Thursday, August 30, 2012

What I discovered on the way to Bing Friends' Photo

It is hard to try something new.  When the tool that you use just works, there is no reason to pick up something new, invest time to learn quirks of the new tool, and get used to new experience.

That's the challenge that Bing has.  When Google just works, it's incredibly difficult to change people's behavior to switch to Bing.  Like everyone else, I see trying out a new tool as a chore.  Google just works, and I like Google's simple and functional UI that gives me confidence that things will just work.

So it's no surprise that I have not been using Bing for anything.  In fact, even on my IE 9 browser I changed my default search engine to Google.  But today the announcement of Friends' Photo feature gave me a reason to give Bing a try.

Friends' Photo is exactly what you would expect from its name.  It shows all photos posted by your Facebook friends (of course you'll need to log in and connect Bing with your Facebook account).  It displays photos in Pinterest-style with nice rendering of photos and their accompanying messages.  

You can try it for yourself here.
But be warned: it's quite a bit slow.
Go get a cup of coffee while loading.

Although functionality worked, it was way to slow for users.  I understand this is a beta access.  But when you are competing with the entrenched number one player, it's important to give the right first impression to new users.  In returning pages fast, Bing still had lot of rooms to improve to match Google's benchmark.

But I was actually more encouraged by what I saw while I was connecting my Facebook account with Bing. Apparently Bing is now offering rewards to encourage people to use Bing more.  Idea is simple.  Giving a point each time user searches using Bing and give them a chance to win something when the point reaches certain level.  It works much like a frequent flyer program in the airline industry.  If you know you have to fly and you know all airlines offer more or less comparable service, you want to fly one airline so that you can get perks from the airline.  Bing is trying the same idea to attract more users to come back to Bing.

Will the Bing Rewards program have users coming back for more?  It will only be true if search experience is comparable.  I think the challenge for Bing is to offer social search user experience comparable to Google.  Maybe Microsoft should have acqui-hired the team Greplin?

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