So Microsoft has launched its Bing "decision" engine a few days early, heading off chatter that this would be yet another Microsoft product that doesn't meet its deadline. The oddly named Bing is an attempt to rebrand and resuscitate Microsoft Live Search, and according to Microsoft's PR push, it's a new way to think about online searches: It aims to help people search more intelligently and get the specific information they need to make decisions, hence the label of "decision" engine.
But is all of this just so much spin? There's one way to find out: Compare search results on Bing with those of the reigning champion of online search, Google. Fortunately, SEO specialist Paul Savage has created a tool that lets you compare Google and Bing side by side, so a comparison really is just a click away.
[ Robert X. Cringely was initially less than convinced that Bing can revive Microsoft Live Search, but he also points out that early reviews have been positive. ]
Two Bing features jump out right away: the search history listing and the related searches suggestion in the left column. Search history would certainly come in handy when you're trying term after term and don't want to repeat yourself, and the related searches are indeed helpful when it comes to narrowing your search down from broad to specific terms. That is in line with the "intelligent search/decision engine" angle.
There's also a feature called hover, which gives users a small summary of page when they, well, hover their cursor over the right-hand edge of a link. This is a nice touch that could save users from clicking useless links.
As for the search results themselves, my informal testing of a wide range of search terms, from enterprise IT topics to pop culture fluff, found that Bing and Google results are similar, though not always congruent. Wikipedia rules the roost at Bing much as it does with Google, typically appearing in the top three results, if not the No. 1 slot. After the top few results, though, the two engines will sometimes serve up different results but, in my experience, provide essentially the same results more often than not (though this could change over time as Bing's algorithms get more strenuous workouts).