Thoughts on Being a Search Engine Outcast


With the release of Safari 5, Apple included the ability to choose between several search engines for the default search target. Confronted with the choice, I found myself recalling the days when I’d flip between Lycos, AltaVista, Excite, &c while trying to find something. It’s no wonder one would resort to memory when pondering alternative search engines. Google’s become peerless in its original pursuit.

Since complacency is antithetical to discovery, I found myself wondering if I was missing out by not trying Bing. Besides, Google has enough of my life on record between using it for email, phone calls, Internet searching, route mapping, and DNS servers. With much trepidation, I opened Safari’s preferences and changed my default search engine selection from Google to Bing.

It’s amazing how ungainly I felt afterwards. Even the simple change of not seeing the grayed-out word “Google” in the search field felt weird, to say nothing of having a visually unfamiliar results page come up. I’d find myself double-checking searches with Google as some sort of reassurance.

There were also immediate upsides to the switch. Bing’s image search layout is a welcomed improvement over Google’s offering. Bing also does better when researching Windows-related issues; something I do frequently for work. Certain queries for things like company names will return a specially formatted overview that includes the stock price, contact number, and other useful information.

Putting comparisons of design and feature implementation aside though, the most noticeable effect of the switch was the social aspect.

“Bing‽ Are you [expletive deleted] kidding me?” was the first thing I heard from a coworker when he glanced over at my display. This was coming from a guy who employs any beta product he can get his hands on in his daily routine. I might as well have told him that I prefer IE5 for my daily browser.

Other people were less abrasive than my coworker, but just as confused. No one reacted passively. Some people wondered if I mis-set my preferences. Others assumed I made the change as a political statement. Even my non-technical girlfriend had a few choice words for the change.

Based on these observations, it would seem that using Google has evolved into being a cultural choice. Further evidence of this is the word, “Google”, becoming a verb in 2006. I wish the best of luck to Bing on that uphill battle. The world’s a better place with both Coke and Pepsi.

It has now been several weeks since the switch, and I’m finding myself becoming comfortable with Bing. At the risk of continuing my status as a search engine outcast, I plan on trying Yahoo next.

Hopefully my friends will understand.

One Response to “Thoughts on Being a Search Engine Outcast”

  • Albert C. Lee says:

    The incumbent leading technology solution always wins by default until it stops satisfying the purpose it was intended for, or until disruptive technology challenges the status quo.

    As I see it, the right search engine is the one you spend the least amount of time with. For as long as people can still find what they’re looking for in the first 2 pages of Google, Google will stay dominant. Experimenting with other search engines will happen, but I suspect you too will return to Google.

    If the quality of Google search begins to decline, there will be a proportional uptick in opportunities for other engines to replace it permanently. If this happens, the good news is that you won’t be just another a Google refugee… you’ll be prepared, and have a place to go when the walls come tumbling down!

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