For well over a decade, Google has occupied the monopolistic spot in the gargantuan search market. The NFL of the search engine world, it looks down on the efforts of the semi pro, arena and alternative league competitors as the rank amateurs that they are. Just like the NFL is seemingly immune to anti-trust actions, the Googleplex keeps optimizing its plays, executing direct hits, never uttering a stop word in the huddle or making a false drop and scoring touchdown after touchdown. In this game of Super Bowl Champions New York Giants vs. the East Podunk Junior High School Pop Warner team, the final result is never at question, only how bloodied the poor students will be at the end of the game. Even with the billions of Microsoft behind it, Bing has never been able to mount a serious challenge to Google’s team, and their recent nostalgic redesign to emulate an earlier look of the market leader may do little to change their fortunes.
Bing Can’t Even Outdraw Baidu
Although many have criticized the overly portal-ish look that the Google search engine has recently adopted, there is no question that billions of users are not ready to jettison their favorite way to find everything. According to karmasnack’s May 2012 data, 87.6% of all global searches are conducted on the Googleplex’s servers, with Bing attracting less traffic than even China’s Baidu at a mere 4.2%. Bing has suffered from Day One not only against the ingrained habit that has become both a knee jerk reflex and a verb “to Google,” but also due to the widespread perception that its search results were not up to par. In fairness the Microsoft engineers have come a long way from the time when a search for “Hal Licino” brought up 43,000 results in Google and 27 on Bing, but the bad taste lingers and is largely responsible for handicapping its market share.
Why Not the Metro UI?
It also seems counterintuitive to return to the past in a search engine look and feel rather than put the pedal to the metal and adopt the Metro interface that has been heralded by many as the next step in UIs. In pursuing the course of “don’t innovate, replicate,” Microsoft is trying to appeal to the disgruntled who are fed up with Google’s policy of stacking everything above the fold with some sort of “special feature,” which all too often turn out to be ads in thin disguises.
Black Hat & Greed Still Pollute Results
Still, far too much is being made of aesthetics when it comes down to the fact that neither Google nor Bing have been able to provide truly balanced and fair search results, unpolluted by both the efforts of the Black Hat crowd and the greedy drive to sell the soul out of search. Google and Bing may issue endless exhortations about their “improving relevance” but the bottom line is always that in both engines paid results that have absolutely nothing to do with the relevance of the search take up about half the page. When we add to that the fact that even after the parade of Farmers, Pandas, Penguins and countless other algorithm creatures, it is still possible to buy your way into the top of the organic searches through the skullduggery of the dark headwear, it is clear that the “relevance” part of the search engine identity is sorely missing.
Bing’s redesign is minor at best. All it has really done is rip out a graduated screen, shift a column from left to right and dumped a few links to narrow by date, search history… and quite tellingly both MSN and Hotmail. The latter deletion may be indicating that sagacious, skilled and outright genius CEO Steve Ballmer (you realize I’m joking, right?) is de-emphasizing the Microsoft-ness of Bing and preparing to sell off its troubled underperformer. He tried to dump it off to Facebook’s Zuckerberg, who flatly refused, and there may have been other secret approaches as well. Is the Bing redesign an effort to attract more users, or just a paint job to help sell a tired old house? Time will tell.