Still Not Sold on Bing

By James Fallows

I keep reading and hearing about the growing market share and overall sexiness of Bing, Microsoft's search engine. This does puzzle me, as I have mentioned before -- and will illustrate once again.

For reasons I'll go into another time, I wanted to see some of the latest safety info about an airplane I mentioned in a post yesterday -- the SR22, from the Cirrus company of Duluth MN. So I went to the indispensable "Bing vs Google" site, which gives you side-by-side comparisons of results from the two search engines, and entered "Cirrus SR22 crashes." You can see the results here for yourself, but below is an image (click for larger version, which you can actually read) of what I found when I did it just now:

Thumbnail image for BingGoogle2A.png


In short: the Bing version begins with two ads -- one for car insurance, another for DUI/DWI insurance -- plus two more ads on the upper right not visible in that screen shot. One is another DUI insurance ad, and the other is for the Chrysler Cirrus (car). Then it has a discussion thread from 2006; then a link to the company that makes the planes; then a news item from 2009. Then it has an item about a crash in 2003, then a blog item from 2005 updated this year, then a year-old item, then a Wikipedia entry. Then it has one item from 2007, and another from that same year.

The Google version has its lacunae, but its first result is an airplane crash from this spring. Overall, three of its top six items are about incidents this year, compared with zero of the top ten for Bing.

I understand the cosmetic and other advances Bing has brought. I recognize that it is selling itself largely as a "decision" engine, for transactions rather than informational search. I believe in competition, even for Google! But -- a year after I first performed this test -- the gap in basic info retrieval does not seem to have closed. Happy to hear from anyone whose experience differs.
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Standard disclosures: I once worked at Microsoft, and have many friends there. I also have many friends, and as of very recently a relative, working at Google. So it evens out! And to be fair, having finally installed Windows 7 on one of my Macs, under VMware Fusion, I recognize that it is indeed an enormous improvement over the nightmare that was Windows Vista, which shunted me to the Mac world to begin with.


This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/08/still-not-sold-on-bing/61027/