I expect the new search offering from Microsoft, named Bing, will generate as much social media chatter as it will coverage from the traditional media, or air time from paid placement. And I expect that much of that chatter will be negative, as the masses are quick to attack the evil empire of Microsoft. Google is cool geek, Microsoft is uncool geek, and on and on. The launch of Bing will also generate some really strong discussion about the nature of search and how search may evolve. Google may have won the battle for search, but war will never end.
Google improved the search engine enough to essentially kill the search directory model, which preceded it. It's simple presentation, meaty algorithms, and unobtrusive presentation of paid results provides a solid framework for organic search results.
In developing Bing Microsoft did not tilt at an organic search windmill. Instead they are focusing on certain tasks, like finding medical advice or shopping for electronics or travel. Bing will layer subcategories onto the organic search results, allowing the user to see the search results in logical groups. Users will be able to filter results by type, such as articles, reviews, coupons, retailers, etc, or by location, or price. This may sound like a step back towards search directories, which tried to organize information by topic. In a way it is adding a directory-like layer, but in a manner which provides the user with an additional line if inquiry beyond the initial organic results. The ability to divide search results into pre-set categories is something Google does not offer, and could be a competitive advantage for Bing.
It is easy to nay say, or to suggest that Microsoft will ruin the experience by simple being Microsoft. Microsoft is rightly accused of trying to think too much for user, which can make Microsoft software extremely frustrating at times. To think that Google doesn't do the same thing in some ways, despite their stripped-down user experience, is perhaps a mistake. The all-powerful algorithm is thinking for the user. The more information the user provides Google in the search query, the better the results, but not all users are that search savvy. Bing wants to offer a next step for those users, essentially saying to them "can I organize these search results for you in a away that might be more helpful?" It is in the delicate balance of offering additional options, versus forcing them upon the user, that Bing may succeed or fail.
In focusing on shopping and advice, Microsoft has positioned Bing right where the most money is spent in pay-per-click advertising. Bing's paid model doesn't look too different from Google's, but starting where the money strikes me as smart business and might help generate some real revenue. As revenue is an important measure of the success of such ventures, the ability to generate some revenue would drive additional interest and put some wind in Bing's sails.