Bing – the next big thing or just Microsoft bling? As you’d imagine, the geekworld is out in force and forums crackle with fervently held opinion…and Microsoft’s new search engine only became public on 1 June! The main area of debate, unsurprisingly, is whether Bing can compete with behemoth Google; inherently in terms of properties, function and results, and quantitatively when it comes to market share.

Microsoft has had various web search vehicles over the years, but none have ever been taken as seriously as Bing. So what makes this one different? Why the buzz about Bing? Well the first thing that’s obvious is the aesthetic differences between Microsoft’s new serving and market leader Google. Google has spent the last decade proving that simple works. The stark simplicity of Google has become iconic; by contrast Bing flaunts real bling. Compared to Google, and indeed most search engines, Bing is a thing of beauty, with changing, colourful background images more akin to a screenserver.

Reports as to how well it actually delivers, predictably, vary widely. Some are claiming the relevance of the results is not as spot on as those delivered by Google; some say the flashy visuals end up becoming annoying and even distracting; and some say that positioning itself as a “decision engine” (according to Microsoft, because Bing “finds and organises the answers you need so you can make faster, more informed decisions”) is a little presumptuous for a product barely out of beta launch. And then there are the Bing disciples who pretty much say the exact opposite! That the results are indeed more relevant than Google, therefore aiding decisions, and that those who find the images distracting are just averse to change and that it is high time that search had a more inspiring and uplifting environment than blank white with the odd primary coloured font.

So, of course, it ends up largely being a matter of opinion, just as after the dust settled on the Firefox versus Microsoft Internet Explorer debate, people were left to their own preferences. And while Bing still has a way to go (Google still retains around 70 to 80 percent of the global search share, with Microsoft holding only around 10 percent) one thing is for sure, the fact that the two rival search engines are run by Google and Microsoft ensures that both sides will have its own passionate and unswerving disciples.

And finally, what about that name? Is it, as the PR folks at Microsoft would have us believe, “the sound of found”, or does it in fact stand for “Bing Is Not Google”?