Microsoft's Bing search has made progress, but can it beat Google? Here's how the two search engines compare.
Both sites show a few important stories atop their news home pages, followed by clusters of links to multiple sources covering the same story. Google News is more customisable, letting you change the layout of news sections and personalise each section to show more or fewer stories. As for news searches, Google includes links to more sources on a given topic, and it seems to do a better job of clustering stories; a recent search in Bing for 'Steve Jobs' returned three separate clusters on the recent ninja star fiasco, which wasn't even that important a story to begin with.
Bing has a dedicated section for planning trips. Sponsored search from Orbitz allows you to look up flights, hotels, and cruises, but the best feature for flights is Price Predictor, which guesses whether current fares should be pounced on or passed up. Similarly, hotel search advises you on whether the rate is a deal, just average, or a rip-off. This section is no contest, because Google has no travel section - but that could change with the company's acquisition of ITA Software.
Google and Bing engaged in a map feature war last year, and Bing emerged with more to offer. The Silverlight-enhanced version of Bing Maps includes apps for finding gas stations, parking, food carts, and much more. It also provides landmarks and other notes in its directions ('If you reach Glencoe Ave, you've gone too far'). I like Google's minimalist approach, which is a hair faster than that of Bing, is easier on the eyes, and provides more alternate routes when traffic looms. But Bing is more powerful and generally more informative, and that's what counts.
Like Travel, this is another useful category where Google is absent. Bing Events is a simple list of upcoming happenings, powered by the website Zvents. For instance, a search for 'music New York' returns concert listings in the Big Apple, sortable by date and relevance. For some locations, Google shows a few happenings if you search for 'events in (city)', but it's not a full-fledged search option.
With the closure of Bing Cashback, which gave discounts just for shopping through Bing, Microsoft's search engine lost a major advantage over Google. Both sites' shopping sections show product details, reviews, and a list of retailers, but I noticed some funky things about Bing. When searching for Apple's iPad or the new video game Halo: Reach, Bing didn't list major retailers such as Amazon (Google did.) And when I looked for a 'bar set', Google returned the appropriate items – cocktail shakers, ice tongs and such - while Bing spit out mostly furniture. But Google's biggest advantage is a shopping list feature (the 'My Shopping List' link at the top right of the Shopping page), where you can mark items for later perusal or purchase.
NEXT PAGE: Mobile options