The Bing Bang: First Thoughts on Microsoft’s New Search Engine

This post was originally shared on 360i’s blog.

Bing french parking nyc
Microsoft’s Bing has lots of great features. Recommending where to park at NYC restaurants isn’t one of them.

Today, while there have been the requisite conversations about
Twitter and Facebook, the day’s been dominated by one word: “Bing.”

Yes, Bing.com is here, almost. Microsoft is launching its new engine next Wednesday, but the demo reel is live at Bing.com.

What does it all mean? Here’s a round-up of first impressions. There’ll be much more to say once this comes out:

  • It looks very good. The basic layout of the results page is the
    same, with the exception of the right-hand ‘guided search’ bar (which
    only worked so well when Ask.com pioneered it). For some kinds of
    searches, it may even prove to be better than Google.
  • It won’t matter if it’s better than Google. What matters is if consumers use it.
  • A huge challenge will be promoting something consumers don’t think they need. 360i’s CEO Bryan Wiener told The New York Times, “There is not a perceived market problem with search that needs fixing.”
  • The rumored $100 million ad budget, or hundreds of millions if you
    count partnerships, will help. But this MUST be an experience consumers
    will tell their friends about. That’s how all of the biggest digital
    brands have been built this decade: Google, Facebook, MySpace,
    Wikipedia, YouTube, Firefox… it’s a long list. We’ll see if it’s that
    good.
  • Microsoft’s advertising platform has been strong for some time now.
    On that basis, Microsoft has been very competitive with the other
    engines, and they offer some fantastic tools. But again, if they don’t
    have the market share, nothing else matters.
  • With the focus on helping consumers refine results, Bing’s goal
    will be to keep consumers interacting with the results as long as it’s
    required. If it works as planned, that should mean there are fewer
    false hits – the kinds of clicks that lead consumers to press the back
    button right away.
  • One oddity in the demo video:
    it mentions searching for a French restaurant in New York and seeing if
    there’s parking. These people have clearly never eaten in New York. As
    much as I love Salty’s in West Seattle, they really need to pay a visit
    here sometime – the food’s quite good. Oh, and why isn’t the video
    embeddable?
  • Microsoft’s billing Bing as a decision engine and even registered
    decisionengine.com. It makes sense if you watch the whole video. If you
    don’t though, it reeks of being so overly rational and intellectual
    that it misses the chance to forge an emotional connection.
  • The new name should help. Two of the biggest features of Bing are
    its design and usability. Those are not attributes one generally
    associates with Microsoft.
  • The Twitter buzz was in full force. I opened a Twitter Search window
    around 11am ET for ‘bing’ mentions and kept it open. Seven hours later
    there were nearly 13,000 mentions. While that made it a top 10 trending
    topic, it was trumped by news of Hulu Desktop (which launched for real)
    and was trailing far behind a number of other buzzwords and memes.
    Here’s the top 10 as of 6:15pm ET: #liesboystell, #liesgirlstell, #3wordsaftersex, BGT, #twistory, #thingsmummysaid, #3breakupwords, #jonaswebcast, Hulu Desktop, Bing