Coke vs. Pepsi. KFC vs. Popeye’s. These are just some of the central head-to-head rivalries in our life best settled by blind taste tests. Microsoft would like to add Bing vs. Google to that list, too, and has introduced a blind taste test of its own – the Bing It On Challenge.
The Bing It On Challenge is simple enough – five rounds of Google vs. Bing, head-to-head, for search engine supremacy. Enter one search query – any search query – and you’ll see two side-by-side unnamed search results. Sometimes you’ll see image results up top, too, but don’t let that fool you – it’s no indicator of which search engine those results belong to. In fact, when taking the challenge, I only guessed which search engine was which correctly once out of five times. As far as blind tests go, this is a pretty good one.
Anyway, after each round of searching, you’ll check which result you think is better – left or right. At the end, you’ll find out which search engine suits your needs best.
Going into the challenge, I figured the more obscure the search the better. If what you’re looking for is easy enough to find information about, both Bing and Google are probably going to get you what you need. The real battle is fought when there’s a scarcity of information, and you need to find exactly what you’re looking for, fast. So, in other words, the real battle is to see which search engine can produce the best search results besides Wikipedia.
That’s why I led off with “effects of the Speenhamland System on 19th century England.” Never is an Internet search more useful than when you need to write a report about some obscure historical detail, and it doesn’t get much more obscure than an early government attempt to cope with urban poverty arising from the Industrial Revolution. The difference between the two was slight, and both provided detailed, relevant information. But, one side’s links happened to be slightly more informative – and that side was Bing’s.
With round two, I used another important test for search engines – searching for something of general interest, which happened to be tied into important current events. Which search engine would be able to stay on topic, and which one would be led astray, generating results for the hot news instead of what I was actually looking for? Search number two was “Achilles tear recovery,” and, indeed, one search engine fell for the trap. Google’s first results were almost exclusively about Kobe Bryant. And I care about Kobe, really. But, what if I just tore my Achilles? Bing was superior once again, providing immediate results that featured information about the injury itself and the recovery process, giving me information I could actually use.
Round three was simple – “cheap external hard drives.” Which one gave me the cheapest prices, faster? Both did a fairly good job, but only one search engine gave me handy images up top, along with prices, to get my search started the fastest. Those images came courtesy of Bing, not Google, so Bing gets the edge in round 3.
With round four, I went for something a little more familiar to me – “Kaohsiung attractions.” Which search engine would give me the best results for my current home city? Google gave a better variety of articles, with Bing getting sunk by providing the same Trip Advisor article three times in the first six results. Other than that slip up, Bing’s results were good, but not quite as good as Google’s this time.
Round five began with an exhortation from Bing: “OK, last one. Make it count. Search for something that really matters to you.” Naturally, that meant “David Duchovny after The X-Files,” because The X-Files was awesome, and what happened to that guy, anyway? This round was somewhat inconclusive, with both sets of results dominated by rumors of a third X-Files movie being in the works. I gave the slight nod to the search engine that gave me a better variety of information, and that turned out to be Bing.
Who knew? Bing turned out to be a 4-1 winner for me. Both search engines had one critical failure each – Google’s Kobe Bryant fixation and Bing’s Trip Advisor fixation. But, Bing rose above Google thanks to helpful image results right when I needed them, and a better variety of information put at my fingertips. Google gets all the buzz, but from the looks of things, that might be changing in the near future.
Of course, as it is with any blind test, Microsoft isn’t expecting Bing to win every time. It is expecting you to be a little surprised at how difficult it is to pick between the two, showing that maybe Google’s dominance over the world of search engines isn’t as set in stone as we thought. No matter who wins for you, it’ll be hard to walk away from the challenge thinking that Bing is somehow lesser than Google. So, have at it – take the Bing It On Challenge for yourself and see which search engine does it for you.
*Based on a comparison of web search results pane only; excludes ads, Bing’s Snapshot and Social Search panes and Google’s Knowledge Graph. Learn about the study.