When I heard Microsoft was spending over $80 million on marketing for its new search engine, Bing, I was immediately skeptical. "If Bing was better than Google," I told my husband, "they wouldn't need to spend that much money." Plus, I've consistently been disappointed by other would-be Google competitors, like Kosmix.
But Bing, to my surprise, has gotten some good early reviews. And it deserves them—particularly for its video search. The interface is prettier and softer than Google's, but equally clutter-free. While Google seems to give preference to YouTube videos, Bing offeres a wider variety. Best of all, with Bing, you can simply put your mouse over a video, without clicking on anything, and it will start playing. Expect Google to add this feature soon.
To compare the two search engines, I started by doing a video seach for "managing a startup." Bing almost instantaneously turned up a really attractive page of search results that was easy to scan. Each video had a clear picture, usually of a person, and a brief, one- to five-word description. Google's page, by contrast, was difficult to read. The images were terrible; some were essentially blank, and most gave no clue as to what the videos were about. The descriptions were sometimes gibberish.
A regular Web search for "managing a startup" turned up disappointing results on both search engines. (Come on, people, Inc. magazine should be the top result!) I adjusted my query and tried searching for "hiring tips for startups"—that turned up pretty similar results on both Bing and Google. At this point, it's too early to say if one is better than the other for general search.
So does Bing have a chance of gaining marketshare from Google? It will be a rough road. Anyone over the age of 10 already sees Google as the Internet's soul mate: it's almost impossible to think of one without the other. Even an $80 million marketing campaign may not be enough to top that.