If you google Bing or bing Google, you’ll find some really interesting reviews & comparisons between Bing & Google. Almost all of them arrive at a similar conclusion; that 1) Bing is better than Live Search, 2) Bing has differentiation vs. Google in some scenarios and 3) Google still doesn’t have to worry. Bing has more to do, but it’s good to see competition in the search space. I’m a big fan of competition as it leads to innovation and ultimately better products and services for consumers.

Bing > Live; Bing > Google (in some ways)

- For starters, it’s just a better name. Live was too confusing for most people & couldn’t be used as a verb. As silly as that sounds, it makes a difference. Also, the Live brand was overloaded and most people just didn’t get it.

- It’s refreshing. It looks good, cleaner and fresh. I always perceived Google as the king of simplicity and user experience, but Bing just feels better and has a better user experience IMO. I can’t personally put my finger on it, but it’s likely a combination of many things: the picture, navigation, color scheme, page preview functionality. The Bing team even got the little things right – for example, the font seems just right. Google feels ‘oh so 2000.’ :-)

- Relevancy is as good as Google at least for everything I tried searching for.  http://bingle.pwnij.com/ is a neat service you can try for yourself.

- Some services are just better integrated. Bing Travel (Farecast) is nicely integrated as is much of the MSN content; I also think that the image & video search is better.

Why Google doesn’t have to worry (in the short term)

- Google is a habit. It’s part of our vocabulary, it’s the de facto search engine for most people and has been for years. Google doesn’t even have to pay for product placement in movies, television shows & on the news. It’s synonymous with Internet search.

- Some Google services are better. Google has some specific services that give it some differentiation albeit in very targeted scenarios.

- User entry points. There are more entry points for Google than Bing and this trend won’t change in the near term. Google has some very popular user services like YouTube & Gmail. And while they haven’t necessary figured out how to best monetize them, it’s a function of time before they strike the right balance of service vs. advertisement. Beyond services, as the iPhone becomes more & more popular (and boy, is it popular) & browsers like Firefox & Chrome gain more market share, the number of Google search queries will continue to rise. This isn’t even taking into account any penetration with Android & Chrome OS. Google’s push for open source software is motivated by making Google’s search service more ubiquitous. That’s the world of business.

- AdSense. Google enjoys a large ecosystem of customers & partners that isn’t going anywhere. I’m not sure what the revenue percentage is, but I’m sure that revenue stream is significant.

Why Google should be worried (in the longer term)

Google faces some challenges in the intermediate to longer term if they don’t innovate quickly & Bing continues to out innovate them. Today, Bing may not offer significant differentiation for a user to change his/her habit,  but things could change as they continue to innovate.

- User Experience conundrum. I mentioned earlier that Bing has a refreshing user experience. It looks new and gives me different ways to explore content with suggestions and navigation on the left hand side. There’s just enough information on the screen so it’s useful without being over-crowded. I suspect this took a lot of qualitative research to get right by the Bing team. So why doesn’t Google copy and bring a similar experience to its users? I don’t see Google doing that because 1) Google is known for simplicity and adding more content, more information, more graphics can counter that simplicity and can affect their brand; 2) A less obvious reason is the more choices Google presents to users for navigating content, for example, it could distract from the advertizing links on the right; I may be less likely to click on an advertizing link if I have other options elsewhere on a page; user experience research may prove or disprove my theory, but my intuition says that’s a possible outcome.

- Facebook. More & more people are starting their days in Facebook vs. Google. And if Facebook becomes the entry point for users, then the search engine that is powered by Facebook will win. Not only will that search engine serve Facebook search requests, but they will have an opportunity to switch users to their service by becoming more and more familiar.

- Startups. Google’s not the underdog anymore. There are plenty of startups that are funded, even more agile and attracting talent. They can deliver services & technology faster. Google will have to continue attracting great talent and even more importantly retaining great talent. Google has made smart acquisitions in the past, and they should continue keeping their eyes open for new ones.

- Live Services. Watch out! With Office 2010 Office Web Applications, more people will use Live Services and end up interacting with Bing!

My Conclusion

Bing is refreshing and a step in the right direction for Microsoft. There’s still more innovation that needs to be done with search and the various supporting services to drive traffic/switch users, but I for one am a Bing convert! Ultimately, whatever happens, we’ll all benefit and continue to get better search experiences and choice.