After enthusiastically blogging about Bing over the weekend, I was invited to an event last night hosted by Natalie Bow, senior marketing manager with Microsoft, and Stacey Jarvis, Search Lead with Microsoft Canada.
It was an interesting opportunity for me to hear first-hand about Microsoft’s search ambitions and, as important, listen to what other people within Toronto’s high-tech community are thinking about Bing.
Not surprisingly, Microsoft folks are enthusiastic and bubbly about Bing’s reception. After all, Bing wasn’t savaged unlike search newbies such as Cuil and Wolfram|Alpha.
The people who don’t work for Microsoft were somewhat less buoyant. The general feel is Bing is “fine” – a description we would use when I was kid after piano lessons, which meant we didn’t hate the lesson but weren’t overjoyed either.
By fine, I mean Bing works well enough. It has a few interesting wrinkles and thankfully doesn’t try to position itself as better than Google. The question is whether Bing is different enough to convince people to give it a shot and, ideally, switch from Google.
Right now, I’d say that isn’t going to happen in a significant way but Bing has got off to a un-rocky enough start to live another day.
A friend, whose opinion I trust and value, made it abundantly clear to Ms. Bow that Bing’s biggest weakness could be an abundance of unnecessary frills forced into the mix by ambitious product managers and developers. My friend believes Bing would do itself a lot of good by trying to less to more people, which has a lot of merit.
That said, I think there’s a lot of people rooting for Bing to succeed. There’s people who want Microsoft to become a better search player, and there’s people who want someone – anyone – to really take on Google. In that sense, it’s interesting to see Microsoft as the underdog.
All in all, Bing has potential. The ball’s in Microsoft’s court to see if it can make Bing sing (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)
Update: All Things D reports that Mahalo, the human-powered search engine whose growth has stalled at about three million unique (U.S.) visitors/month, is going through a two-part makeover. First, the look and feel of front page will change; second, it wants users to flesh out the database as opposed to relying on Mahalo editors.
Addendum: There was not Wi-Fi at the restaurant where Microsoft held the event so I had to take analog notes (aka pen and napkin):