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May 28th, 2009

Outlying Searches

Part of thesis in Malcom Gladwell's Outliers is that the underdog wins by changing the rules. The numbers seem to agree with him - in a survey of military conflicts, the underdog (out numbered and out armed) wins only 30% of the time. However, where the underdog changes the rules, introducing new wayus of fighting like guerilla warfare, skirmishing, and other asymmetric techniques, they win nearly 70% of the time.

I've noticed that people are wondering why Microsoft is referring to Bing as a "decision engine". I suspect someone on the Microsoft search marketing team has read Outliers, and has realised that the only way it can compete with the dominance of Google is to move the fight somewhere else altogether. Changing the rules by defining a new category is exactly what it needs to do to take advantage of the relatively slow movement of the incumbent. Smaller, out-gunned and out-marketed, Microsoft needs to write its own rules for internet search. Google has become the verb for search, so Microsoft is moving the discussion away from the search sphere completely.

It's a smart move.

After all, we all need to make decisions, and search engines have become part of that process, especially task specific engines like Kayak and Farecast. Bing is trying to bring task oriented search into the same frame as general search, using contextual inference of user intent to define the results it delivers.

It's just a pity for the Microsoft marketeers that they chose to change the game on the same day as Google did. Now they have to compete with search and real time collaboration in the shape of Wave.

Oops.

It's not Bing vs Google anymore, it's Bing vs Wave. Now things are getting really interesting.