Cliffhanger, search to the top

Lost in procrastination

First I wanted to apologise for my less frequent postings. I have been very, very busy these days at work and consequently have not had the time to properly blog about the things that I have in mind. So please bear with me, there are a few thoughts around cultural differences, across countries and across generations, coming soon.

But as I said I have been busy working on a very secretive project that has finally come to the open today. As you may have heard through the press, social media, etc. Microsoft has decided to launch a new search experience, under a new brand: Bing! I have long thought about whether it would make sense for me talk about that in this blog as I tend to dissociate office and home, chore and leisure... But this has taken so much of my time lately that the limit between both spheres has blurred. I have been thinking a lot about it and then here was today's homepage, a mountain dweller... So I could not resist any longer.

Bing, a new search experience
Bing, a new search experience

I will not resist any longer because I genuinely think that the search experience is something new and different from the other engines available out there. As you may have noted the service in the UK is in Beta: Microsoft has something like 60 engineers based in London dedicated to localise the global experience to the very specific needs of the British surfers. They work on the algorithm, the front and the back end to lift the Beta tag in a few months time... To know more about the UK features, have a tour of the already-available features at http://www.discoverbing.co.uk/.

But in the meanwhile if you would like to get a better sense of what is coming, have a play with the US product which is available in its full feature set. How to do so? On the top right corner of http://www.bing.com/ you can select your contry. Simply click there and select the relevant destination.

Let me draw your attention to some features that I personally find great:

  • The rich image homepage: when connecting to http://www.bing.com/ you will notice that the search box is embedded in a vibrant image. It changes daily, and is country-dependant. So this enables to have pictures that reflect what is happening near you. You will notice on the US site that you have hotspots on the image, providing with some information about the bespoke image and its subject. For someone like me, a photo-enthusiast keen on learning new things every day, this feature touches me straight in the heart. I have my new home page!
  • The categories to refine my search: I guess I am just like you all, I have learned to work my way through the search engines. I typed a keyword, get some results, click through the first ones and realise that that is not exactly what I am after. So I refine my query using more keywords, some quotation marks and & signs... Ultimately I make my way through. But on Bing you can see that on the left hand side the engine is offering you a series of option to refine automatically your search, stripping out irrelevant results. I am not talking about the usual 'image', ' video', 'news' categories that you can find on most of the engine no matter what you are after. I am refering to tabs that are dynamically populated depending on what you look for. Type Wimbledon, and you get 'tickets', 'video', 'results'... Type MP3 player and you are prompted a whole new set of refinments like 'Brand', 'Accesories', etc. Ultimately it helps you click on the right link first time, instead of going through the pain of the try-and-miss process.
  • Save and share your search: Bing saves your search history so that no matter your series of searches you can always come back to what you previously looked for. Even better, you can share this history through social media (Facebook, Windows Live...). Helpful when you plan your next trip with your wife...
  • Travel-planning becomes a no brainer: talking about travels, Microsoft has integrated a series of new technologies in its new experience, from mapping solutions to restaurant reviews. Farecast for instance is just brilliant. If you search, let's say, a flight between NY City and Atlanta, the engine will provide you with some price comparisons and tell you, based on statistics, if the price is likely to go up or down. You can then make your purchase decision without the pain of discovering that you could have saved 15% by waiting an extra week.

The freedom of choice

I have picked up just a few of the innovations that are available or about to be launched. There are a lot more in the pipeline, and even more in the sleeves of the developers. But what I like most about this experience is the fact that Bing does not try to be like Google. I have come across a brilliant quote by this reknown philosoph called Homer Simpson (1987-): "Kids, you have tried your best and you've failed... The lesson is clear: do not try!" Well, Microsoft has stopped trying to be like Google and started offering a radically different approach.

By reading this blog you must have probably realised that I see in cultural differences a source of enrichment, of dynamism, of enthusiasm. I despise what we call in French "Pensée Unique" (uniform thinking). I hail the difference of point of view. I therefore like that from now on, I have a choice between two search engines offering me different experience. Choice is a key element of freedom, isn't it?

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