Commentary

Wave Riding Over Bing

In the future, my dad will be a blogger. He'll create wikis. He'll have his work translated into languages spoken across Europe, Asia, and South America. He'll accomplish it effortlessly with Google Wave. I watched the 80-minute developer preview of Wave, and it's going to make nearly everyone a social media creator.

Seth Godin made the point that "the real next Google" is Google, thanks to what it's doing with Wave. He contrasted that with Microsoft Bing, a search engine with a few features that Google can easily copy.

One of the problems with Bing is that it's anti-social. That's a dangerous proposition for a new digital brand. Microsoft says in its press release, "The explosive growth of online content has continued unabated, and Bing was developed as a tool to help people more easily navigate through the information overload." But that "explosive growth" is largely due to the proliferation of social media, while the tool is still largely standard search functionality.

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The release further notes that Bing, the "Decision Engine," is "providing customers with a first step in moving beyond search to help make faster, more informed decisions." First of all, I've spent some time with Bing, and while it offers many new ways to refine searches, it doesn't move beyond search in the slightest. On another note, one obvious way to help consumers make informed decisions would be to build in elements that tap their social networks and user-generated content. One start-up, Hunch, aims to do exactly that, by combining user contributions and personalization to help people make smarter decisions. Whether or not Hunch succeeds, it's a real step beyond search.

Bing is anti-social to the point that it lets you watch Hulu videos within the search results (it feels more like a search portal than a decision engine), but it doesn't let you share the clips. Contrast this with Google Wave, which is all social.

That's the simplest way to understand it: Wave makes everything social. It incorporates some elements of other social applications -- Gmail, Google Talk, Blogger, collaborative functions of Google Docs -- and blends them together to create live and time-shifted social experiences.

The ultimate power of Wave won't be known for a while. Google is opening up the service for developers to build on, so much of the functionality will develop over time, making it comparable to Twitter. Still, there are some general principles of Wave that should hold true and improve. Here are a dozen highlights:

  • Everything created in this new service is a Wave.

  • A Wave can be private, much like an email string or an instant message conversation, or it can be public, like a blog entry or wiki.

  • Waves can be edited in real time, so that everyone who can access the Wave can see the updates appear character by character.

  • Any kind of portable content (including some forms that may not have been easily portable previously) can be incorporated into Waves, including photos, videos, and maps.

  • All such forms of content can benefit from Waves' collaborative capabilities, such as having multiple people upload photos to a communal album and collectively provide captions.

  • Changes to Waves can be played back so it's easy to see the evolution of a Wave over time.

  • Games become social, and even competitive.

  • Mobile integration is built in, so Waves can be edited from anywhere.

  • Waves can instantly translate among dozens of languages on the fly, so that collaborators who natively speak Chinese and Hebrew, for example, can effortlessly communicate with each other.

  • Contextual spell-checking happens instantly, with the example shown of "Icland is an icland" turning into "Iceland is an island." This feature isn't that social, but it makes contributors look more intelligent when they share the Waves.

  • Comments turn into conversations. Many blog tools do this already, but this applies to every form of commenting, from those made during document edits to comments on photos.

  • Waves can integrate with other social services such as Twitter and Orkut, plus many more to come.

    Not all of this might make sense to someone like my dad, but I couldn't have explained Gmail to him either in terms of how it groups together email conversations and uses labels instead of folders. I'm pretty confident, however, that once he starts using Wave, he'll wind up creating photo blogs while having seamless conversations with relatives in France, Israel, and Brazil.

    Wave will redefine the "lean-forward" experience of the Web. When you need a break and want to lean back, though, you can watch those Hulu videos on Bing.

  • 8 comments about "Wave Riding Over Bing".
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    1. Tyler Lecompte from MeHype.com, June 2, 2009 at 3:43 p.m.

      Another excellent, insightful piece David. I have been spending time on both Bing and Google Wave the last few days, and have come to many of the same conclusions that you share above about both sites.

      My preference also leans towards (pardon the Social Media pun - "lean-in") Wave given the sharing functionality of the service, especially the ability to control some of the immediate access to your favorites.

      I see Bing becoming more of an academic effort for Microsoft, something that they can learn "what went wrong" from...I don't believe that the general public will accept/use it as much as Bing. Thanks again.

    2. Mike Maunu from IQtek.com, Inc., June 2, 2009 at 3:56 p.m.

      Microsoft continues to move backwards. Wave vs Bing is a no brainer. OpenOffice 3.1 is another example of a free service that rivals Office. Great article. Thanks, David

    3. David Wilson from AMN Healthcare, June 2, 2009 at 4:01 p.m.

      Not everything has to be socially-oriented. Google Search, for example, is not social. It became so popular because it did one thing particularly well, and people valued it as a tool for finding the information they needed. Microsoft's Bing is not intended to compete against Wave, it is intended to compete against Google Search. As such, it is an improvement over Live Search. Just because it doesn't incorporate all sorts of social capabilities (90% of which would go unused by the average consumer), does not mean that Bing is an insignificant step for Microsoft in its efforts to compete in the search space.

    4. Dennis Carpenter, June 2, 2009 at 4:07 p.m.

      Google Wave is very impressive and most early adopters like me will use it immediately, but it will take a while for the rest to migrate to a new concept like this, regardless of it' brilliance.

    5. David Berkowitz from MRY, June 2, 2009 at 4:54 p.m.

      Thanks for the feedback so far. Dennis, I've been overly bullish on some services like Google Base, and maybe I am now too - but I do think Wave could be as easily for people to get as Gmail, Google Maps, or Picasa, which all had improvements over their predecessors even if it meant a slight learning curve. The learning curve here may be more formidable - we'll see.

      David W, I agree not everything needs to be social. But Bing still feels like what search should be today, including some improvements that others like Google should have made already too, and it's about time. But it's not amazing, and there are still a lot of things that Google understands that Bing doesn't - like Google getting how "ny ny" is the same as "new york ny" and the same local results should appear, while Bing falls short. And on that note, it feels like this is what Microsoft could have and should have launched when it first tried to compete with Google in earnest years ago, whereas now it's evident that there are new areas where it will fall even further behind.

      Mike, Tyler, thanks for your take too.

    6. Tunde Cockshott from amaze, June 2, 2009 at 6:14 p.m.

      Very good article.

      Wave is a platform which enables social interaction with other wave users but also in a parasitic way with external social networks. Its ability to use feeds in a bi-directional manner begs the question where does the social action take place? In a social network site or a blog or within the users wave "portal"? There are so many advances in Wave which remove the vale of blind acceptance of exiting forms of communication. It awakes us to the possibility of change. It is remarkable for such an innovative industry that we have not challenged email or evolved email before now. It makes me wonder what other elements of the status quo should be demolished.

      Bing is MS playing catch up. It is nibbling at the edges of progress rather than true innovation. An erosion into a possibly beneficial improvement against a quantum leap.

    7. Donna DeClemente from DDC Marketing Group, June 2, 2009 at 10:48 p.m.

      I've been reading many articles this week on Bing and have Tweeted then and also wrote a blog post on them. I also read and have tweeted many articles on Google's Wave. However, this was the first that put the two together. Thanks David again for a great insightful post.

    8. Swag Valance from Trash, Inc., June 3, 2009 at 12:32 p.m.

      Curious to me is that while I am no fan of Microsoft's track record of the past decade, Bing at least seems targeted to well-defined problems. Wave smacks me too much as technology in search of a problem/demand.

      Bing's been done before. But Wave strikes me too much like all the Internet marketers who, in the mid-1990s, told us every storefront on the Web was going to be rendered in 3-D VRML.

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