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Bing, Google … and Kayak

I’ve been poking around Microsoft’s Bing. The short answer is that it’s not going to move me off of Google. Of course, my Google inertia is pretty much sleeping-hippopotamus-like at this point. Plus, Bing’s ripping off of Kayak.com (see below) has me pretty cheesed.

Bing does some useful and clever things. But, I think some of the coverage has actually undersold Google. For example, Hiawatha Bray in the Boston Globe, whose writing I like a lot, today opens his review with the clever idea of searching for “google” at Bing and for “bing” at Google. He says Bing gives you a concentrated dosage of stuff about Google, while Google is all over the map with its “bing” results. Well, sure! “Google” is a made-up word with only one dominant meaning, so of course Bing gives you concentrated Google goodness. But “Bing” has lots of meanings, so Google’s right to return a mix of bingy words…with Microsoft Bing as the top result. Now, it is true that, as Hiawatha says, Microsoft gives its “Google” results in convenient tabs about Microsoft the corporate entity as well as listing sub-pages within the google domain, while Google’s top return on “Microsoft” only gives you a set of sub-pages. Microsoft looks more like WolframAlpha in that regard, and that’s a good way to look. But, Google also recently added easier ways to refine and expand searches (by timeline, by WonderWheel), etc., as Hiawatha points out. So, it really depends on what you’re trying to do. As always. (Type MSFT into either and you’ll get similar boxed stock data.)

Hiawatha writes: “Say you want the latest weather or traffic data. Google will tell you where to get it. Bing will just give it to you.” Not exactly. Type “weather” into either site and you get your local weather at the top, in pretty much identical displays. Google’s been doing that for quite a while. Likewise, type an airline and flight number and Google will tell you if it’s on time. But the “traffic” trick doesn’t work for Google. For that you have to go to Google Maps and click on the “Traffic” button (assuming you’re signed in). I wonder how long it’ll take Google to add Bing’s way of responding.

When it comes to shopping, Bing has some very nice touches. Well, primarily it has faceted classification — like NewEgg.com, and also using Endeca‘s engine? — that lets you sort a big list based on multiple criteria, using any of them in any order. Also, Bing has separate ratings by users and experts. On the other hand, Google found many many more copies of “splinter cell double agent” for sale than Bing did.

As many have noted, Bing’s handling of video searches is stellar. Hover over any of the thumbnails and the thumbnail starts to play. But, as someone pointed out — sorry, I lost the link — there seems to be no way to keep users from turning off the adult filter, which means that every school and library now has the greatest multi-screen porn browser ever invented. You can browse for porn videos on Google, of course, but with Bing it’s like watching all of them all at once. Well, maybe this will be like catching a kid smoking and making him smoke an entire pack all at once.

And now we come to Bing’s travel searches. OMG. Bing blatantly ripped off Kayak.com. [Disclosure: I’m old friends with the Kayak folks.] Just take a look at this post. If you’re going to rip off an innovative design, then at least innovate on top of it! Grrrr…

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Later that morning: I just came across a very amusing article in Ars Technica about the new Google Squared app that puts info into tables. It makes clear why some sites (e.g., WolframAlpha) are willing to pay the price to gain the benefits of curation. (via Lee Baker, Berkman summer intern)

16 Responses to “Bing, Google … and Kayak”

  1. Bing’s air fare travel comparison service used to be known as “Farecast” before it was bought up by Microsoft a year ago. You can sort of see from the screenshot in the TechCrunch posting at the URL above that they already sort of looked like Kayak. As I recall, Kayak and Farecast came out at about roughly the same time in the mid 2000’s.

  2. Because there aren’t tons of other air-travel comparison sites which also use the very obvious filter-on-the-left-results-on-the-right page layout…

  3. The filters themselves are a kayak rip-off. And the colors. And the look of the listings. And…

  4. From the media coverage it seems like the media is ready for a “google killer”. ie: google being the best ever has gotten boring.

    Bing seems good so far. I keep flashing back to conference rooms at microsoft where we yelled at them to do this sorta stuff (and not try and force encarta into everything), so it’s good that they got there eventually.

    But ultimately it seems like it would be a decent replacement for Google if Google ever starts to suck.

  5. Yes, just what the eWorld needed – another Search engine! Bing – the latest Microsoft offering – let me guess…you get just to the page you’re looking for and the whole damn thing freezes up forcing you to Reboot your system!

    “We’re sorry – Microsoft has encountered an unexpected error” – what a contradiction of terms – Microsoft IS the error.

    Here’s a thought…Fix your unstable platform instead of piling more crap on top of it.

    Don’t follow the lemmings – go Mac and you’ll NEVER go back!

  6. When I first saw this I thought it was a complete rip off of Kayak, that I use and testimonialize religiously. But looking at the link and screen shots of Farecast, it seems that they did not rip off Kayak. In fact Farecast was the year before Kayak was. If anything, it was the 100 monkeys syndrome.

  7. Kayak was created in 2004; Farecast in 2007. Look-ie here for details:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kayak.com

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farecast

  8. I have Farecast created in 2003:
    http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/04/17/microsoft-acquires-farecast-for-115m/

    Looking at web archive, they have archives back around that date (2004), though it didn’t really seem to get going until later.

    In the techcrunch URL, there is a screen shot of Farecast which shows a site that looks like kayak. I will stipulate to MS being evil, but they bought a company and repurposed its tech for Bing.

  9. Joel, Archive.org definitely shows that Kayak is the copied and Farecast was the copier. Up through the first half of 2006, the Farecast site was a placeholder.

  10. farecast claims 2006 http://www.farecast.com/about/about.do

    where is the truth??

  11. Farecast’s original business model was rather different at the start. Their big idea was to forecast the price changes in whatever airfare you planning to buy. It was a neat idea but the results were very disappointing. Their first major redesign made them a very close copy of Kayak. When Microsoft rebranded them as bing.com/travel they further changed the site to make it an even-closer copy of Kayak.

    I don’t think there can be even the slightest question that Kayak originally implemented this design and function well before anyone else and that it was unique (and even a bit revolutionary) at the time. I remember using Kayak for the first time and how shocking it was to see the search results filling into the already-loaded page.

    Unfortunately I’ve already heard a few people (and IT people at that, not elderly grandmothers) talking about how great and innovative the new Bing Travel interface is and how they’re going to start using it.

  12. […] The Berkman Center’s David Weinberger had a unique take among the avalanche of It’s-pretty-cool-but-won’t-kill-Google Bing reviews — he says Microsoft’s new search engine bites Kayak.com’s style. […]

  13. […] David Weinberger: Bing’s ripping off of Kayak.com has me pretty cheesed. […]

  14. A lot of people, including me, think that they never gonna change google.com as a homepage. Simple fast and easy are strong arguments.
    I have changed it now. I’m very happy with my new alternative to google called http://www.azokan.com
    You have everything that you used to have with google, but you can also search in wikipedia, youtube, twitter… and more websites.
    IIII love it :)

  15. Your post helps people understand the importance of website found in Bing

    And also help of me with ur great information. Thanks for sharing

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