Bing is Microsoft’s newest internet search engine. It is an upgrade of Live Search and MSN Search and is a huge step graphically forward as well as the many features. Microsoft is swinging for the fences and is trying to top Google here and they have done a pretty good job with Bing.
First thing is how well it searches for items. Not only is it excellent at searching what you want online in a general search, but it also offers suggestions for possible other searches based on what you looked for. These are to the left of the screen out of the way if you don’t care what they think, and they can also be turned off using the preference section. What is really nice though is that there aren’t all those ads that usually pop up when you type in searches into Google. I’m sure they are coming as there is a section of Bing set around setting up advertisers for the site, but until then it is a great feature.
Another search related feature is the ability to save old searches on the left of the screen so you can easily return to them. This helps if you are jumping through a few searches while researching and want to backtrack a few.
Speaking of preferences, Bing gives you some options. If you sign on (via MSN or hotmail account) you can turn on or off an adult filter, or set it to medium. Also you can set your local region so the site will filter searches based around your area and put then first if you type in a local rester aunt like Dairy Queen for example, which is a nice feature instead of having to type in your area every time you want to search for local places. You can also set the amount of results you get per page, what language the sites you search for can be in, and as stated above, if you want to suggested searches active or not.
The news feature allows you to set up an individual news feed with the option to add email alerts for stories that are associated with key words you select. On the left they give options to limit your search (or just general browsing) to a subset of news, be it world, local, entertainment, etc. It’s a nice feature for those who don’t frequent a set website like BBC or CNN.
The video search feature is really cool. By clicking on video, all the results you search for are just videos. The cool part though is that you can play these videos in Bing itself and not have to bother with switching sites. You also can preview the video by holding your mouse over your selection. This makes watching internet shows much easier as you’re catching up, I even found some specials for shows like Legend of Neil that I had never seen before. Some videos can only be seen on their host site or YouTube, but even then Bing offers you a click to instantly watch the video. You can even enlarge the video without ever leaving the website to watch it in full screen. Due to the ease of finding videos, this is why the adult filter feature is found on the site, since you can also find porn and watch it just as easily. Microsoft has fixed a previous bug that allowed porn to be seen around parental control or corporate filters by adding the subscript adult to the search even if Bing is set to allow all searches. The picture search is similar to video, that it shows only the photos and you can get them slightly larger (not full screen) without leaving the site.
The shopping section is one of the more intriguing parts of Bing. There is typical shopping zones that is nothing different then any other search engine, but Microsoft has decided to add a new feature, Cashback. Cashback works only if you are signed in to your email account and have set up the Cashback feature, which is quick and easy to do. Once that is set up, you browse for whatever you want using Bing, if the item is available for Cashback, there will be a gold circle somewhere in the description of the item alongside it saying Bing Cashback. You buy that item and you will receive credit towards Cashback, once you’ve earned at least $5 you can have the cash sent to you, if you ever used the Live Search Cashback, it is identical. There is of course an option to see items online that are Cashback only to ensure you earn a little something back.
The maps in general are just as good as Google Maps, except you don’t get the first person pictures attached. Since I find those photos a bit creepy, I think it’s a bonus, but your mileage may vary.
All in all, I think Bing is a great search engine. Microsoft does have a long way to try and top Google though as it’s the default search engine for Firefox, and is set as default on most computer systems in general. I think if Google wasn’t a part of the internet subtext, it may stand a chance, but Google is just too set in our minds for anything to compete.