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Google versus Microsoft Bing

The search engine wars heat up

With Microsoft's Bing jumping into second place in search engine market share and assuming control of Yahoo's back-end search, the stage is set for a Google-Bing showdown.

In an attempt to throw aside preconceived notions, I've compared the most prominent search sections for Bing and Google, hoping that one of the engines would stand out as the winner. I invite you to do the same as you go through the list. (You'll find the full range of Bing's specialised search options on its Explore page. Google also has a page listing its services, both search and non-search.)

Basic web search

Here's the best way to think of Google vs Bing in search: Google is laser-focused on its search results sending you to, hopefully, the most relevant web pages, and it allows you to narrow results by date and location. It also indents results from the same website for easy scanning. It's a powerful engine for delivering the best links, but it stays away from delivering its own information, such as explanations of people or things, directly in its search results.

Bing is the opposite. Search for a company by name, and Bing gives you the stock price and customer service number. Search for 'attractions in Chicago, IL,' and you get a list of things to see there. Hover over a link, and you get an option to view some relevant text from the page. Sometimes, Bing even links to related search results, such as 'Diabetes Symptoms' when you only search for 'Diabetes'.

Strictly in terms of the traditional '10 blue links', Google and Bing are fairly similar. (To see this for yourself, do a blind search and try to tell which engine is which.) I sometimes get better results from Google - particularly when trying to recall a specific page from a specific site - but the bigger difference between the sites is how they sort and deliver information. My vote goes to the engine with a no-nonsense ability to serve up good links.

Winner: Google

Images

Bing and Google bring many of the same options to image search, such as 'similar images', 'more sizes', related searches and style options. Although Google includes some slightly obtrusive image ads, it offers a better interface than Bing, enlarging thumbnails as you scroll over them while showing the text that matches your search, and framing the image neatly when you click on it. Bing's image search is a slightly inferior imitation.

Winner: Google

Videos

As with images, Bing and Google offer similar customisation options in video search, such as length, quality, and source, although Google has some extra options for closed captioning and recent uploads. Still, Bing excels overall here, with a grid of thumbnails that's a lot easier to navigate than Google's claustrophobic strip.

Winner: Bing

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