Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Microsoft Bing A Hit, At Least With Live Search Users

While Microsoft's "decision engine" claimed 6% of search engine queries only hours after launch, it doesn't seem to be denting Google's overwhelming market share.

Microsoft's new "decision engine," Bing, appears to be a hit: It handled as many as 6% of search queries worldwide only hours after launch and is currently processing more than 5% of search queries globally, according to Net Applications.

But most of the market-share gain seen by Bing is coming from the cannibalization of Microsoft's legacy search services, MSN Search and Windows Live Search.

That's to be expected given that Microsoft's other search services now redirect users to Bing. But it does little to support Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's claim that search engines "don't do a very good job of enabling people to use the information they find."

If search engines like Google and Yahoo aren't effective, one would expect an exodus, were a better alternative presented.

Bing may be having some impact on the number of Google users, but if so, the impact is negligible. On successive days at 10 p.m. EDT, starting on May 26 and ending June 1 -- when Bing's availability was widely reported -- Google showed search share statistics of 63.19%, 63.09%, 62.30%, 62.71%, 62.49%, 62.02%, and 62.27%, as measured by Net Applications.

While this could be a slight decline in usage, it could also be just a normal fluctuation for Google. Consider that on May 23 at 10 p.m. EDT, Google's search share was 62.09%. And on May 13 at 10 p.m. EDT, well before Bing was launched, Google's search share was 59.46%.

In May, the global search market share for Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft came to 81.50%, 9.39%, and 5.43% respectively, according to Net Applications.

Another Web metrics firm, ComScore, put the April U.S. search market share figures at 64.20% for Google, 20.40% for Yahoo, and 8.20% for Microsoft.

Consumer reaction to Bing appears to be mixed. A discussion of Bing's merits and drawbacks on online community site MetaFilter includes dismissals like this: "It's like the newer Zune. It's not all that much worse than the market leader. But why bother changing? Being pretty much the same as the market leader is insufficient when you aren't the market leader."

But the discussion also includes affirmations like: "My own preliminary tests on relatively obscure searches ... turn up results that are as good as Google. ... It is a massive undertaking, and I am impressed with the results."

For Microsoft, the challenge now becomes winning over those who weren't using Windows Live Search and MSN Search already.

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