Perception Shift Could Lead Users to Bing

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-08-11 Print this article Print

Bing would have to undergo a quantum leap in technological innovation to make it a must-have product that compels users to switch from Google. This is possible (in the same sense that anything is possible), but it's a long shot. Here's another one that's less likely in my opinion:

Suppose Google's search innovation wanes so mightily that it falls behind Bing in even the most obvious technological evolutions. For example, Bing last month began indexing Twitter tweets. I expect Google to do this, but suppose it declines to jump into that real-time pool.

That is the kind of minor technological evolution where Bing and others would lap Google. Take enough of those over time, and people will leave Google much the way they left and other search engine also-rans.

I doubt very much that this would happen; just last night Google took the cover off its Caffeine search sandbox, showing everyone that it intends to get not only faster, but more accurate. These are the hallmarks of Google search.

So, how could Bing beat Google? A massive shift in the perception of Google. One of the things that helped Google put such a great gap between itself and other search players such as Microsoft and Yahoo is that Google cultivated a feeling of cool. Google made search cool enough to capture a verb in the hokey pantheon of American nouns that get turned into verbs. Google was the friendly face of the Web to the ugly visage of Microsoft The Monopolist.

The tide, as they say, is slowly turning. Some people are already highly mistrustful of a company that not only stores users search data for nine months (though the facts behind this policy has been ripped by some privacy researchers), but hosts enterprise data on its servers by delivering software-as-a-service applications.

Now combine that user mistrust with a growing unease in Capitol Hill that Google is getting too greedy, too big for its britches. Christine Varney, assistant attorney general for antitrust at the Department of Justice wants Google's blood, said:

For me, Microsoft is so last century. They are not the problem. I think we are going to continually see a problem, potentially, with Google.

That statement alone tells us which way the wind is blowing in Washington, D.C. Google has surfed a tremendous search wave for more than a decade to the point where it is now collecting $20 billion a year, largley from search-related advertising.

But Google's desire to expand its search purview have left a vaguely low-tide smell in the nostrils of not only rivals, but corporate regulators such as the DOJ and FTC, privacy and antitrust concerns, and some users.

The DOJ and FTC may have allowed Google to buy DoubleClick, but they are still uneasy about this because of the glut of consumer data Google gained with the buy. Google certainly didn't do itself any favors in the greed is good department when it tried to partner with Yahoo on search last year.

The DOJ is looking into Google's Book Search deal, which has been opposed roundly by some publishers and many privacy advocates.


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