Whither the Bing Thing in 2014

December 18, 2013

I found the data in the “2013 Bing Infographic” surprising. I continue to think of Bing as a search and retrieval system. I don’t use the system directly. I prefer to run queries on metasearch systems that use Bing as one source of content. The reason for my indirect access is that I don’t want distractions, social media content, and videos. In case you, gentle reader, have forgotten, I prefer to read. I read more rapidly than I can watch a video unfold in real time. I understand that some people find videos just the best possible way to locate information. I don’t.

The infographic has a number of data points. Let’s look at three in the context of locating a white paper, information about a person of interest, and a fact.

First, Bing reports that if people looking at a Bing home page each month were to hold hands, the length of that “chain” would be the circumference of the earth. Got it. What’s that go to do with precision, recall, and access to information? Nothing. Okay. That’s fact one.

Next, Bing has more video. That is super. I don’t want video. Period. Well, Bing had twice as much video search in 2013 than in 2012. Got it. I don’t care.

And Bing is the search engine for Facebook (really?), Yahoo (ah, that’s the problem with Yahoo search), and the Kindle Fire (I don’t use a Kindle Fire).

What does the infographic reveal about search at Microsoft?

  1. Search is not the point of Bing. I thought Powerset and Fast  Search were going to improve Bing search? Guess not.
  2. Why is it getting * more * difficult to locate information instead of easier? Maybe the vastness of the Web and economic pressures are forcing Microsoft to shift from search to some other type of service? That’s okay, just knock off the use of the word search.
  3. How do professionals at Microsoft locate information? I don’t have any hard data, but I think that Google (an outfit doing a rather questionable job in search) may be good enough. That is indeed chilling to think that Microsoft professionals trust Google to point them to hard to find Microsoft research papers and obscure FAQs about Microsoft products.

Bing had a shot and spent some money shooting blanks in my view. So for 2014 I don’t expect much improvement. I hope libraries in my area have enough money to remain open and provide access to commercial online information resources. The free Web stuff does not strike me as getting better. Oh, if you want video and social media, you may be in business.

How often do I run a query on a Windows 8.1 laptop and want Web hits and not a list of documents on my local hard drive matching my key word query? Never. There you go.

Stephen E Arnold, December 18, 2013


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