Microsoft's newest iteration of Live Search, earlier codenamed Kumo, finally launched this week under the "Bing" brand. Check it out at www.bing.com (or Canadian version at www.bing.ca). Almost every other week, another "Google-killer" search engine launches and as fast as that fades away quitely as well. Remember Powerset, Cuil, WolframAlpha, and of course the erstwhile Live Search ? Well, search engines come and go, and none have really been a worthy challenger to Google yet.
I think that might change with Bing. It is not exactly revolutionary. Infact, from how the search results are presented, to the overall UI, to the results themselves - it is very similar to Google. Note this: Bing has a feature parity with Google.
Here's where it gets interesting. Bing goes beyond that parity with Google in various little, quirky ways which makes searching on Bing a lot more pleasant experience for the end-user. The feature that I love the most is the quick preview of the search result's webpage which shows up with just a hover on the link, giving you enough information whether to click on it or not. I found myself saving on a lot of clicks when I used Bing, compared to Google, and that combined with the search result parity, is a good enough reason for me to use Bing a lot more compared to Google now. This is not easy folks. I've been a dedicated Google user for the past 7-8 yrs now, and am a skeptic first when it comes to new web applications. But there is definitely something interesting about Bing. Check out the official demo by Microsoft:
Another useful feature is the display of a new image on its home page, typically of a place, and you can hover on the image to learn more about that location. Pretty cool! Bing also shows related category search options for all search results - which are useful because oftentimes when searching we don't know what we don't know - so it is useful to come across pre-determined search options on what we might want to search for.
However, I am not sold on it completely yet. I tried a few searches where its search results better reflected more recent webpages than Google, but in others it was lacking - so there is no definite answer there. For example, try searching for "Extreme University" in both - Google shows you the relevant link right away, while it seems Bing hasn't gotten around to indexing that page as yet (ExtremeU is a Toronto-based startup program which launched just a couple of days ago).
For mainstream users, Bing has a pull in several different niches. Try searching for celebrities (eg Jennifer Aniston) and you get the recent buzz about them or try entering flight codes, and you'll get the flight status back. Enter "weather" and it will show you the weather for your city directly, whereas Google will show you the same only if you enter "weather" plus the name of your city.
I think the search engine which better integrates more real-time results, especially from services like Twitter, will really take the cake here. Last word on search, for the time being, has not been written yet. Bing version 1.0 does have a slight edge over the current Google in my opinion - remains to be seen how Google will respond. What do you think ? Any interesting searches which you tried on Bing vs Google ? Are you switching yet ?