Microsoft's Bing takes first slip in search market

After months of strong growth, search engine loses bit of momentum in Google chase

After gaining market share every month since its June unveiling, Microsoft's Bing search engine slipped a bit last month for the first time.

Web metrics firm Net Applications this week reported this week that Bing's share of the global search engine market slipped from 3.52% in August to 3.39% in September. The market share of the dominant search engine, Google, also dipped slightly between August and September, going from 83.33% to 83.13%, according to the latest Net Applications report.

Yahoo search maintained its role as the second most used search engine, but its market share dropped from 7.28% to 6.84%, Net Applications said.

"This is a pretty small slip for Bing, percentage-wise, and it's only from one measurement source," said Dan Olds, an analyst for The Gabriel Consulting Group. "The true tale will be told when the other folks who measure market share weigh in. Also, this isn't really a surprise. While I'm sure that Microsoft would love to see Bing steadily gain on Google, that just isn't in the cards. This is going to be a big battle that will be fought over the long term."

While Bing didn't show a dramatic fall by any means, this latest report is its first shift in momentum.

Just a few weeks ago, comScore Inc. said its research found that Bing increased its share of the competitive market by 4.5% between July and August to 9.3%.

And The Nielsen Co. last month said its survey found that Bing's share of the search market grew by 22.1% between July and August.

Neither Nielsen nor comScore have yet released their September numbers.

Olds said he wouldn't be surprised to see Bing's market share slide in the Nielsen and comScore surveys as well. Such back and forth in momentum is typical of a big market battle, he added.

"It's hard to underestimate just how entrenched Google is as the default Internet search engine," said Olds. "It's not just top of mind for the vast majority of users, it's also built into many of the automated searches that are embedded into other Web sites. This is a big mountain for Bing to climb. We'll see a lot of back and forth in terms of market share, but I do think that Microsoft is now fully committed to the battle and they have the resources and brainpower to make significant inroads."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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