Matt Yglesias embarks on a short tour d’horizon of Microsoft’s future today and ends with Redmond’s white whale of a search engine:
And then there’s Bing. I am obsessed with Bing. Not because I use Bing or because Bing is a commercially important product but because Bing is a socially important product. Steve Ballmer’s heroic determination to compete with Google on search has helped us resolve a lot of very thorny issues that would arise if Google Web Search became a monopoly product. But while we all (in some ways even including Google) owe Ballmer a debt of thanks for doing this, it’s far from clear that it’s been a smart business decision for Microsoft. All the “Scroogled” ads in the world aren’t going to turn this into a market-leading product, and Google at this point seems to be benefiting from both superior engineering and strong network effects. But what will we do if Bing goes away?
I’ve used Bing. It works fine. In some ways it’s better than Google. In others it’s not. But there’s a very specific reason I’ve never switched: Bing has no advanced search page. Oh, you can do an advanced search if you care to remember the syntax for all the operators, but like millions of other people, I don’t care to do that. Google, conversely, makes it easy for me to do an advanced search. They also allow me to restrict a search to a date range, which is very, very handy.
Now, it’s true that most people don’t ever do an advanced search of any kind. They just type a few words into the search box and press Enter, which is one of the reasons that 99 percent of the world is hopelessly incompetent at searching the internet. But serious users use it, and it’s serious users who can end up being evangelists for your products. So why not add an advanced search page? The cost is basically zero, so it’s not like there’s really any downside. What’s the holdup?