Microsoft’s Bing is live and in beta and seems to have completely replaced Live Search across the Microsoft network of sites. MSN still sports a “Live Search” graphic next to it’s search box but entering a query takes you to Bing.
I did a few comparison tests with the beta version of Bing on some of my recent Google queries and compared the results. Overall Bing performed well. Not quite as on the money as Google and unsurprisingly Microsoft owned sites ranked better for some searches than on Google. For example a search for “HTML 4.0 doctype” returns the W3C site first in Google but the MSDN site in Bing with the W3C coming in a lowly tenth place. Bing does give a nice pop-up snippet box next to each result showing the relevant text from the the search result so you don’t have to click through to the site. I can see this ticking off a lot of webmasters if the general public realise this feature is there. It’s not immediately obvious and took me a few searches to spot it.
Bing still has a way to go on blended results from first glance. Using my search history again for an example search I typed “blackberry way” into both Google and Bing. Both return the wikipedia article for the song as the top result but Google then shows stills and links to videos on youtube whereas Bing just shows one standard link in it’s results. Bing’s video search does return a variety of versions of the song though and to my eye is more visually appealing than Google’s by a large margin.
Book searches seem to return far too many Amazon results in Bing. For example: a search for “Shadows of the empire” (a Star Wars novel and video game) returns results for the book, the game, the cast list, videos and reviews from the game in Google but 3 results from Amazon in Bing, 2 from the Star Wars wikia and 2 unrelated results.
Results times seem fairly similar, both engines return their results extremely quickly. I imagine Bing would be slower to load on a slow connection as it uses more images but in these days of super fast connections hardly anyone will notice. Search suggestions on Bing is a bit more limited than on Google but I’m sure that will change as more people use Bing and Microsoft have more data to feed into the suggestion box.
So in conclusion, Bing may look prettier than Google but Google is still king of the castle, for now… Bing is a good step forward by Microsoft and given a few more tweaks and a bit more work may yet challenge Google’s dominance.