Microsoft Bing Needs Market Share Growth to Challenge Google
Microsoft's introduction of a new and improved Bing search engine with a novel tie-in to the phenomenally popular Facebook site is critical to boosting Bing's weak market share compared to search giant Google.
Microsoft is going to be rolling out a new and improved Bing search engine over the next few weeks that will allow users to enlist their social media friends to aid their searches, a move Microsoft hopes will put more of a dent in Google's dominance of the search category.
Bing is being revamped to offer a more streamlined results page with more relevant information and, most notably, a right-hand sidebar with results from the searcher's Facebook friends. Type in "Maui Hotels," for instance, and the sidebar fills with status updates from friends who've visited Maui, live in Maui or posted photos of their vacation in Maui.
The new Bing interface is divided into three columns, as was explained in a Microsoft blog post. Besides the Facebook results on the far right of the screen, the main search results will be on the far left side. In the middle is a column Bing calls "Snapshot." If the user moves their cursor over one of the links on the left, some information about that link appears in the middle column with more details about that hotel, or perhaps a review.
The alliance with Facebook, if it works as intended, could give Bing a noticeable boost to its middling market share performance and perhaps finally make it profitable. According to The New York Times, losses in Microsoft's online services division, which includes Bing, were $2.6 billion in the last fiscal year.
Since Microsoft launched Bing in June 2009 to replace its ghost town of a search site, Bing has become more popular but still hasn't quite broken out. According to the latest results from comScore, Bing's U.S. market share for search was 15.3 percent in March compared to Google's 66.4 percent.
In March 2011, Bing's share was 13.9 percent to Google's 65.7 percent. Arguably, Bing should also get some of the credit for Yahoo's search market share numbers, given that Bing powers Yahoo search and Yahoo's ad sales are handled by Microsoft. However, Yahoo search market share was 13.7 percent this past March, down from 15.7 percent in March 2011.
Globally, the picture is even worse for Google's search engine competitors. The research group Net Applications has April 2012 numbers for search that show Google on top of the world with a 78.6 percent share compared to Yahoo's 6.67 percent and Bing's 4.75 percent.
A line graph on the Net Applications site makes it look like Google is riding atop the waves while every other search engine is bumping along the ocean floor. Nonetheless, the competition has slightly chipped away at some of Google's lead, as its current share is down from a high over the last year of 83.38 percent in November 2011.
Those Net Applications numbers are only for desktop searches. Net Applications tracks mobile and tablet search share separately from desktops (comScore's numbers are desktop only). In smartphones and tablets, Google sucks nearly all the air out of the room with a 91.4 percent share to Bing's 1.29 percent and Yahoo's 4.86 percent.
Microsoft's best hope for mobile search growth is that its partnership with Nokia to run its Windows Phone 7 operating system, including Bing, on Nokia smartphones succeed in boosting penetration of WP7 in the mobile market.