UPDATE: I’ve received the following statement from Bing:
“In some cases we do prioritize the hotline and we’re reviewing the guidelines for instant answers related to this type of query,” says Stefan Weitz, Senior Director, Bing.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Earlier this month, Bing launched their “Bing It On” challenge – a blind comparison test designed to see if users preferred the search results from Bing as opposed to those of Google, if they weren’t biased. Bing said that in these blind tests, internet users chose Bing over Google by a 2 to 1 margin. The campaign has some detractors, as some pointed out that Bing was excluding features like Google’s knowledge graph from the challenge results. It could be argued that Knowledge graph is one of the things that people really love about Google nowadays, so that wasn’t exactly fair. And Google’s Matt Cutts pointed out a pretty big fail within Bing’s search results.
Oh well, all of that is beside the point, except to frame the background for this: Bing totally bests Google’s search results, if your search queries involve suicide.
As you can see, Google inserts the contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at the top, before any search results. Also, Google’s autocomplete will not suggest the full phrase as any point in typing the query. Bing, on the other hand, autocompletes it for you and lists a bunch of related searches on the right.
Additionally, “how to commit suicide” searches on both Yahoo and Ask.com display the number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline above all results. Neither Yahoo or Ask.com will suggest the complete phrase at any point.
Then, there is the response to other phrases like “how to kill…” Bing autocompletes it with “yourself” and “yourself painlessly” while Google simply suggests bugs.
To be fair, neither Google or Bing can imagine all possible suicide-related queries and plan for them. Searches for “how to slit my wrists” appear similar on both sites. And both sites freely autocomplete phrases about committing various acts of homicide. No “get help before you kill mama” warning from Google.
But searches for the phrases “I want to kill myself,” “I want to die,” “how to die,” “suicide” and “how to commit suicide” bring up the number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline as a feature in Google search. No such luck with Bing.
We’re not suggesting that Bing should nerf their autocomplete results. Plenty of people take issue with just how many words appear on that Google autocomplete blacklist. But it wouldn’t be too hard to throw a phone number for a hotline at the top of the results when someone searches one of these loaded phrases. Google did it out of a partnership with Samaritans back in 2010. Maybe they have yet to push Bing to include the feature?
But it’s hard to argue that Bing wins this round of the search battle by giving the user exactly what they want – even if what they want is information on how to end their own life.