After 5 years, Bing still trails Google -- but it has other plans

Always the bridesmaid, Microsoft looks to integrate Bing in new 'world of devices'

Microsoft released Bing -- meant to be the great challenger to Google's ubiquitous search engine -- in June 2009.

Five years later, it's clear that Bing has not been the Google challenger Microsoft hoped it would be. Not even close.

Microsoft's search engine hasn't gained much market share in its five years, but it also hasn't slipped from its -- albeit distant -- second-place position to Google's dominant spot. And Microsoft is moving beyond using Bing for more than just public search.

"Bing has to be a huge disappointment for Microsoft these days," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "I don't see Microsoft giving up on Bing, but I also haven't seen much in the way of new features or big announcements, either. I think Bing is too big and makes enough money so that Microsoft won't drop it. But, it's not big enough to present a significant challenge to Google."

Microsoft launched Bing, the home-grown search engine it had poured a lot of time, money and engineering muscle into, as more of a "decision engine" than a search engine.

Microsoft wanted to gain a foothold in the market by positioning Bing as a way to help people search the Web more intelligently and to simplify everyday tasks such as getting directions.

Over the next few years, Microsoft and Google tried to one-up each other -- adding users' likes and comments, social networking posts and local business reviews. Both also tweaked their search engines to function better on burgeoning mobile platforms.

Microsoft even bested Google in setting up key partnerships. Twitter inked a deal early on to let Bing search users' tweets.

Bing also got a boost when Microsoft created an alliance with Yahoo to have Microsoft's Bing search engine power Yahoo's sites.

However, despite those efforts, Bing never snagged much market share from Google. In March, Internet tracker comScore Inc. reported that Google held 67.5% of the search market, while Bing had 18.6% and Yahoo, 10.1%.

Users around the world have created a habit of using Google when they want to search for anything from the cause of headaches to big game scores, celebrity hairstyles and how companies are using the cloud.

It's proven hard for Bing to break users' Google habit.

David Schubmehl, a research director at IDC, said that he's not sure what's in store for the search engine now that Satya Nadella has replaced Steve Ballmer as Microsoft's CEO. "In the new regime, I'm not sure where Bing fits, to be honest with you," he said. "Bing's not part of the enterprise story, so the question is if they'll continue to move it along or are they going to sell it off to somebody? I just don't know if it's the focus of the current management team."

Microsoft marked Bing's anniversary this week by looking back and by looking to the future.

"On June 3rd 2009, we debuted to the world with a fresh approach to search..., " wrote the Bing team in a blog post. "A lot has happened since that debut."

First Bing image
The first Bing homepage was an image of Polychrome Pass overlooking Denali National Park. (Image: Microsoft)
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