Thursday 28 May 2009

Bing - Microsoft restarts search engine

Microsoft Bing
Bing. That's what Microsoft has named its new search engine. Only they're calling it a decision engine.

It's the second new search engine to hit the headlines this month. Wolfram Alpha was enjoying mixed reviews after its launch last Monday, 18th May.

But unlike the PR hype surrounding Wolfram Alpha, Microsoft does not claim Bing will be a Google-killer, it's a "restart", according to Search Engine Land's head-to-head comparison.

Microsoft has probably understood that the choice of search engine is closely linked to the choice of browser. The default search box in Firefox is Google. That will make it difficult for Microsoft to dislodge them.

The amazing growth of Firefox since the 3.0 offering and - to a far lesser extent - Google's own Chrome browser, means that Internet Explorer is fading fast from people's PCs. According to browser stats from w3schools, FF has 47% and growing, while IE 6,7 and 8 combined have 42%. Chrome is nearly 5%.

The tight relationship between the Mozilla foundation and Google means that the majority of users will never even consider trying out Bing. There just isn't the instant convenience.

Microsoft hopes that a $100 million marketing budget will help to persuade ordinary users to switch to Bing. That's a big gamble and one they have to take but it's like telling you to try out a new beer that they say tastes better, only you have to go to a different pub. And that pub is part of a shrinking chain. With musty carpets.

On the other hand, Google's lead in search is not insurmountable. As a comparison, it was once thought that Internet Explorer was going to become the de facto browser, back in 2003-04 when it had 85% of the market. Then in mid-2004 Mozilla/Firefox started growing. What share of the search market does Google have? Just 64% (in the US).

Killing IE6 is another important step in the right direction. Will we soon have two real competitors in the browser/search/ad space?