Will Bing or Google make it easier to find out? We’re off to New York for some meetings and the annual Strategic News Service predictions event and I’m wondering what to pack: raincoat or down jacket? Trainers or boots? Remembering that Microsoft keeps telling us that Bing makes it easier to make decisions, I compared the weather reports on Bing and Google by typing ‘New York city weather’ into the search bar in my browser and flipping back between the two sets of results. Google says cloudy, then rainy, then cloudy – but that’s just till Thursday. What about the weekend? Bing says it’s sunny today, then cloudy, then rainy, then cloudy – and it squeezes in cloudy on Friday as well. It also tells me where the forecast comes from someone called WDT; Google leaves me to assume I can trust Google so much that I don’t need to care where the forecast comes from. Do I care where my weather forecast comes from? Maybe. I trust the BBC Weather forecasts. Weather Underground seems pretty good. Aren’t they all the same anyway? Click on the extended forecast on Bing and there’s a table listing through to Sunday with three different forecasts. They all say it’s going to rain on Wednesday but Thursday might have rain (0%, 10% and 15% chance) and by Sunday the different predictions are so different that it’s 20% chance of snow, 30% chance of showers and 60% chance of whatever precipitation goes with the icon for sunny. Hmmm. Can I see if the weather in New York is really that changeable? Well, I can flip the weather map from a standard temperature and icons map to a Doppler map for rain and a satellite map for cloud cover, scroll down to see an hour by hour forecast for today or look at average temperatures and inches of precipitation month by month. Can’t I do that on any weather site? Probably; but I won't get the comparison of three different predictions on the extended forecasts, and what’s nice here is that I’m not leaving Bing to get the information – it’s coming to me.
Google gives me three links for extended forecasts: clicking through to one site gives me today’s weather on a busy page that I have to scroll down to see even a three-day forecast. Another site tries to show me a pop-up: I block those because they’re usually adverts. There’s a hugely busy site with ads and photos and toolbars and a warning for a tropical cyclone, meaning that the weather map is tiny and I'm still only getting the 5-day forecast I saw on Bing to start with until I scroll down twice, past the nearby airports and the historical temperatures and the ads for local tips on New York hotels…
There’s a lot more information on the dedicated weather sites than on Bing. Bing doesn't give me air quality reports or the weather for sporting events (Steelers vs Browns might be snowed under says the NFL) – or the phase of the moon or the highest and lowest temperatures in the state or a snow depth map. If I want to spend time browsing that kind of thing, I’ll absolutely go to a weather site. But if I want just a bit more information than the four-day forecast, I can get it without leaving Bing. Google promises to index information; Bing promises to help me make decisions. As Yahoo has found again and again, that’s actually what a lot of people want from a fairly large proportion of their searches. Presenting bite-sized chunks of instant information could be Bing’s secret weapon.
My next search? Where can I buy boots at Heathrow airport… -Mary