Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bing & Wolfram Alpha: New Ways to Search

As Google challenges the norm with it's upcoming Google Wave, Google is challenged by new approaches to search engines.

"Today, search engines do a decent job of helping people navigate the Web and find information, but they don't do a very good job of enabling people to use the information they find," said Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer. "When we set out to build Bing, we grounded ourselves in a deep understanding of how people really want to use the Web."

The Microsoft team working on Bing writes on
We took a new approach to go beyond search to build what we call a decision engine. With a powerful set of intuitive tools on top of a world class search service, Bing will help you make smarter, faster decisions. We included features that deliver the best results, presented in a more organized way to simplify key tasks and help you make important decisions faster.

"Microsoft's Bing will change the face of search,"  Forrester analyst Shar VanBoskirk said in a blog post, "Bing focuses on delivering answers, not Web pages."

In what is a growing online search trend, Bing delves into websites to summarize what they have to offer in easily scanned preview boxes.

"We are trying to surface functionality right to the top so people don't have to look for it quite so hard," says Whitney Burk, director of communications for Bing. 

"They want to give you more information without having to click through to a lot of other sites," said Rosoff, who has used Bing during the past month as part of a Microsoft test program.

"I like it, but I don't think it will get me to switch from Google entirely. They are not naive to the scope of the challenge. They are going to keep throwing money at it for awhile.

Today, AdAge Digital called Bing "a Search Portal, not a Decision Engine," saying that "it's much better categorized as a "search portal." The idea of a search engine is to get you where you want to go fast, based on the queries you enter. The idea of a portal is to give you all the content you need so you don't have to go anywhere else. Bing is a hybrid, a search portal that lets you keep searching and refining your query without ever leaving the site until you absolutely have to."

A lot of skepticism from the community is coming out, but Cnet News, one of the few real hands-on testers came out with a positive review in a blog, "Microsoft Bing: Much Better than Expected."


Another challenge to how we do search is Wolfram Alpha, created by Stephen Wolfram.
Wolfram Alpha writes: Today's Wolfram|Alpha is the first step in an ambitious, long-term project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone. Wolfram|Alpha's long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.

Stephen Wolfram, creator, writes in his blog: "I realized there’s another way: explicitly implement methods and models, as algorithms, and explicitly curate all data so that it is immediately computable. [...] But, OK. Let’s say we succeed in creating a system that knows a lot, and can figure a lot out. How can we interact with it? [...] All one needs to be able to do is to take questions people ask in natural language, and represent them in a precise form that fits into the computations one can do. [...] I think it’s going to be pretty exciting. A new paradigm for using computers and the web. That almost gets us to what people thought computers would be able to do 50 years ago!"

My take on this is that Google will not go away easily. Both Bing & Wolfram Alpha have their unique search purposes that may fit the needs of specific mindset when doing search.

While we wait this out to see how these developments will affect our net lives, my next question is how these developments will change search engine optimization. Do you have any thoughts on this?

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