Coming out of Google I/O at Moscone Center in San Francisco yesterday, I did a double-take. Was that Microsoft pitching its “Bing It On” challenge against Google directly across the street. Yep.
“Put the science back in computer science: test your Google bias inside,” read a big banner, over the entrance to the Metreon Mall, which is across from Moscone.
Inside, there’s a “Bing In On” kiosk:
One side is just an invitation to take the challenge; you actually do the challenge on one of the other sides:
The kiosk simply takes you to the Bing It On site, where you’re invited to run five searches and see which results you prefer, when shown them from Bing and Google side-by-side. You’re not told, however, which results are Bing’s and which are Google’s.
I found the machine pretty sluggish to use. The on-screen keyboard wasn’t very responsive, and it seemed slow to load pages. I gave up trying to complete a test, myself.
Since anything search-related catches my eye, my immediate reaction was to start taking pictures. That caused a mall security guard to tell me I couldn’t. That just made me want to take them even more, especially when plenty of Google Glass-wearing people were wandering through, any of whom could easily take a picture and not be detected.
Indeed, Search Engine Land editor-in-chief Matt McGee, standing with me and wearing his pair of Google Glass, used them for that purpose.
Later, we both headed over to the Metreon for a midnight screening of Star Trek: Into Darkness (great, great movie, by the way). Coming at 2:30am PT today, we were intrigued to see a guy working on the Bing It On machine:
It was opened up physically, and the challenge screen itself was down, revealing what seems to be Windows 7 underneath.
I asked the guy working on it what he was doing, and he basically just said “stuff.” The weird bit was when I went to take a shot from further out:
By this point, the guy in the red shirt had turned up. When he saw me taking a picture, he started saying I couldn’t. I actually have a really nice in focus shot of him looking at me directly saying this, but I thought I’d spare putting his face out there.
No big deal. I had my picture anyway and headed out. I don’t think any type of rigging was going on. I really don’t, no wink-wink, nudge-nudge. It would be pretty hard to do, since there’s no way to anticipate what someone is going to search for.
But, it was sure weird to see such sensitivity over taking pictures of the kiosk in the middle of a very busy mall, filled with smartphone-carrying people.
Was this installed just for Google I/O? I’m checking on that, but I don’t think so. It does appear to be fairly recent, as I can’t find any references to it when I do various searches. Bing has just ramped up its Bing It On campaign, which began originally last September. It may have been installed as part of that or earlier, as kiosks have been in use for months.
Personally, I’ve actually felt this has been one of Bing’s smarter moves, versus the negative Scroogled campaigns. It pits Bing up against Google in a relevancy fight, and Bing can often do very well.
Postscript: Bing has confirmed to me that the installation was put into place specifically for Google I/O. And last night’s repair was to fix touchscreen issues. All sides of the kiosk should now be working today.