Something unusual happened today. Something that hasn’t happened since around the year 2000.
People have started talking about a new search engine.
Granted, it isn’t with the same “HAVE YOU SEEN HOW GREAT THIS IS?” enthusiasm that started Google’s viral growth. It’s more of a “I kind of like the front page images”, or “you know, the results aren’t too bad” groundswell. Microsoft, compete.com and various other are claiming good growth, and the graph I like to show every so often (which includes cuil.com and wolframalpha.com) is a good look for them (As predicted, both of the others are now on a very large downturn)
Then, something even more interesting happened, for me: I chose to do a search on Bing.com instead of Google. And I got better results. Yes, better results.
Okay, they were only better for the first page, and “better” is a subjective measure here, but that’s how Google caught on – by getting the first 5 results better, with less spam and less irrelevance. Sure, Bing is subject to less “gaming” than Google is, and that might just be the explanation. But I get the feeling that something, just a little something interesting is happening here. It’s no revolution yet (which is a significant shame), but there’s an outside chance it’s the beginnings of one.
Great photography on the home page combined with interesting facts is fun, sure. And good search results are crucial, that’s a given. But MS needs to up the ante, they’ve got an opportunity now where the incumbent is feeling a bit tired and staid despite their incredible efforts to innovate. And Microsoft could just, at a long shot, grab some market share back. Here’s some freebie tips, Microsoft:
1. Target the home page images so they’re relevant to me
2. Get rid of the in-context popups next to search results
3. Break out of the Google-style search results listings – a link and two lines of text isn’t very innovative
4. Given that most people (79%) click on results 1-3, make these results richer, with more information
5. What’s with the white space (on the right as below)?
Finally, to follow up on my predictions for Wolframalpha and Cuil, as they are the only other substantial pretenders from the “new” school of search. It is a shame that they didn’t make it, but it does underline the difficulty of the task: