In this week of big headlines for both Google and Microsoft, the quiet escalation in the war between Google images and Bing images has gone virtually unnoticed… until now.
On Monday, Google officially announced a new “sort by subject” feature in Google images. It’s a pretty nifty way to find what you want, especially when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Google uses the example of looking for a certain kind of a dog when you don’t know the name of the breed. Search for “dog” and click on “sort by subject” and Google returns rows of dog images sorted by breed (with the exception of the “cute dog” row).
I thought it would be more fun to try searching for something like “search engines.” Interestingly, when sorted by subject in Google images, the first row of images is “Yahoo.” Google gives itself the fifth row treatment-what a good sport.
Without sorting by subject, the same search returns a long, scrolling mish-mash of different search engines’ logos and magnifying glass icons.
Notice that those unsorted results look an awful lot more like the results the same search returns on Bing images.
I still really like the cleaner look of Bing, but for practically all purposes that I can imagine, Google’s new sorted image results are more useful than anything the snappier-looking Microsoft search currently offers. That’s significant because it means that Google has gone from playing catch up with Bing Images, to ripping off the Redmond engine’s more visual appeal last summer, to adding sorting to create what I can now definitely say is the best image search around.
Yet again, Microsoft is the slower horse in the race, but Google only gained this new advantage by basically copying Bing’s design last summer. So, while I can confidently declare Google the winner in the image search war, I can’t say they did it while sticking to the company’s “don’t be evil” edict.