BING versus Google: Will “Judy Consumer” get the difference?

We consumers seem to becoming just pawns in the power struggle between the two Internet born behemoths of Google and Microsoft. To Google, we are “products” to be sold to highest bidding advertiser and to Microsoft we have been reduced largely to a software license.  When I see the battle of these two corporate super powers play itself out on the grand stage, I am left feeling awed and also feeling rather puny too. 

 So when I read the plethora of opinions being spun by experts about whether BING is better than Google, I wonder what “Judy Consumer” thinks. I do suspect that no matter what the experts think, both views introduce largely technology benefits whose subtleties are probably largely lost on the vast majority of “Judy Consumers” in the real world who use this stuff.

 What the “Judy Consumers” of the world do know is the new BING advertising campaign which promises that BING is not a just search engine but a decision engine. I can imagine the agency/ client meetings assessing this positioning versus that. I can hear the focus group comments that came from the testing that no doubt went into the creation of this campaign. And I can certainly feel the excitement (maybe even a little tension) as the agency reported on the research results in support of the recommended campaign. Been there, done that.

 Clearly the BING campaign is meant to communicate that people will get to the relevant information they want faster than Google. But this almost a technical benefit (aka better filtering of search results) is lost in the grandiose nature of the BIG BING promise as a decision engine. Maybe I am just too independent minded (and not the primary target), but I can’t help resisting the notion that Microsoft technology will decide anything for me.  What I really want is technology to give me the information I need to make the decision I want. So the premise of a decision engine falls flat to my ears. But hey everyone’s a critic.

 So then I went to look at how does BING delivers in its decision making promise. I did the first search that came to mind – I searched my name. Ya’ know what? Google did much better and was more accurate than BING by far. In fact, I could compare results very efficiently via a site called bing-vs-google.com that David Pogue of the New York Times was kind enough to introduce me to in his recent article.  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/technology/personaltech/09pogue.html?ref=technology   

 I tried again thinking that I am not nearly important enough to have a depth of results to get an adequate idea of how BING works. So I decided to search the term “online trust”. The results were no more satisfying this time. True – BING does have a few nifty features like the related searches and the excerpt from the site without having to click around, but beyond that, TBH, I could see no perceptible difference.

 Maybe I am not looking hard enough and I certainly did not put it through its paces as David Pogue did for his NY Times article. Or just maybe the differences are too subtle for “Judy Consumer” to notice or for anyone to even care enough about to look for these extras.  And this is where BING is at a distinct disadvantage because inertia is one of the most powerful marketing forces on the planet. While that’s good news for Google, it’s bad news for BING because I suspect people will try BING for kicks, but drift back to their inertia induced Google search patterns.

 So what will “Judy Consumer” really think? I don’t proclaim to know but I hope “Judy Consumer” makes up her own mind and not rely on either Microsoft or Google. Or the pundits either for that matter. They know too much.

Judy Shapiro (http://twitter.com/judyshapiro )

Who cares what Google says!

My son showed me a Google search result that was in contradiction to a fact that I knew to be true about the Great Depression (I am, by training, a history major).

 

So I looked closer at the source he was using to make his point and realized it was a not a reliable information source but rather an affiliate site from some financial services company.

 

“Honey”, I say with more patience. “Google simply shows you which pages have the words you looked for. It can not tell you which information to trust.”

 

And then out of the mouth babes came, “Then who cares what Google says”. Precisely.

 

Google’s power comes from its ability to gather information efficiently and serve it back to users based on a keyword driven algorithm technology platform. However, no matter how intelligent keyword search becomes, it can not provide the critical ingredient to make search reliable – it can not tell us when to trust the information we are being given.

 

That, is where, the line in the sand is drawn between the searches of today and the new way to search in the future. Between the power of Google today and upcoming power of whoever delivers trusted searches.

 

And I am betting that this “whoever” will be our digital social networks. I believe they will become the new Google of tomorrow (actually Googles…)

 

Look at this it this way. In the real world, much of what we need to know can best come from our personal and professional networks because it is, in fact, trusted. We go there first because it saves us a lot of time and fuss. We enlarge the information gathering process only if this does not provide us all we need.

 

Translate that concept to our digital social network world. I believe that we will be able to configure our social networks efficiently to be our first search circle moving out as the needs requires.

 

It makes sense. It’s what we do every day.

 

Watch out Google. Here we come.

 

Judy Shapiro

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