Microsoft's search engine fared better in our readers' taste tests than in mine. But readers still didn't see the "nearly 2-to-1" advantage that Microsoft claims.
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Last week, I wrote about Microsoft's effort to prove that people prefer Bing over Google by establishing a website, BingItOn.com, that invites users to take a blind search test. Microsoft claimed that the results would support a previous study that showed that almost 60% of users prefer Bing. I took the test, and Bing flunked. So what results did our readers get?
Bing (in my judgment) won just one of the five tests I conducted. Google won three, and the other was a draw. Of the 65 trials conducted by readers (five each, per the test instructions) as of this writing, Bing came out on top just 19 times. Google scored 33 victories, and 13 were a draw.
Bing's 29% success rate with readers was a good bit higher than the 20% I gave it, but still well behind Microsoft's claim of a success rate of 57% in a lengthy, independent study by Answers Research. So what's up?
"Perhaps Bing is preferred by people who know less? Or maybe it is optimized for natural language search, which cognoscenti would never actually use?" suggested one of our test takers, who went by the name "OldUberGoober." His results were 3-1-1 in favor of Google.
Reader EddieKuns got an identical result. "When I've deliberately tried both search engines in the past, I have found the Google search results to be more useful, but not in a way I could easily put my finger on," said Kuns.
That's significant, as it implies that it's tough to game the test by guessing which is which. (I thought at least two of the results I selected were Bing, but they turned out to be Google.)
Not that Bing didn't win some rounds.
Reader "MattAppCompat" also dialed up 3-1-1, but in favor of Bing. "My searches included news on boxing (upcoming fight this weekend), news in my town, my name, BBQ restaurants in my region, and breaking technology news," said Matt. "I was surprised at the results and thought Google would have won but it was Bing. I'd recommend everyone go through."
Reader "fhlweiosdfgkj," who is presumably from "Consonantinople," scored it Bing 3, Google 2. But overall, Google won more than 50% of the time, which just doesn't jive with Microsoft's claim that the study found that 57% of Web searchers prefer Bing.
Tough to say what's going on here. According to the same math I used in my original column (the binomial formula), the probability of Bing winning just 29% of the rounds, if it really is preferred by 57% of 'Net users, and it really is a blind test, is just 3.9%.
Our survey, of course, was not scientific, so you can interpret the results for yourself. If you haven't already, you can try the test here. Please report back.