My Bing experiment: Can it be the default search engine?

My Bing experiment: Can it be the default search engine?

Summary: Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said that it's easy to switch search engines so the company really has no power that should upset regulators. Microsoft has introduced Bing, a search engine that has been well received and could take market share.

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TOPICS: Browser, Google
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Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said that it's easy to switch search engines so the company really has no power that should upset regulators. Microsoft has introduced Bing, a search engine that has been well received and could take market share. Where does the truth lie?

Somewhere in the middle. I've been using Google search for as long as it has been around. It has been the default all of my browsers---Firefox, IE and, of course, Chrome. With the introduction of Bing, I made the search engine my default in Firefox. I didn't go completely cold turkey on Google, but it was pretty close. Why? I wanted to test a few theories:

  • Could I use Bing as my default search engine?
  • Would I miss Google?
  • Is search really just a commodity where loyalties are chosen by brand not necessarily functionality?

In my little Bing experiment I really wanted to get at that last question. If Bing could be my default perhaps Microsoft's campaign to get folks to try its search engine wouldn't be a waste of marketing dollars.

Here's my diary:

Day 1: I didn't notice anything different from Google as far as search results went. Generally speaking, I used Bing quite frequently and came away pleased with the results. I didn't encounter anything that forced me to use Google. The photo search on Bing was especially handy. Maybe switching is easy.

Day 2: This day featured a lot of news searches as I went fishing for material. Specifically, I was wondering about General Motors much ballyhooed IT department in the automaker's bankruptcy. If you follow the IT industry you know that GM CIO Ralph Szygenda is quoted constantly about aligning technology management with business and being a big proponent of outsourcing.

Bing's GM results were ok, but the search seemed much more focused on telling me the automaker was committed (as if I want a government owned vehicle) and downplaying news. If I was in the market for a GM auto though Bing may have been more handy.

When I checked Google, the results were roughly the same (except news was at the top).

In the end, I had to refine my search. However, there was a trust issue with Bing and I. I felt like I had to verify my Bing results with a Google search. Bing was my default in the browser, but the trust wasn't there. Microsoft's challenge is pretty clear: Marketing may get you to try Bing, but will you trust the results? Simply put, any lingering Bing buzz I had wore off.

Day 3: A few searches yielded decent results, but Bing's results for finding my old posts left a little to be desired. What I'm finding I miss the most is the news integration with search. On Bing it's a bit clunky. However, Bing did localize news nicely. Notice the Pennsylvania stories on the right. The problem: The stories come from an Allentown paper. Allentown is way to the west. Yahoo hits my zip code.

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz said that Bing will get attention at first, but folks will go back to their old habits. On this day, I'm inclined to agree.

Day 4: I used Bing repeatedly, got the results I wanted and didn't feel any compelling need to use Google. Perhaps switching just takes some time (but who will give it that time?). It still feels odd not using Google. Is this brand affinity strange? I can't quite put my finger on it. Habits are hard to break, but using Bing full time does feel odd. However, there's no need to swap back right now.

Day 5: An entire business week with Bing as my default has been completed. The novelty---and shock of not using Google---has worn off. Overall, I'm pretty convinced that search is a commodity where brand loyalty is what counts. The problem: I don't have a lot of loyalty in any one direction. Can I put the Firefox default search box on rotate?

Bottom line: Bing is going to get some folks using it just based on buzz. And it'll probably keep those customers. However, unless Google seriously screws up it's likely that most users will gravitate back to the search giant. The good news is that the bar for Bing is set low; It can definitely poach market share from Yahoo.

More reading: Microsoft’s Bing: Powerset’s role, market share, brand (and other burning questions)

Topics: Browser, Google

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152 comments
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  • Current default search?

    So, after a week of Bing are you sticking with it or did you change back to Google?
    jeffrichard
    • Can it be the default search engine?

      No.

      I daresay that IE on W7 will default to it, but Google will not lose market share.

      Nobody wants MS to be stronger in other areas, as they've proven to be a massive disservice in everything that they touch.

      There's a big difference between making noise and delivering the goods.
      fr0thy2
      • You should be DELIGHTED...

        Search on Google for fr0thy2 yields 49,100 results -- but on Bing it shows 306,000.

        You should be DELIGHTED to have everyone using Bing. :)

        I guess they still have a bit of work to do on the 'quality' filters -- but hey, Rome wasn't built overnight.
        Marty R. Milette
        • I just tryed "Marty R. Milette" (quoted) and guess what I got

          Bing does have some huge quality problems.
          InAction Man
          • Results seem quite fine...

            111,000 results on Bing vs 26,900 on Google.

            Both sets of results seem quite fine. A real WEALTH of information. Pity neither engine captures some of the stuff I was doing from 1992 to 2000.
            Marty R. Milette
          • 1992?

            So ... you didn't come over on the Mayflower and caught a later trip?
            Mihi Nomen Est
    • Review Proposal: "Let's Pretend"


      They can be as wishy-washy as they want, they aren't going to say something like, "<x> sucks. It was bad just reviewing it. I will never use it unless/until..." They just don't want to end up on the wrong side of any software vendors. Would they be willing to pound Bing if it did suck?

      A modest proposal: "Let's pretend"

      "Let's pretend" the reviewer has to pay a subscription fee for using a search engine on a monthly basis. Add to the premise it will come out of the reviewer's pocket. Not their employer. Would $100/month be enough to give their wallet enough of a pucker to force them to make a decision? $250? $1'000 would likely be too high. We don't want to scare them (reviewers) too much.

      Whatever it is, it needs to be a price tag big enough to make them pick a single product/package/engine.

      If they, personally, have something at stake, and have to make a decision, even if it's play money, what will it be? Why?


      I'd be more than happy to see a "Let's Pretend" review series.
      Mihi Nomen Est
  • RE: My Bing experiment: Can it be the default search engine?

    I made Bing my default search engine the day it was released and haven't looked back. I haven't felt any need to consult with Google, not that I have in a number of months anyway. The key feature for me is getting relevant search results, Google cannot provide that for me but Bing does. You are going to find a lot more people will start using Bing. I'm suggesting it to everyone at work and at home. Also, Bing won't try to sell your personal data and make a profit from it while you see nothing.
    Loverock Davidson
    • An interesting point of view...but

      Your comments are interesting but need to be
      taken in the light of your unfailing tendency
      to favor anything from Redmond and criticize
      (directly or with innuendo) products from
      anyone else. Perhaps if you weren't so constant
      in your support for MS it wouldn't occur to
      frequent visitors to ZDNet that perhaps your
      opinions are actually paid for.

      I've tried Bing too. It seemed fine to me. I
      did a few head to head searches to help me find
      info for an HD camcorder purchase. Bing and
      Google both delivered some good and some
      irrelevant results but nothing that I found
      gave me a compelling reason to switch from
      Google. As the original blog noted; over time
      you build up trust with a search engine. I
      trust that Google will deliver because it has
      in the past. Therefore, to get me to switch I
      need something compelling. I don't see that in
      Bing. Your mileage may vary.
      UGottaBKidding
      • You can't be serious

        So, testing your theory that both Google and Bing gave the same info but there was nothing compeling to make your change to Bing, I did the same search. I searched on both for HD Camcorders. The search results were the same, in the main windows at least. Did you not notice the list on the left side of bing? On the left side there were things like Shopping, Brands, Types, Features, Repair, Accessories, News, and Videos.

        Then Bing took it even a step further with its ?Related Searches" section. Your obvious disregard for these enhancements kind of makes me wonder if your "opinions are actually paid for." I am just saying. I mean you did miss some pretty big and obvious advantages. Granted this improvements may not be useful for everyone but come on, someone doing what you claimed to be doing, searching for an Item to buy, Bing rocks on this kind of search.

        So, now that I have pointed out some features, maybe you should give Bing another chance but this time widen your focus away from the tiny area that Google uses.
        waldens1
      • I prefered Live to Bing

        Being a bit of a compute geek, I actually defaulted to different search engines on different computers. So at one time Live on one, Yahoo on another and Google on a third. In reality I ended up extending my Firefox search box on all computers to include wikipedia and wiktionary ie. cutting out the middleman. Overall search engines proved to be much of a muchness, sometimes when I wasn't getting the results I was expecting, on rebranded MSN search or Yahoo, I would check on google and find they were not much better.
        So what do I now choose as default, meh, I tend to try and specialise the search, for a specific place - crap old yellow pages (so much for search engines), general answers wikipedia rules, definitions wiktionary, general search I preferred Live over Bing (the noisy insurance salesman of search engines) so I swapped to google and yahoo, which ever I used last in firefox comes up first next time, much of a muchness in other words.
        rtb
    • Amusing, but how much can your 'private data' be worth?

      And why do you not think that (Microsoft) Bing will not be used to gather and sell your 'personal data' as Google allegedly does? Can you quantify the worth of your 'personal data' and if so, why would Microsoft not capitalize on it as any other ad space selling company?

      Enjoy your <a href=http://www.businessinsider.com/microsoft-bing-has-a-more-ad-friendly-design-than-google-according-to-heatmaps-2009-6>ads</a>.
      B.O.F.H.
    • try Yahoo! search (AKA alltheweb.com)

      I prefer it to Google or Bing. So we now have Bing as default start page, and AllTheWeb as default toolbar search. I only use Google to search groups.
      killerbunny
  • Most definantly brand loyalty......

    I have been using Live and now Bing for about a year and I have not had the need but a few times to go check google for something I needed in which I came back with the same results. Bing is just as good as Google, but there is alot in a name and Google has that going for them. Everyone is programmed to say "google it" and I am guilty of that as well even though i don't use it. Bing may be able to get some traction in that but it will take time. "Just bing it" or "just google it" is where the real fight resides. Not on the actual search results.
    OhTheHumanity
  • What about trust?

    A scary thought - but which company is more likely to log your (personally identifiable) search engine usage, and sell it off to the highest bidder (and of course giving access to CIA/FBI/HomelandSecurity)?

    I don't trust Microsoft. Not that I trust Google that much more, I will add...

    Point being, is that MS has a bad track record when it comes to legalities.
    nizuse
    • RE: What about trust?

      My sentiments exactly, which is why I set out for an alternative to them all and settled with Clusty.com. They had and have a 'real' privacy when Google's privacy policy became an issue, last year.

      I'd never trust Microsoft, the company that gave us unannounced ActiveX plugins for Firefox!
      gparsons
      • RE:

        "I'd never trust Microsoft, the company that gave us unannounced ActiveX plugins for Firefox! "

        This one made me laugh. Seriously, some people here really take things way to seriously and out of proportion.

        Perspective: MS serves millions of clients with a myriad of products, which all have had problems, but this one plug in, thats it, thats the last straw!
        gnesterenko
        • Correction.

          MS does not serve their clients, they just pay a diservice to their millions of victims.

          That's about all they do, and they do excel at that.
          InAction Man
          • Windows 7 will fix all of that ...

            ... according to Microsoft ;-)
            fr0thy2
          • You should have added ...

            "That's about all they do, and they do EXCEL at that."
            And you can take my WORD for it as I have ACCESS to all Microsoft's office programs.
            JohnOfStony