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5/28/2009
07:21 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Microsoft Insists Bing Is A 'Decision Engine'

Microsoft's Bing is a welcome addition to the search landscape. Competition should help keep the search market healthy. But Bing's initial marketing leaves me rolling my eyes.

Microsoft's Bing is a welcome addition to the search landscape. Competition should help keep the search market healthy. But Bing's initial marketing leaves me rolling my eyes.The video introducing the new service insists Bing is "not just a search engine. It's a decision engine."

(Fans of the Navy's old slogan, "It's not just a job. It's an adventure," may recognize the rhetoric enlisted to serve Microsoft's cause.)

The URL used to evangelize bing.com, decisionengine.com, spells out Microsoft's claim as well.

Please, it's a search engine. I can accept that Wolfram Alpha deserves a term of its own like "computation engine." But Bing?

Microsoft's attempt to redefine search is a sure sign of competitive insecurity. No matter what terminology is used, Bing is competing with Google as a search engine.

And Microsoft makes no secret of the fact that Bing is competing with Google. The company dismisses a critical characteristic claimed by Google -- simplicity -- by stating "Sometimes simple isn't enough." (This despite the fact that later in the video, Microsoft says, "Simple, organized and consistent. That's Bing.")

And Microsoft makes a more obvious attack on Google in its claim that, "Instead of spitting [search results] out in order of popularity, we break them into logical categories."

With any luck, Microsoft will publish a technical paper that describes the difference between spitting search results and arranging them logically, without expectoration.

Finally, Microsoft posits the existence of a problem called search overload, which Bing helps solve. It's a clever conflation of information overload with Google's interest in organizing information. The information explosion is Google's fault, Microsoft seems to be saying, and Bing will save you.

Frankly, I find the idea of a decision engine a bit creepy. A decision engine is HAL, from 2001: A Space Odyssey, saying, "I'm sorry, Dave. I can't do that."

If Bing is a better search engine than Google, I'll use it. But I can handle making decisions like that without a decision engine to guide me.

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