Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bing Still Needs Work

Microsoft is spinning out a huge amount of hype, even by their own standards, for Bing, their new search engine which they hope will challenge Google. They have a long way to go to get even close. Here's an example:

I'm in Milano, Italy right now. I just finished my keynote of Remix Italia yesterday, to a really fantastic audience. I love speaking to such turned-on people. Today I'm taking the day off, and I figured I'd go downtown and see the famous cathedral, one of the largest and finest in the world. I wanted to read a little about it before I went there, so I type the name into the search engine box on the MSN home page. As humans do, I made a small slip and typed in the phrase "milan cagthedral". Did Bing recognize this and do its best to figure out what I mean? It did not. It showed me the following screen, telling me to spell my words correctly:

It's MY fault. I have to be precise. Bing won't help me. I have to meet its expectations. Google, on the other hand, if it can't get what the user asks for, has always done its best to figure out what the user really meant and do its best to satisfy that user. When I type the same misspelled phrase into Google, here's what I get:

"I couldn't find exactly what you wanted, but here's the next best thing, the closest I could come to what I think you want. Is that OK with you?" That's what Google says. Not, "Hey dimwit, pay attention and do it right, and then maybe I'll deign to speak to you, and then again maybe I won't," which is how Bing's message feels to me.

This feature of Google has been around a long time. It recognizes that users are human. Bing's behavior requires users to become more like a computer: diligent, thorough, precise. We are none of these things naturally, that's why we invented computers. Google recognizes, respects, even enhances the humanity of its users.

If Bing intends to seriously challenge Google, Microsoft is going to have to change its perception of who its users are. Because the one thing that every single user of Bing has in common is that they are all human.


Andrea Dellepiane said...

I have attended your conference at Remix09 in Milan and was really great! I want to give my contribute to suck busters...have you ever tried to change date time in Vista???

jcman said...

Try again with this query; the feature has been in Microsoft's search engine for a long time. If you never used Bing before, it had no way to guess you were mis-typing an English word. Google got it right because I bet it knows you pretty well... :-)