Microsoft today announced Bing Visual Search, a visual way of searching the web. Being completely satisfied with what I am getting with Google, this is just bells and whistles for me. With Visual Search, users will be able to search by the click of mouse. For example, if the users want to find the line of succession in US government, it just takes two clicks for them to get the pictures of all the lawmakers from Obama to down. By clicking the photo of any person in the list of succession, you can get more information about the person. Essentially, this helps users need not form complex queries to find who is third in the line of succession and which state is the person from. It is as simple as that. You can read this post by Frederic Lardinois of RWW for detailed information. Here is Microsoft’s post on it.
Microsoft takes the same approach they took to OS and their other software products and apply it on search. They offer a rich interface to abstract away the complexities of the search process. Even though there will be a group of people who like this kind of approach and don’t want to deal with complexities, I tend to differ from them. I will list out my thoughts on having a rich interface as a selling point for a search engine below.
- Whether we like it or not, Google has completely redefined the user interface. We are now comfortable with the light interface of Google. On top of it, the rich interfaces are slow and there is a consensus that it is not a necessary factor for a great user experience. It appears Microsoft is using Silverlight to enhance the experience and I still haven’t checked it out on Linux or without Silverlight to see how it works without Silverlight. I am always skeptical when Microsoft pushes their web based apps using their own platform.
- This approach to search may work (and, even, be effective) in the case of product search or travel. I don’t foresee how it will make an impact on generic search. It may as well end up as the most ineffective way to do search, even wasting our time.
- As Yossi Vardi pointed out, the novelty of the additional bells and whistles wears off in a few days (weeks). What matters most is the search algorithm. Google has it right and a huge marketshare. Unless, they mess up their backend engine big time, it is going to be difficult for Microsoft to make a case.
- They do have the technology behind Powerset. Depending on how they use the technology, Microsoft has a chance to make a dent in the future. Even then, it is Google’s game to lose and Microsoft is fighting a losing battle.
Note to Microsoft people who push their products: Please don’t treat your users as idiots like the guy who presented on stage did. If you want to push your product’s interface, there are many ways to push it without saying things like users cannot form complex queries, etc.. My 2 cents to not use the same approach of the past (especially, when you are so down and facing an uphill task.
Here is the video of Microsoft’s announcement about Bing 2.
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