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Three ways Bing still misses the beat

Three ways Bing still misses the beat

It’s very cool to dislike Microsoft these days. Among web developers and general internet addicts, the company is often seen as a ‘hanger-on’ that has outlived its usefulness. While Bill Gates’ empire once changed the interface of computing by moving us from dull black DOS backgrounds and cryptic commands, to the highly visual Windows interface, it’s now widely seen as being some way behind the likes of Apple and Google, yet still won’t give up.

This includes its search engine, Bing, which had just 9.18% of the market share in November, compared to Google’s 75.53%. It currently lies in third place, behind Chinese search engine Baidu with 10.09%.

Nevertheless, there are people who prefer Bing to Google, or at least see it as a valuable alternative. These people point to features like its cashback programme and an image search tool seen by some as being superior.

I have been using the green search engine Ecosia for a while now, which is largely powered by Bing technology. On the whole, I haven’t had a problem with it, but there is the odd thing now and again that it just can’t do as well as Google. Here are three examples I’ve noticed:

1. Bing News is terrible at finding relevant content

The main stumbling block for Bing is that its News tab is really not much use, and if you try to filter the results by country, it just doesn’t listen.

This morning, I went to Google News and Bing News, and searched for ‘internet’ with the UK filter on both. This is what Google brought up:

Image 1

As you can see, it’s returning relevant, major stories from UK sources like The Independent, The Telegraph, and the UK version of Reuters. I like how Google News easily provides several sources for the same story, as they can report it very differently.

Meanwhile, this is what I got from Bing:

Image 2

What a load of rubbish! Is a story about a singing donkey really the fourth best result for me? Why would I be interested in Vietnam Internet Day? Worst of all, why when I’ve asked it to filter results on the UK am I getting websites from Vietnam, India and the US? Only three of the top seven results there are from British sources.

2. Can’t search for repeated words

Last Friday, a band with the name ‘Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs’ played a gig at the Shipping Forecast in Liverpool. Search for them on Google, and you instantly find their Facebook, Bandcamp and Twitter page, along with articles on the band by The Guardian, Crack Magazine and The Quietus.

Don’t search for them on Bing, because you’ll just get pigs. The search engine doesn’t acknowledge that you’ve entered the word several times. If you put the word ‘band’ after it, the band’s Facebook page does come up as the top result, but the search engine still seems to think you’re looking for the old punk band The Pigs, whose Wikipedia page comes up on the right.

3. Bing Maps – what’s the point?

While there’s not a lot wrong with Bing Maps, and it’s something you would find fantastic if there were no other resource like it, it doesn’t appear to offer anything Google Maps doesn’t.

There are not as many businesses and attractions listed. There is a ‘Streetside’ tool that is the equivalent of Google’s Street View, but it is limited to big cities. Overall, it’s perfectly adequate, but Google has Maps nailed, and Bing has so much catching up to do, it hardly seems worth the effort.

These reasons are why Bing is not quite there and probably never will be. It’s spending too much time trying to emulate Google and falling short, when it needs to offer something different.

John Murray

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