Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Search Engines Part 2: Finances

Now Microsoft has tossed a new hat into the ring: Bing contends to challenge Google as the hot new search engine. Clusty and Leapfish, while useful, aren't flashy enough (or lack suitable PR) to make them competitive, and Wolfram|Alpha is user-hostile unless you dual-majored in Math and Logic at the graduate level.

I ran a very simple test through Google and Bing: convert 299 Euros into US dollars.

Query: 299 euro into US dollars
Bing: 299 EUR = 418.83 USD
Google: 299 Euros = 417.3741 U.S. dollars

Wha..? That's almost a buck-and-a-half difference. If you're in another country, that's a matter of getting an extra candy bar or not. So it's not a huge deal, but why the discrepancy?

MSN's Bing cites MSN Money for its financial information, while Google uses Citibank N.A. as its resource. Google appends a cautionary disclaimer with its information; Bing does not. Why would it? It's saying, "We get our information from us, so you know it's reliable." Google iterates their figure is only an estimation based on one financial institution but that people "should confirm current rates before making any transactions that could be affected by changes in the exchange rates."

Do you admire Bing's bravado? Will we ever read a news item about an irate consumer who relied on Bing's information and found himself unable to buy a cheeseburger at a McDonald's in Luxembourg? Probably not, but... heads up, all the same.

Side note: Uncharacteristically, Wolfram|Alpha actually gave me an answer when I entered the above query into it. And not just an answer, but a chart, minimum/maximum trends over several months, and further conversions into multiple world currencies. However, it also differs on the ultimate answer, coming up with $418.68, and I have no idea how it came to that outside of its own "curated data."

Cuil, on the other hand, was still completely useless. At least that's holding true.

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