Bing: An Experiment in Search

For the past several weeks, I've been experimenting.  For as long as I can remember, Google has been my go-to search engine.  The only other one that I can remember before that was Ask Jeeves (now reduced to the Ask atrocity) and before that was AOL (needing to go the way of the dodo).  In 2009, Microsoft announced its own search engine, Bing.  Ever since, the engine has been panned by the general public and critics alike.  In my own personal experience, it's looked upon as highly as Windows Vista and Windows 8.  Not ever having had used the engine myself, I thought it was time to give it a go.

Now, to say that I've never used Bing before would be an outright lie.  Bing is built into Windows Phone, including the latest release of Cortana.  In addition to that, Bing search is the default search engine within Windows 8 and Windows RT.  Now, I have tinkered with the Google search apps for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone, but I quickly found that using the integrated search was far easier than launching another app and the results themselves were similar enough and workable to my needs.

So my reasoning led me to take the next leap forward.  Bing is the default search engine within Internet Explorer, which itself is the default web browser on any Windows based machine.  However, ever since the beta release of IE9 and the Active X fallout, I've since switched to Google Chrome.  While the issues have since been resolved in IE, I've never found myself tempted to go back.

So, for the past few weeks, I've had Bing set as my default search engine within Chrome.  I don't use the integrated search within the Metro version (It's Metro.  Deal with it, Microsoft) as I don't find myself within the Metro screen all that often anymore thanks to 8.1 and Update 1.  I typically don't have to search for anything because I'm an organized individual who knows where I put things away.

This ties into my dilemma with Bing.  While the search engine hasn't failed me yet, I find that I don't use it all that often.  Everything that I check online, I already have saved as a bookmark.   But I will say that out of the few hundred searches that I've done since switching to Bing, I've not felt that I'm missing anything or had to search extensively for what I was looking for.

Now I am aware that there are a plethora of features that I'm not using yet.  And while my searches haven't been intensive, this is still a trial phase.  I'll dive deeper over time.

One thing that sticks out to me is Bing's reward system.  It seems that in an active effort to bring users to its search engine, Microsoft awards points for searches up to a certain amount each day on both PC and mobile platforms.  These points can be redeemed for items like gift cards or entries into Microsoft's raffles for prizes like Surface and Xbox One.

It smacks of defeat and Microsoft saying "We realize our engine is crap.  But we'll give you things for using it!"  And while this definitely isn't the case, I still can't help but read the situation that way.  But I won't complain that my few hundred search results have netted me a $1.25 gift card to spend on apps within the Windows Phone marketplace.

Thus far, I've realized that Bing is nowhere near as bad as people make it out to be.  The problem with Microsoft is how a lot of their products are perceived by the public.  Sure, Vista was a train wreck out of the gate, but it definitely got better.  And Windows 8 was in the same boat.  While it wasn't terrible, it was too different and scared consumers away.  Despite making several gigantic revisions to the OS, I sincerely doubt that Microsoft will be able to wash away the stigma of Windows 8 anytime soon.  Everyone hates it.

It's these public perceptions that are the tragedy.  The products aren't bad.  Sure, they have flaws, but no one system is perfect (I'm talking to you too, Apple).  I find that with any new technology or application, it's always best to keep an open mind.  You never know what may happen.  But nothing is worse than liking Bing, right?