One of the biggest news stories in years caught Microsoft's Bing a little off guard.
The flood of traffic on the Internet following reports that Michael Jackson had been rushed to a Los Angeles hospital last Thursday, where he later died, has been well documented: Google at first thought the surge was an attack on its servers. Microsoft released statistics Thursday indicating it, too, witnessed a surge in traffic related to Jackson, but admitted that Bing News could have done a much better job delivering relevant stories during the two or so frantic hours in which searches went through the roof.
"By most reports, Bing did not deliver the best experience for our customers soon after TMZ posted the news on their blog," wrote Jacquelyn Krones, senior product planner for Bing News. "As Search Engine Journal pointed out, we had the story but it was hidden at the bottom of the main page and even deeper in our xRank result." Bing's xRank is supposed to track the most popular people surfacing on the Internet on a given day: Karl Malden currently ranks highest in xRank.
Microsoft has a switch it calls "news go big" that it can throw in the event of a huge breaking news story like Jackson's death. Usually, images are the first thing Bing searchers see when searching for a celebrity such as Jackson, but Microsoft can change the placement of those results in the rare event of a breaking news story that generates "unusual activity."
Apparently, the company feels it could have done that more quickly in the minutes following TMZ's report. "...In the case of breaking news such as this, we will focus on ensuring that the whole experience quickly accommodates the surge in customers' interest," Krones wrote.