If you’re near a computer on Wednesday, be prepared as it marks the global deployment of Bing; Microsoft’s new search engine. Global deployment as in the style & ambitions of Blofeld, Drax and Stromberg? Let’s hope not. Bing was unveiled last week, although quite how you unveil a search engine is anyone’s guess; some canapés, a drum roll and then you pull off the sheet to reveal….an invisible computer program?!
Apparently, Microsoft wants to attract a few more computer users to its latest search engine (did anyone actually use Live Search…come on, own up, it’s OK) and away from Google (other search engines are available). On the basis that googling has become an accepted phrase, synonymous with ‘to search for on the internet’ you have to say that Microsoft has its work cut out, although you have to admire their ambition; not only is Bing a ‘decision engine’ but it is – and we quote – “a search experience and consumer brand”.
Is that like driving around the M25, anti-clockwise from junctions 16 to 10 on a Friday afternoon, is an experience? As for consumer brand, we’d suggest that Microsoft is already a pretty dominant consumer brand and that adding Bing as a sub-brand could perhaps be more brand dilutive than accretive. Is the name en hommage to Bing Crosby or a marketing ploy to the yoof market, who want to ‘pimp up’ their PC but don’t know how to spell bling?!
What we think is interesting about Bing is its functionality as a decision engine and its move into the world of the semantic web and artificial intelligence. Many of you will have heard of WolframAlpha, another search engine (or more accurately an answer engine) that uses intuitive processes to pick up upon linguistics and human emotions in search requests. Granted, it is still in its infancy as “Wolfram|Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input” does seem to be the answer to many questions posed; although I thought that typing ‘Spacemonkey cadet’ was a perfectly simple question.
The semantic web is interesting as it is an evolution of existing technology and an attempt to lift the internet from pure functionality to a level that is more aligned with the characteristics, emotions and value of the user. We think that it also demonstrates the need for the internet to evolve, as the expectations and demands of users increase.
Last week, a Russian group bought a 2% stake in Facebook for $200million, which makes it worth about $10billion. That’s down around 50% from its value when Microsoft bought a 1.6% stake back in 2007. Presumably at some point Facebook will a) make a profit and b) have a purpose but perhaps it’s a hint that the ‘social networking’ phase of the internet is starting to evolve into the ‘semantic web’ phase.