Category Archives: Live search

A review of Bing

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.

Introducing Bing!

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer revealed Bing! to the world tpday at the D: All Things Digital conference earlier today and now the Live Search Blog introduces the rest of us to the sound of found: Bing!.

“Today we’re introducing a new kind of search that goes beyond traditional search engines to help you make faster, more informed decisions. It will do this by combining a great search engine (with powerful new features to improve your results for any query), more organized results, and unique tools to help you make important decisions. We think of Bing as a Decision Engine.” says the blog entry.

“Bing is rolling out internally to Microsoft employees worldwide today and will be available to you and your friends in the coming days.”

Personally I’ll be interested to see if it produces relevant results, is easy to use and helps me find things quicker. In other words all the things Live Search doesn’t do!

Technology Review: TR10: Intelligent Software Assistant

I’ve just been alerted by Live Search’s Twitter to this article:
Technology Review: TR10: Intelligent Software Assistant.

Silicon Valley start up company Siri are working on a virtual personal assistant to help users complete tasks rather than simply searching for things.

“Mindful of the sometimes spectacular failure of previous attempts to create a virtual personal assistant, Siri’s founders have set their sights conservatively. The initial version, to be released this year, will be aimed at mobile users and will perform only specific types of functions, such as helping make reservations at restaurants, check flight status, or plan weekend activities. Users can type or speak commands in casual sentences, and the software deciphers their intent from the context. Siri is connected to multiple online services, so a quick interaction with it can accomplish several small tasks that would normally require visits to a number of websites. For example, a user can ask Siri to find a midpriced Chinese restaurant in a specific part of town and make a reservation there.”

Sounds somewhat similar to Wolfram Alpha which we’ve covered before.

Start placing bets now on how long it’ll be before Microsoft buy Siri. If they’re tweeting about it, maybe they’re keeping a close eye on it too?

Google trumps Yahoo! and Live for speed and relevancy

As an avid Formula 1 fan I’ve been closely following the fate of the old Honda F1 team after Honda announced on the 5th December that it was selling the team and pulling out of Formula 1 due to the economic downturn. At midnight last night ex-Honda team principal Ross Brawn announced he had completed a management buy-out of the old Honda team and was renaming the team “Brawn GP”. What does this all have to do with the search engines you ask? Well the new Brawn GP website was launched sometime in the early hours of this morning and a quick search on the major UK search engines (Google, Live, Ask and Yahoo!) for “brawn gp” revealed some interesting results.

Predictably Google has got it spot on and indexed and ranked the Brawn GP site within hours of it’s launch. It’s ranked third at the moment but expect that to change very soon. The index date says it was indexed around 8 hours ago from the time I’m writing this article. It’s rankings are probably helped by a link from the BBC Sport website’s story about the takeover.

Yahoo has some nice relevant results, mainly news stories about Ross Brawn and a wikipedia entry for him but no Brawn GP website. It’s not even indexed.

Ask similarly returns a glut of news results and F1 related sites but no official website.

Live / MSN fails miserably. There are some relevant news results at the top of he SERPS but the main results are atrocious. For some reason it thinks I typed Brown GP so returns sites for a Chartered Accountant (???!), a GUI Package, Pony Club classified ads and pages about Gordon Brown and the health service. Sigh. Until Microsoft work out that this kind of thing is preventing them from dominating search they’ll continue to stumble around blindly trying to invent the next big thing when all we want is relevancy and speed. Squirrelled away at the top of the page it does say “Results are included for brown gp. Show just the results for brawn gp.” and clicking on this returns some relevant results but again no official site. While Google and Yahoo! both suggest that I may have misspelled something they at least return results for what I’ve actually entered, not what it thinks I wanted. It’s like that damn Office paper-clip all over again…

Google joins Twitter

Google joins the micro-blogging service du jour Twitter (Twitter.com/google) and just a few hours later has 25,279 followers. The tweets so far are mainly links to the existing Google blogs but it’s nice to have everything in one place.

Yahoo and Live Search also have twitter accounts but far less followers (4,567 and 1,334 respectively) showing that it dominates even this area of the Internet. They still have a long way to go before they pass Stephen Fry in number of followers though (239,321)!

I will be watching with interest to see what nuggets of useful search information they let out. There’s an interesting Tweet by Matt Cutts responding to the question of why the brand new Google Twitter page already has Page Rank. Apparently the account was registered unofficially in 2007 and Google have just taken it over. Wonder how much they paid for that? And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.