand condition called `hyperhidrosis`, how do I solve it?
  • How should I fix the exceptions “claims_sig_not_found” that a random guy’s OpenID library kept throwing at me?
  • How can I sync my Windows Mobile phone with Kontact on Linux?
  • What is the best picture to use for “Bing” on my blog post, seeing as the image keeps on changing on Bing.com.

As you can see, the questions were varied from being hypothetical, technical, specific, broad-knowledge, and finally image-based … respectively.

What career/university path would be suitable for me?

The first question was initially answered by a collection of “buy our free careers advice” websites. Little scams they were, that wasn’t too good. However some deeper poking found some good personality tests and career questionnaires.

Did it answer the question in the end? No.

Was I expecting it to? No.

I have a hand condition called `hyperhidrosis`, how do I solve it?

This was a pretty technical question. Hyperhidrosis is a condition where you sweat profusely in certain areas of your body – mine being hands and feet. It is normally triggered by certain materials, foods, sounds, etc. It was medical advice I was looking for. Bing fared pretty well on this one. Apparently I found quite a lot of cures, everything from botox injections, surgical lasers burning off my nerves, 30 minute soaks in baking soda to giving yourself a mild electrocution with a 12 volt battery. Needless to say I decided to leave the electrocution to a last resort.

Unfortunately it also enjoyed giving a bunch of scam websites too – but nevertheless those were inevitable to pop up, and after discarding those I did find some really good websites on the subject. So good that I actually did try soaking my hands for 30 minutes in a concentrated mixture of water and … uh, toothpaste – no baking soda. With a quick air-dry I managed to witnes instantaneous crystallisation on the back of my hand, and enjoyed a good 12 minutes of sweat free life.

Did it answer the question in the end? Yes.

Am I going to try out the cures? Maybe later.

How should I fix the exceptions “claims_sig_not_found” that a random guy’s OpenID library kept throwing at me?

This was an interesting one. I had used an OpenID library somebody else had coded for a PHP framework. However no matter how much I inserted traceback calls and tried to debug it- it kept on failing spectacularly. A quick test on my remote server showed it wasn’t a “it’s just you” problem, and several fresh installs failed the same way. The problem was, I didn’t know the name of the guy who coded it, it was somewhat outdated, and not exactly the most popular library in the world.

It did decently- up to the stage where I actually found out the guy’s name, actual email, and…well – it seems as though either Bing is living under a rock or nobody else except me and the creator uses this library. I’ve fallen back to using janrain’s OpenID PHP library, and that works flawlessly.

Did it answer the question? If the answer is “don’t ask the question”, then yes.

Am I happy with the answer? Yes.

How can I sync my Windows Mobile phone with Kontact on Linux?

I have a Windows Mobile phone, and I want to sync my PIM (personal information management – like calendar, todo, contacts, notes, alarms etc) with my computer. Turns out that the only thing Bing can say is that whatever exists is either outdated or non compatible with KDE4 and Kontact.

Did it answer the question? Failed horrendously. Stupid Bing. Not even a glimmer of hope.

Am I happy with the answer? What answer?

What is the best picture to use for “Bing” on my blog post, seeing as the image keeps on changing on Bing.com.

I’ll let the picture it chose speak for itself. The rest were even worse.

bing

Summary:

Is Bing comparable to Google? No. Realistically speaking, in a tie, Google will win.

What’s my idea on what would make a search engine so much more useful? An option to allow people to say “I am willing to spend money” or “I am not willing to spend money”.

Dion Moult

I've been developing software for well over 10 years, work as an architect (not the computer kind, the regular sort), and am classically trained as a pianist. I try to do the right thing when I get the chance in my field, such as through contributing to open-source communities and promoting sustainable living.

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5 Comments

  1. One nice thing that Bing has but Google doesn’t is Bing Cashback (formerly Live cashback). Some searches for products will bring up a list of sites that Microsoft/vendor will give you cash back on. eBay, Tigerdirect, and HP often have cashback for 5-15%. Really, it’s the only reason anyone I know uses Bing (or formerly, Live).

  2. That’s interesting – I didn’t know that. Well turns out Bing has just overtaken Yahoo search globally and in the US, but I’m not sure how long it’ll last.

  3. my initial test result shows that Bing is as good as Google when displaying relevant search results. Google might be having a tough competitor with Microsofts own search engine.

  4. i think that Bing is not as good as Google. Google would still index new websites faster than Bing. Microsoft would still need a lot of catching to do with GoogleBot.

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