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Bing Director: Google Is Teaching Users Bad Habits

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When it comes to getting the most out of search, Stefan Weitz, director of Microsoft’s search engine Bing, says users can be their own worst enemies.

Weitz blamed Google for teaching people bad search habits that not only produce poor results -- search engines fail their users 75% of the time, according to Weitz -- but have also lowered expectations. Rather than asking search engines to know what they mean and entering queries in plain English, users have grown accustomed to talking to algorithms in a jumble of nouns and verbs that can read like nonsensical Mad Lib responses and lead to vague results.

"A lot of us have grown up with Google over the last decade and that’s problematic when you want to advance the state of the art,” he said during an interview with the Huffington Post. “People today speak in pidgin English when they speak to a search engine… What people are not doing is challenging all engines to do more.”

Bing competes directly with Google, which claims 65.6 percent of the market to Bing’s 13 percent. As Weitz’s response hints, relations between the two search engines have not always been cozy. Earlier this year, Google accused Bing of copying its results and wrote a blog post denouncing Bing’s use of “recycled search results” that “came directly from Google.” Bing vigorously denied the accusations and dismissed Google’s claim a “a spy-novelesque stunt.”

Though Weitz suggests there are flaws with Google, he acknowledges that entering the "same type of query" on Google and Bing will produce results that "look somewhat similar."

So why use Bing over Google? According to Weitz, Bing’s advantage comes down to its integration with Facebook and its features that aim to more efficiently highlight relevant information, such as showtimes and ticket prices. Google has its own versions of these tools, which display sports scores, weather forecasts, and definitions for certain queries.

"We're the only engine with access to all that great Facebook data so we can bring your friends with you when you search,” Weitz said. “We have built some of the most beautiful experiences for certain queries, things like events, travel, shopping, that are quite unique to us.”

But these fancy features and high-tech redesigns are not always welcomed by users, Weitz admits.

"Getting people to break out of expecting to see ten links after a query is challenging,” he said. “In fact, when we do give them a new experience… we see abandonment rates. We see people walking away because they don’t know how to process anything besides those ten blue links."

Weitz was asked to name several queries he would tell a user to perform side-by-side on Google and on Bing in order to convince her that Bing is the superior engine. His suggestions: “shoes,” “Wicked NYC,” and “Gennaro’s Boston.” (After some prodding from a publicist who sat in on the interview, he added, “flights from NYC to Chicago.”)

See excerpts from the interview below, then see the first part of the interview here.

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