Google versus Bing

“Google and Bing are the two most popular and widely recognized search brands in the world. … Although when compared in double blind search tests, the majority of people could not tell the difference in results, people will swear they love one or the other.” wikivs

As a simple exercise to make my point I have replaced Coca-Cola and Pepsi in above wiki entry by Google and Bing respectively.

Today there is no benefit anymore of using the two major search engines in parallel to validate results or to check that nothing has been missed.

It is impressive that Bing did catch up to Google with its first-mover advantage and its economy of scale. On the other side it is equally impressive that Google has maintained it market position considering ongoing technology shifts such as mobile and social – no second-mover advantage for Bing.

Google’s dominance in the market has introduced a state in which the user experience and result sets of search engines have become very similar. Any difference in size and freshness of crawled index of web pages are so small that they are hard to experience during normal usage.

I am a heavy user of search and I would like to see some innovation in the way search could make it easier to find content in specific domains introducing serendipity at the same time.

Currently query understanding and result ranking are one-size-fits-all independent of any understanding of the domain you are searching in. If you are a coffee lover and want to search for Java you will get drowned in links for Java the programming language. If you are a technician and are looking for information about seals you get presented with the singer and cute animal pictures.

In both scenarios the user has to understand the language of the domain he is searching in to disambiguate the query and find what he is looking for, i.e. Java coffee or engine seal. This is hard especially if it is a domain the user is not familiar with.

By providing domain specific language models search could make it much easier to find information and to explore a new domain. It also would allow to find links in the tail of a domain that otherwise would be drowned in general noise.

In my time at Bing we did developed sophisticated language models for commerce search to help shoppers to find what they are looking for. The investment in technology was significant and obviously it makes sense for high value commerce queries.

Search engines in order to differentiate could optimize for financial, government, engineering, religion etc. domains and enhance search by making query formulation, disambiguation and result filtering easier serving content that currently is inaccessible.