So You Want to Kick the Google Habit? [Editorial]
By on August 31st, 2011

Search

The first and foremost product to evaluate is of course Google Search. I started using Google almost as soon as it was made available to the public. Yahoo! was the king at the time, and Alta Vista was decent, but Google was simple, deep and fast. Google’s results were always better and it was able to find obscure stuff which Yahoo! was somehow unable to find. Coincidentally, at that time, I was working as a database developer. I often had to look for help on certain issues, and Google, with their beautiful usenet groups layout and search, was fantastic.

Then, Bing happened. Originally it was thought to be just a re-branding of MSN Search or Live Search, but it started innovating very rapidly. The Bing team realized they could not compete solely on the index size, so they quickly made the search competition a usability game. Compared to Google’s plain white screen, Bing had a beautiful home image. Compared to the basic set of links as part of search results, Bing started becoming verticalso it could display search results based on the type of search (hence, the justification for being a decision enginecompared to a search engine). Some examples where Bing is decidedly different:

  • Travel: Bing incorporated farecastingto predict if it is a good time to book or if it may be better to wait   for a few days to actually purchase. Bing also created Destination Pageswhich provide an excellent overview of the various popular travel destinations, all in one page. They incorporated reservations as a feature, so you could search, determine if it is a good time to purchase and make the booking all within one interface/action. Bing became much more than just search.
  • Visual Search: Bing created Visual Search which allowed users to get beautifully laid out visual results for common search terms like NFL players, and applied the same interface for shopping for gadgets like laptops, cameras, etc.   The items covered by Visual Search has expanded rapidly and even includes things like iPhone and iPad apps!
  • Entertainment: Another example of a verticalcreated by Bing is Bing Entertainment which provided details for TV shows, music and movies including the ability to view air times (or show times), lyrics and make reservations, all from one place within Bing. Just like Travel, Bing Entertainment would become a one-stop shop for all actions you are most likely to take when you start searching for, say a movie.
  • Video search: Video search is cool because it allows you to preview the video by just hovering the mouse over the search result video thumbnail. This user experience is in line with the philosophy that you don’t need to go to multiple sites if you are trying to make decisions. Bing itself would let you do a lot of the work so you can, you know, make decisions quickly.
  • Other innovations: I could list other innovations individually and go on and on, but suffice to say that Weather, Local, Events, Social (which looks at Facebook public posts and twitter as well) are only a few parts of Bing which seem to have out-innovated Google. To say that Google has been out-innovated in searchis saying something and was hard to believe just a couple of years back.
  • Spam: Here is one of the biggest reasons to reconsider Google Search. Since Google is established as the #1 source for traffic for websites, and since a lot of companies rely on Google ads (via AdSense) for generating revenue, there is a huge incentive to get the website content to be such that the site shows in the top results for some targeted keywords (and hence, the huge industry for Search Engine Optimization, or SEO). As a result, for a lot of common search terms, a lot of the results on Google are essentially the equivalent of email spam worthless results which clutter the page making it difficult to identify real, good results. Bing also suffers from this problem, but since it is  the smaller player today, not many companies are targeting Bing, so Bing’s results are mostly spam-free. Google has recently rolled out their low quality content handlingalgorithm update called Panda but as long as there is money to be made, people are going to find ways to get around algorithm updates.

 

Bing Travel Farecaster

Bing Fare Predictor

Bing Destination Page

Bing Travel Destination Page

 

I switched about a year or so ago, and I have never looked back. I have almost never missed Google and I actively recommend Bing. Microsoft’s close relationship with Facebook has made it possible to not only get information about search results which my Facebook friends may have Like-d, but in some cases, it also makes it possible for me to share some search results back to Facebook directly from within Bing. The latter piece is powerful in cases like movie or shopping recommendations. I recently used this feature asking my Facebook friends if Rio 3D was worth it. I got 5 responses in 30 minutes which helped me decide it was not worth it. Very powerful.

As for alternatives, it is only Yahoo! at this point (for English at least) and their results are, or will be soon, completely sourced by Bing, so there is no point discussing Yahoo!. Blekko, DuckDuckGo and Wolfram Alpha are super-niche and I have left them out of the discussion.

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Author: Romit Mehta Google Profile for Romit Mehta
Romit writes about mobile news and gadgets, and is currently a Windows Phone owner (Nokia Lumia 920). Find him on twitter @TheRomit. Personal site is http://romitmehta.com.

Romit Mehta has written and can be contacted at romit@techie-buzz.com.
  • Karthikeyan R

    I wonder how you missed the most famous Zoho products. Article is mostly like Google vs Microsoft vs Yahoo.

    • http://rawmeet.posterous.com Romit Mehta

      I have never been tempted to even try Zoho, and I would call myself a “tech enthusiast”. Certainly, the “normal” user will be even less likely to have a go at it. Hence, ignored.

  • Holly

    I don’t get how you can want to drop Google and yet you still chug down the Facebook kool-aid.. the latter is by far more insidious.

    WordPress is great when self hosted.. on the .com version, meh. Mostly usable, but crippled without paying money for some of the more useful features. Love it self hosted though. Cheaper too.

    • http://rawmeet.posterous.com Romit Mehta

      I am not sure how you have concluded that I have chugged down the Facebook kool-aid.

      If WordPress is meh, I would like to say that Blogger is meh-er.

  • http://www.youtube.com/theteslaeffect TheTeslaEffect

    Google Purchased YouTube a while back. So, they own that also.

    Just a heads up. :)

    • http://rawmeet.posterous.com Romit Mehta

      Not sure if you read the whole article. I did mention YouTube.

  • voxnulla

    For mac Adium is a neat little client to slowly switch from googlechat to something else.

    iPhoto with some cloud service is a competent alternative to picassa.

    A good email switch strategy is to use forwarding and vacation notice to let people know you will be responding with another mail address.

    I’m in the process of migrating to a private mail server. A small price to pay to end targeted adverts based on confidential real world transaction mail.

    Under protest I renamed my SSID to a *_nomap name. It’s ugly, but necessary.

    It’s easy to blur your property in streetview. File a privacy complaint and no burglar will be able to map out the best way to climb the garage and get up on the roof in advance.

  • BCW

    I have spent the last few years doing everything in my power to get away from Microsoft and Apple. I have found myself going into the Google realm as they provided nearly all of what I need (and almost completely for free). It is interesting in the article above that the alternatives to Google are mostly Microsoft ware (plus an Apple or two). “Resistance to change” is interesting. I have embraced change in successfully escaping Microsoft and Apple. Even my phone is running Android 4 (ICS) which is a pure vanilla Android unburdened by service provider bloatware. I recommend that people make good use of Google products — and boycott Microsoft and Apple products anywhere possible.

    • http://romitmehta.com Romit Mehta

      BCW: Well, good for you. I have listed why I tried to distance myself from Google. I have also, in the meantime, removed my dependency on Reader (Newsblur rocks, absolutely).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1542741274 Jasen Hicks

    I find this blog funny. Many welcomed google to get away from the overlord Microsoft, and now we have folks posting up on how to move back to MS from google.

 
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