Pretend, for a minute, that you're Microsoft. You've long claimed that people prefer your search engine, Bing, to Google's juggernaut. But only 15 percent of online searches are coming through Bing, while Google's got a massive two-thirds dominance of the market. Search habits, apparently, die hard. What to do?
How about a search engine version of the Pepsi challenge?
Microsoft is doing exactly that with the launch of the "Bing It On" campaign this week. The company claims that people preferred Bing over Google by a margin of almost 2 to 1 in an independent test, and it wants to prove that its search results really are more useful to the public. Head over to BingItOn.com, and you'll be invited to compare side-by-side search results (for search strings of your own choosing, of course) and select the more relevant of the two without knowing which is which. Best of five searches wins.
The site doesn't give a running tally of the results of everyone's tests, but at least it's upfront about telling you which search engine you preferred after five rounds -- Microsoft apparently feels pretty strongly that people will actually choose Bing. Microsoft CMO Mike Nichols wrote in a company blog, "Our mission is to show people it’s time to break the 'Google habit,'" adding that "Bing has reached a quality level that will make it easy to switch."
So, how does Bing stack up? You'll want to test it out with your own search strings, but in our test Bing did manage to edge out Google, albeit barely. Bing's results for "Christian Science Monitor," for example, returned the paper's own page first (complete with section headers and the ability to search within the site), followed by recent stories, popular Monitor subsections, and the Monitor's Facebook and Tumblr pages. Google had the same top results, but missed the paper's top stories (opting instead to show a single Monitor cover story that had been reprinted by another media outlet earlier in the week). Pretty close, but overall the Bing page was slightly more useful.
This isn't the first time Microsoft has tried to use blind tests to encourage customers to change their allegiances. The company held a "Windows Phone Challenge" earlier this year, which began with a video of a Microsoft employee betting people $100 that his Windows phone was faster than their Android phone or iPhone. That campaign fizzled, but Microsoft clearly sees value in the blind-test method of product evangelism. And a little exposure for Bing certainly isn't a bad thing -- assuming its search results really do stack up against Google's.
Do you have a search engine preference? Have you had good experiences with Bing, Google, or something else? (Please don't say AltaVista.) Let us know in the comments section below.
To receive regular updates on how technology intersects daily life, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.