Get Back On Windows Live (formerly MSN)!

Bud Gallant_s Profile - Windows LiveI’ve rediscovered Windows Live, and it’s not just a step above Yahoo IM (which sure wouldn’t be hard), it’s a step above Google, too. Now that is saying something.

Windows Live has gotten an overhaul.  Your profile is now actually good for something… There’s been an integration of Windows Live, which has left it looking fantastic and offering some very useful free services, such as SkyDrive.  SkyDrive gives Windows Live users the ability to share folders and files online, complete with permissions.  The best thing about SkyDrive? The free 25 gigabytes! It would seem that Google has more or less abandoned it’s rumored “GDrive” attempt to keep pace.  I probably don’t need to point out how lacking in file-sharing Google is.  Anyone with a Gmail account knows exactly what I’m talking about.

The other thing that should get you taking a second look at Windows Live, is your profile is no longer just a profile, it is a social networking tool, with integration of all the popular services out there, such as Twitter, Last.fm and WordPress. In fact, personally I find it more attractive than Facebook.  It’s sort of a Facebook light, without all the garbage and spam.

So, if you’ve been neglecting Windows Live, you might want to go back and have a second look. For the longest time, I’ve been a critic of Yahoo! Instant Messenger, but also a regular user.  In that time Yahoo’s IM has sunk in popularity quicker than it’s arrogant CEOs (here’s lookin’ at you, Yang).  Only with Yahoo have I used a service which literally got buggier and junkier with each version, and they sure did pump out those updates. 90% of my Yahoo contacts were Windows Live users, anyway, and the buggy integration between the two clients led to no updates on status messages, and display pictures never appearing, as well as my contacts not being able to see my online status correctly. I’ve more or less dumped everything Yahoo now, in fact.  It’s never been a decision I have ever regretted.

Rarely have I seen Microsoft absolutely excel at offering a service over Google.  Orkut never impressed me… Windows Live’s social network is much better visually, and practically. Skydrive is just the icing of the cake. It’s almost enough to make me consider using my Windows live account for email, too. Go take a look. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Any Windows Live fans out there? Anyone who, like myself, has ditched Yahoo for something better? Do you have other similar services to suggest? Comment below!

Is Bing Better?

Even the wiki cultists over at Wikipedia know “Bing is a web search engine operated by Microsoft.” But if you’re not a Wikipedia geek, and chances are you’re not, since most of it’s user base is probably bots, what does it all mean for you?

“Is Bing better than Google?”, you might wonder. It’s a simple question, but there isn’t really a simple answer.

I reviewed Bing upon reading the announcement it was released.  In fact, I switched to it immediately.  I set it as default in the browser, and over the next few days Bing.com was my go-to-guy (or gal) for search. I was eager to give it a chance. Hell, I even gave Cuil a chance *shudder*. During that time, I found some things to love about Bing.  In the end, I switched back to Google, but barely, and for a reason I never would have predicted.

First, let’s talk about Bing’s advantages.

  • Does not promote SEO spam to the degree Google does
  • Results seem much more current
  • Special result format for certain types of searches
  • Shows your blog or web site a lot more love than Google (Unless you’re a spammer)

Bing is doing what Google should have come up with years ago, but in Google’s defense, they’ve been spending most of their time trying to take over the world, rather than tweak the search platform!

Bing is more relevant, more current, gives a better format for many searches, and it’s front page is actually accessible to the little guy, not a result of who bought the most links or page rank. These are not things to gloss over when it comes to search. They make for an overall better experience, and the more you use Google and see pages full of spam sites, the more you realize Bing has a role to play.

But…

  • Google’s interface is cleaner and perceptually simpler
  • Bing’s blue, white and orange b with a target in it symbol is annoying (at least to me)
  • Bing’s sidebar seems more like reserved advertisement space than anything useful
  • Bing’s spellchecking is inferior

Now, some of you might say that complaining about Bing’s look is pretty unfair, but it’s a visual internet, and Bing’s look is completely relevant.  There might really be some people out there who like it more, but I strongly favor the minimalist, clean interface of Google to Bing’s busier look. Sure the tri-color (if you count white) “bullseye ‘b'”, and the city scape taking up space in the top left corner might be nice eye candy…  presumably to comic book super hero fans, but it didn’t win me overBing b bullseye

Actually, I still really haven’t figured out what the lowercase “b” with the orange dot in it is supposed to be…  Why is it there? It seems impossible to find this graphic anywhere online, even though Microsoft has is using it as the favicon for the site. Maybe that means they’re not too attached to it, and might replace it with something better. Even just a plain (gold), stylistic b would be nice.

In the end, despite the other considerations above, it was one simple search that prompted me to go back to Google. I tried to pull up some information on Bing, not wanting to waste time checking the spelling, I put in a close approximation, and Bing had no results.  I put in the same name through Google, and it knew what I was looking for. As useful as Bing is, getting the “We did not find any results for…” message is a deal breaker for me, since I’ve come to rely on Google’s intuitive nature as far as spelling is concerned.

Sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice though. Sure, Bing cost me a few extra seconds on that one occasion, but how much time has Bing saved me when it comes to all the phishing sites and pornographic spam sites that seem to so easily creep onto Google’s 1st page results?  Every time I see traffic coming through on one word searches, I know they are from Bing.  You see, Bing puts relevant updated content on the first page, Google stacks malware sites and phishing sites upfront. Sure it’s the “algorithm” , but it’s also a choice to turn a blind eye to how they’re system is getting gamed.

Bing seems the more ethical choice…  I always feel just a little guilty when Bing sends me some nice traffic after posting an article.  It’s like choosing between two partners, and the one you left keeps reminding you that they exist and sending you little gifts.  Bing seems to be saying, “Look, just give me one more chance!” every time I check my statistics.  Bing is sending me more traffic and seemingly that traffic consists of more engaged users, than Google ever has.

In the long-run, if Bing keeps giving, I’m going to want to give back, and this could be the type of market strategy that really eats a hole through Google’s near-monopoly on search.  If you run a website or blog, you’re benefiting from Bing’s structure as a content provider, as well as a user.  Most of us can’t say the same with Google, unless we’re using the manipulative spamming techniques the internet has come to know and loathe.