I was reading my latest copy of Wired Magazine (this and Fast Company are the best ones ever…) and this month they have a great article entitled “The Good Enough Revolution“, primarily discussing how the simple and good enough products succeed, like the Flip video camera. I totally agree with this concept- sometimes, what we are all looking for is something that works, doesn’t take too long to learn, and does what it’s supposed to, even if it’s not fancy. That’s why people love point & shoot cameras, even the cheesy drug store kind; it’s why the iPhone is popular- all you have to do to operate it is touch it and it works (most of the time). The article also goes on to talk about the rise of netbooks in popularity and why these stripped down machines are taking off.
So the question that’s come to mind to me is Why Bing?
Bing is, of course, Microsoft’s latest attempt at a search engine. It’s trying to pair with Yahoo to gather their search business as well, to try to become an active competitor to Google, which now has about 2/3’s of the US search market, and its ad business.
As I was reading Time’s article discussing Bing versus Google, the good enough issue looms in the background. I’ve spent years, ever since I first learned about boolean search in law school, perfecting my ability to ask the “right” questions to try to find the most relevant results. Training people to construct better queries is actually probably more useful than my spending time learning the ins and outs of a whole different search engine. Google is good enough- and better, since Google has all the other tools I use daily- from the Social Media Dashboard I’ve constructed on iGoogle, to Gmail, to Grand Central, to Blogger, to Google Docs- the Good Enough Microsoft Word, to Groups- Google works fine, its products all integrate and work together seamlessly, and for free. Why should I switch to Bing? Relevance is not as much as issue for me as good enough.
What’s interesting here is the concept of feature creep. I’ve found each new iteration of Microsoft word just a bit more complicated and the features they add don’t significantly change what I demand from Word or solve any problems I have. If I want a better program than Excel, I frankly just have to boot up my Mac and use Numbers, if the features, cloud access and storage in Google Docs doesn’t suit. Google works for me because it keeps everything streamlined and simple. I don’t have to go anywhere else to get my needs met in an integrated way.
So switching my allegiance from Google to Bing has a bit of an uphill climb. While I am all for competition in search, and worry sometimes about how much of my life is owned by Google, the bottom line is the convenience and ease of use wins out every day. I don’t need anything else.
Battling it Out For Free
While search makes huge amounts of money for companies while the service itself is free, you wonder how this battle over free is going to play out in the marketplace, particularly after reading to Chris Anderson’s great book on the topic. Clearly, people are battling over revenue dollars, but for the public, free is free- how do you draw people away from one type of free to another? How do we define better and more accurate? That’s all in the eye of the beholder and in the composition of the search. Can anything be better for free? What happens once price has become a non-factor, and all we have to compete with is quality, where the very judgment of quality becomes highly subjective and becomes nothing more than an overt popularity contest?
I don’t know the answers to this, but I do know that, as Hugh McLeod from the Gaping Void has said, “The Market for something to believe in is Infinite”. Search and our selections and differentiations between one product and the next seem to become less based on price, but more based on increasingly subtle and largely irrelevant feature differentiations between models. (Every look at the minute differences between LCD TV’s for example, and just decide to pick whatever one Consumer Reports likes?)
But what I really want is something inspiring and something to believe in. And a new search engine just can’t get me excited, no matter how cool the commercials might be.