Yesterday at the D: All Things Digital Conference, Microsoft announced that it will launch Bing, a rebuilt search engine that it hopes will help consumers make better decisions, redefine the category, and maybe even give Google a run for its money. Bing is really a rebranding of Microsoft Live Search, with some nifty new features thrown in. It’s gotten some pretty positive early reviews, and it’s expected that Microsoft will support it heavily. Ad and media types are practically frothing over the rumored budget of $80-100 million for print, online, TV, and outdoor advertising to build the Bing brand.
But, what’s funny is that the Bing brand has gotten nearly as much ink as the fact of the launch. The choice of name has been harshly criticized by some tech wags and marketing types as evoking the strip club frequented by Tony Soprano, or the nerdy Chandler Bing on NBC’s long-running “Friends.” The widely read TechCrunch insists that another name under consideration, “Sift,” would have been preferable. (Are they kidding?) Others joke that it’s an acronym for “Big Investment, No Goals,” or even “But It’s Not Google.” According to the Urban Dictionary, it’s slang for “jail,” and it might mean “disease” in Chinese. Still not sure about that one.
Most entertaining, though, is “Bing vs. Bing.” Pseudonymous Fortune writer Stanley Bing (a/k/a the hilarious Gil Schwartz) issued a mock press release detailing his “moderate outrage” at the hijacking of “his” brand by the software giant. Stanley Bing cheerfully claims he’s “open to any reasonable offer” for his services, “or simply to provide no services” and that he looks forward to being “massively well-optimized” by the other, newer, Bing.
For what it’s worth, I think “Bing” has a fun sound, and I did instantly take away the “bingo-we have a winner!” connotation that Steve Ballmer hopes will come to be “the sound of found.” Plus, it’s a heck of a lot better than Kumo, the codename during its development phase. The mini-controversy over the branding might actually be a good thing for Microsoft, given its status as lightning rod for the technorati. Since many feel obligated to be withering in their scrutiny, maybe the name will absorb some of the criticism, leaving the search engine itself to rise – or fall – on its own merits.