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11 June, 2009

It's all in the results

In an attempt to separate the effectiveness of three search engines from testers' brand loyalty/hostility, Michael Kordahi has set up a 'blind search' interface.  Given keywords, this performs the same search on Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft's Bing, and asks visitors to select the column of results which best matches their requirements.  One isn't told which column is which until after voting.

My own results overwhelmingly confirm Google's supremacy, though Yahoo! performed well. Bing, however, didn't win even once in ~20 tests. Admittedly, blind testing omits thumbnails, usability tweaks and ancillary elements of each original interface, but this doesn't look good for Microsoft. Even 33% success wouldn't be enough to break into the market, and 50% wouldn't be enough to dislodge Google: a new search engine would need to be distinctly better than the market-leader, not merely 'as good', which is the very best review I've seen for Bing.

As Microsoft already knows: for years they've relied on user inertia to prop up Internet Explorer. It took a markedly superior product, such as Firefox, to tempt people into switching from the browser pre-installed with Windows. Similarly, people are unlikely to abandon the familiar Google interface other than for a marketedly better alternative.

For example, Bing has this overall site as the no.1 result for its name, and this blog as no.6. Flattering as that may be, I'd be the first to say it's more appropriate to rank genuine government ministries, and generic pages about them, higher.

[Kordahi openly states that he's a Microsoft employee, but claims to be acting as a private individual in this context.]

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