Will Bing be as simple as its name implies?

posted by on 2009.05.29, under Naming

I’ve just read through some great blog posts and articles on Bing—the name as well as expectations for the upcoming Microsoft “decision engine.” Opinions on the name are all over the map, with (mostly) negative opinions led by naming professionals like those at Snark Hunting and Pollywog. I love the bitter sarcasm over at Snark Hunting, and they make a funny point comparing Bing (“ping” with a “B”) to Zune (“tune” with a “Z”). But one of the earliest lessons I learned about naming (or writing taglines, etc.) is that it’s easy—often too easy—to pick on someone else’s work. Or, to put it more bluntly, to dislike it because it’s not your own.

I like the name. Maybe partly because I’ve tried to help create names for search engines before, and I know how challenging it is (must be very short, pronounceable worldwide, available as a prima facie domain, and preferably “verbable”). But here Microsoft has found a four-letter word that’s easy to pronounce, easy to remember, and, in my opinion, evokes exactly what they want it to—a quick, successful search (not that this idea differentiates it from Google, however). Some articles go to great lengths trying to guess what the name means, but it’s clear that it’s intended to mean ‘success,’ as in “Bing! — here it is” (a quote from Microsoft’s letter about the site). I don’t really see a need for all the complaining about the name.

In fact, let’s conserve some of our energy in case we want to complain about the product itself. It hasn’t even launched yet, and I’m already wondering how Microsoft will manage to take something that’s supposed to simplify our lives and make it overcomplicated. Microsoft may be able to outspend Google, and perhaps even outsmart them, but when it comes to making something easy…let’s just say I’ll probably still be Googling—not Binging—advice on how to get my Windows PC to stop freezing.


Agree with the fact that we should worry more about the product than the name. And considering how MSFT has performed in the past, I will not be surprised is Bing is “all talk and no action”.

However, what I worry about is how that name will be used in our day-to-day vocab. For example:
- “My BING is not fast enough”
- “Please BING that”
- “Did you check BING for that?”
I think its Microsoft’s attempt to sound goofy and approachable like Google. What they have to realize is that Google as a company is a lot like their name, approachable, friendly, relaxed, etc. and everything that Microsoft is not.

Also from a linguistic standpoint, in Chinese, Bing means ice or soldier. Not sure how relevant is that to web search.

Bottomline, I think they’re trying too hard.

Anant ( 2009/05/29 at 07:53 )

When I first heard of BING, I thought of Bing Crosby, then I took a look on the U.S. Trademark Office database to see how common BING is in federally registered trademarks, to find that BADDA BING is already owned by an individual named Mathew S. Brown, located in Scottsdale, Arizona, for “Computer services, namely, designing, creating, maintaining, implementing and hosting websites for others on a global computer network; application service provider (ASP), namely, hosting computer software applications of others; computer consulting services, namely, providing technical customer service support for computer software and global computer network users, namely troubleshooting of computer hardware and software problems, by telephone and on-line via the global computer networks; computer consulting services in connection with computers and electronic commerce.” Do you suppose Microsoft has worked out a deal with Mr. Brown?

Steve Baird ( 2009/05/29 at 23:37 )

Anant, great point about Microsoft’s lack of personality. I agree that they’ve been making some poor attempts to make themselves seem more friendly and fun (see two previous posts on the topic, http://www.semanticargument.com/?p=112 and http://www.semanticargument.com/?p=215). “Bing” does seem out of line with their existing identity.

Also, I checked with a Chinese-speaking friend, and according to her the name is being interpreted in Mandarin as something like “it has an answer.”

Steve, good question on the trademark issue. I don’t think Microsoft has much trouble throwing their weight around when it comes to IP issues, however. If their lawyers can’t get around any potential issues, I’m sure their cash can.

Rob Meyerson ( 2009/06/01 at 20:06 )

umm… typo. it’s not “(”ping” with a “p”) to Zune (”tune” with a “t”) it is “ping with a B, tune with a Z

steve ( 2009/06/02 at 05:35 )

Thanks Steve. Made the correction.

Rob Meyerson ( 2009/06/02 at 06:10 )

Microsoft Bing would be the closet competitor of Google. but i still use Google because it shows more relevant results on the serp.

melatoninlady ( 2009/08/22 at 01:03 )

i have been evaluating the search results of Microsoft Bing compared to Google and they are comparable. Bing gives almost the same relevant search results just like Google.

George ( 2009/09/01 at 20:29 )

Bing search engine gives almost the same search results as Google. Looks like Google will now have a tough competition when it comes to search engine technology.

Acneboy ( 2009/09/11 at 03:20 )

Despite the fact that it’s clear the last 3 comments (melatoninlady and Acneboy? funny, in a post about naming) are entirely aimed at driving traffic to other sites, I feel the need to point out how silly the last comment is. Bing providing “almost the same search results as Google” does not equate to “tough competition” for Google. Google is a dominating category leader, and while Microsoft has an impressive marketing budget (and seems to be using it wisely), it’ll have to come up with something better than “almost the same” in order to displace Google.

Rob ( 2009/09/11 at 08:40 )

Bing does give search results much like Google but i would have to say that Google still gives more relevant search results.

Jade ( 2009/10/21 at 06:25 )

When I first posted this back in May, there was a debate over whether the name would work in China. Just read this post, which resolves the issue. Microsoft has chosen to use specific Chinese characters that denote something like “will generate a response without fail.”

Six months on, and my opinion of Bing hasn’t changed much. I still like the name, and still don’t like the product. I did have some success using its travel function, which is a point of differentiation Microsoft has promoted. But for general search I still don’t think it’s different/better than Google, and the ads, while amusing, don’t resonate with me at all (i.e., I don’t think Bing results are more relevant than Google’s).

Rob ( 2009/11/30 at 14:29 )

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