Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Google v. Bing

This story - Bing and Google in a Race for Features - published in the NY Times on Monday puts the escalating war between Google and Bing in some context. The story focuses on the features that users of these search engines might see. This is where the competition between Google and Microsoft will be being played out for the majority of casual users.

For sophisticated researchers, however, the real benefit of these changes is not in what the interface looks like but in the result set. And, although the Times story focuses on what a user sees, that is, the interface, the story does point out that for some purposes, Bing appears to be (for now) the better search engine. The authors note that according to Danny Sullivan - the EIC of the Search Engine Land blog - as well as other analysts Google has been making "significant but subtle behind-the-scenes changes that make it better at responding to obscure and complex queries." These changes include "tweaks to its secret search algorithm last year..." This is one way of saying that Google, in its race with Bing, is improving not only the way the page looks but the kind of results you get.

For legal researchers this change has been immediately apparent in the functionality of Google Scholar. Results just seem better. By going toe-to-toe with Bing in the fight for user share it is possible that members of the legal research community may be the unintended beneficiaries of Google's efforts.

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