Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bing vs. Google revisited for genealogists

In working with the computers at the Mesa Regional Family History Center in Mesa, Arizona, I frequently find that the Microsoft Bing search engine has been activated on different computers. Bing was unveiled by Microsoft on May 28, 2009 and went online on June 3, 2009, so it is almost one year old. In one year, Bing has risen to become the third largest search engine on the web by query volume. Wikipedia. However, being third largest is somewhat of an illusion. Google has something over 85% of all web queries, while the second largest, Yahoo has just over 6%. In July of 2009, Microsoft and Yahoo! entered into an agreement for Bing to power the Yahoo! Search.

The real question for genealogists is whether Bing has made any progress in finding genealogical resources on the web? So, I decided to re-run several searches I had used some time ago to compare the two search engines.

The first search is for my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner. I use his name for search comparisons because I know that I have written several blog posts about him and so have many of my relatives. In addition, because he has a huge number of descendants, his name appears in many online family tree programs, like and many others. In addition, he is mentioned in several histories of Arizona. OK, so that said, how do two search engines match up?

In both cases I searched for "Henry Martin Tanner" including the quotation marks to get an exact search. Here are the results:

Google --- 4,840 results in .32 seconds
Bing --- 12 results (didn't mention the time)

Why the huge disparity? Looking carefully at the results for Bing (since there are only twelve to look at) five of the returns are for the same collection of documents in the Northern Arizona University Library. None of the returns found any of my blog posts using my Great-grandfather's name, although one or two are sites that quote my posts. In short, searching for my Great-grandfather is a waste of time on Bing.

Let's try another name. How about my Great-great-grandfather, Henry's father, Sidney Tanner? In the first try

Google --- 3,960
Bing --- 8,330,000

OK, so did Bing win this one? Not. Google's returns are once again exactly on point. Many referring to his pioneer company that crossed the Plains to Utah. Bing has only four returns that even refer to my ancestor. The rest, despite the quotation marks, refer randomly to Tanners and Sidneys. Bing also included a picture of his brother John Joshua Tanner identified as Sidney. However, clicking on the picture, in the original source, the picture is identified correctly as John Joshua Tanner. So some of the information is just incorrect and well as incomplete.

I then added the word "Beaver" to both searches since Sidney Tanner lived in Beaver, Utah. Adding the word to the Bing search reduced the returns to 40 almost all of which referred to the word beaver and only four of which actually referred to Sidney Tanner in Beaver, Utah. So what happened with Google? Adding the term Beaver to "Sidney Tanner" returned 549 results. I didn't look at them all but pages and pages of the returns were specific to Sidney Tanner, my Great-great-grandfather, in his home in Beaver, Utah. The returns included a copy of his obituary in the Deseret News of December 10, 1895, reproduced above.

I'll try again in another year or so, but for the time being, I'll stick to Google.

1 comment:

  1. I did a similar test using my great-great grandfather Matthew Hale Packard, and the most pertinent result I got back came not from Bing or Google, but from Yahoo!

    I didn't test any other ancestors. Bing performed the worst in the above small test.