Three Bing-v-Google follow ups

Reader responses to this recent item, arguing that Bing was not yet closing the gap on Google.
1) A reader whose first name is Yong suggests this control-group test:

For reasons unknown, I've personally found that the results from the "Bing vs Google" services can sometimes differ markedly from the actual results presented by Bing and Google at their respective websites. The actual results themselves are also sometimes affected by whether you're logged in with your Windows Live or Google account, again for reasons unknown to me. It would be interesting if you could retry your experiment to see if you obtain different results, and post a follow-up if you do.

Interesting. Naturally I have tried a half-dozen searches just now with three tabs simultaneously open -- to,, and So far I find that "works." That is, its combined display shows the same results as the two separate sites. It doesn't mean there won't be variations - and I haven't spent time trying a bunch of exotic tests. But in a first pass no anomalies turned up.

2) Another reader, whose first name is Samuel, says if anything I under-emphasized the sophistication gap between Bing and Google:

Here's a huge difference in the two search engines. They both have auto-suggest -- the drop-downs that now appear as soon as you start typing, which are so great that we're now taking them completely for granted. But Google's actually goes a second level.

Try typing in "Roger Ebert" on both and you get roughly similar suggestions. However, right after "Roger Ebert," keep typing and Google will offer further suggestions -- and related suggestions. In this case in my screenshots, these are Roger Ebert's actual movie reviews. Bing just stops after "Roger Ebert". The mechanics allowing that show a far more sophisticated algorithm on Google's end.

Here are his illustrations, which resemble what I've seen just now. First, auto-suggest on both when just using a name:

Then, auto-suggest while working with more information:

Samuel (who says he has no connection to Google) goes on:

Not to flatter Google too much, but it seems that, just as their search algorithm is more complicated than any one person can grasp, so the task of showcasing how well it works is too full of little, tiny nuances to allow for a simple promotion. Hence -- other than that background-image kerfuffle -- they never came out with "Google 2.0" in response to Bing; they just continued their incremental improvements, often on features that aren't prominent at all, that have added up to something akin to "Google 4.0" compared with Google from, say, 2000.

After the jump, further explanation about why the Bing results turned up several ads for "DUI Insurance" when I was trying to find out about airplane crashes.

3) A reader whose first name is Eric points out that in many states -- here is an example from California -- after a DUI conviction, drivers need a special kind of insurance coverage, often involving a "SR-22 Form." So a search for "Cirrus SR-22 crashes" turned up "targeted" ads on Bing, though not on Google, for companies selling this kind of coverage. FWIW.


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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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