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To Bing or not to Bing - can Microsoft beat Google?

By Benjamin Cohen

Updated on 03 June 2009

Today,, the new internet search engine officially goes live. It is a radical and last-ditch attempt for Microsoft to grab a share of the search market. Benjamin Cohen writes.

Bing replaces their previous search brand Microsoft Live Search and will be promoted in the USA in a multi-million dollar advertising campaign.

The version that officially goes live today is a beta service, not all of the features are complete. But it’s possible to get a pretty good understanding of what sets it apart from Google.

The first is its striking front page that features a rotating stunning background image. But it’s when you dig deeper that you see how Bing will try and compete with Google.

When you first see a results page it might look familiar but if you move your mouse into the right hand of an individual result then you’ll find a copy of the text found on the website listed. There’s also a list of internal links from that particular website. Google does do the later but not the former.

Bing also aims to give you all of the information you’re after on the one page. So if you search for “San Francisco” you should find results for the city; for flights from the city you are in now; for hotels in the city, restaurants, maps, tours and so on.

Don’t kid yourself that this is anything as sophisticated as Wolfram Alpha, the truly intelligent search engine launched the other week. But it does seem a little bit more intelligent than Google.

Watch Benjamin Cohen's report on Bing

It does also have a pretty nifty video search engine. There’s no need actually ever click on a video, most automatically play when you just hover your mouse over it. It’s really quick and it should be popular with the YouTube generation.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, bloggers have been quick to point out that if you don’t have Safe Search activated it's incredibly easy to end up playing pornography. Type in the wrong keywords and you'll find thumbnails that automatically start playing you sounds as well, something that could be very embarrassing at work!

However, probably the most important things about Bing is its name itself. Google's name has become both a noun and a verb. How many times have you heard or said "I Googled" X, Y, or Z? Microsoft's old name was hardly conducive to that, no one was ever going to say in conversation "I Windows Live Searched this."

But you can immediately see how "Bing" could be used.  Jonathan Gabay of BrandForensics gave me a few examples: "I Binged you", "where have you Bing?", "Bing me". He told me that Microsoft wouldn't have just come upon the name by chance, rather they would have tried to find a name that would work in any language and have the simplicity to become part of the vernacular.

And it's probably through people saying the name in conversations or recommendations that many of us will first hear about, and Microsoft hope be converted to the search engine.

They're spending money on traditional advertising campaigns in the USA to promote the website but in the new digital world that we live in, simply bombarding television viewers with your brand name is not the way to create real loyalty.

It requires a cultural shift and bizarrely having a half decent four letter name is probably half of the battle.

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