Reviewers seem to hate Google Fast Flip, Bing Visual Search

New forms of visual search from Google, Microsoft, cause visual confusion

Earlier this week, the search giants rolled out new ways to make search results more visual, less text intensive. Google on Monday unveiled Fast Flip while Bing rolled out Visual Search. The resounding response from several reviewers seems to be "Yuk!

Fast Flip, is an experimental site that relies on pre-loaded static images of news pages and allows readers to quickly flip through them, much like it does with Google Books (see image, below).

PC World's David Coursey writes: "Google Fast Flip: New Interface is Bad News: Google's experimental Fast Flip is a new way to consume online news, but not a better one. It falls into the trap of trying to make a computer imitate real-life. Rarely does this have a happy ending."

PC World Paul Ian agrees. Ian writes, "Why I Don't Want (or Need) Visual Search:

Features like Bing's Visual Search and Google Fast Flip, which is designed to replicate the experience of flipping through the pages of a newspaper or magazine, are supposed to be improving the traditional search engine. Searching with images is meant to help us find what we want faster. But I think these tools are doing more harm than good; all I see is a mess of useless features that bring more confusion into the search process -- not less."

I'm with those guys. I found the site to be confusing, distracting and hard to scan.

But the New York Times, David Carr says he likes the new interface. He writes, "Fast Flip is an innovation in thinking and presentation, a back-to-the-future moment where readers can once again experience the thrill and serendipity of flipping their way through pages to amusing or enlightening ends."

Google hopes that Fast Flip will solve the problem of sending a user to a Web site, only to have that user have to wait for a slow publisher's site to load. Publishers, however, may be less than happy that their graphics and content are now being served up entirely by Google, who will (out of the kindness of its heart?) share advertising revenue with them for the content it has pilfered -- ehem -- stored on its own servers. Here's hoping that is an innovative way that leads to an increase in revenue for the organizations that create the content, Network World among them. If not, Google had better get ready to hire its own journalists to create the news it wants to show off and sell ads against. Then Bing can grab that content and sell its own ads against it.

In the meantime, Bing's Visual Search, while still not a hit with reviewers, is a different beast altogether. Visual Search allows folks to start with a picture and then drill down to the content they want, which may be particularly good for finding data that is essentially visual in nature. For instance, one of the options is "dog breeds." You sort through pictures of dogs until you find the breed you are looking for, and Bing tells you which breed the dog is.

Visual Search is probably not a practical way to categorize much of the world's information, which is why human beings invented writing. The less information stored in this way, the less useful this tool will be. But the experimentation aspect of it is interesting all the same.

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