Microsoft's Bing search engine has been gaining market share at a solid clip, growing from roughly 8 percent in June 2009 to 11.5 percent through February, according to comScore.
Still, that growth won't make people confuse Bing with Google, the U.S. leader at 65 percent (and greater abroad), anytime soon.
The Bing team is fine with that, as long as it continues to attract users to key money-making verticals, according to Microsoft Bing Director Stefan Weitz. In keyword search, Bing can be the Pepsi to Google's Coke without feeling bad about itself.
"People are happy with keyword-based search," Weitz told eWEEK. "People are creatures of habit and they're fairly happy with Google's keyword search today and they think it works well and there's no reason for them to look around."
However, Weitz pointed out: "It's not a zero sum game. I think what we're doing with search and as we look at how people are using the Web itself and how the Web is changing, we think we can expand that which people do with these engines. We can grow the overall pie, the overall number of searches that are happening across the Web."
Weitz pointed to areas such as event-driven tasks, commercial queries and knowledge-type queries as Bing's strengths and advantages over Google and any other challenger. For example, users searching for events in a city on Bing will be connected immediately to theater showings, and other happenings. Users can then easily purchase tickets.
Commercial queries include Bing Shopping, which lets users search and buy goods, often with a discount through Bing Cashback. Bing Travel lets users easily book flights, hotels and conduct other travel-related tasks.
These e-commerce verticals pose a departure from Google's current offerings, and could be a big part of why Google is looking to fortify its e-commerce experience.
"We're going to have a radically different experience that in many cases rethinks search should look like. I hope we take a portion of share in those areas. We'll continue to compete in keyword-based search. But the more exciting place, and the place we're looking at more often is how we expand the art of the possible in search and in those areas where we can create that expansion, we'll have an experience people will come to. It's almost a different playing field at that point."
"The magic in what search will be able to do is let create dozens of verticals that are built on the fly to correspond to what the user is doing," he added.
Dozens of verticals means Bing needs access to more information, which means greater scale. And because Bing isn't creating the information itself, it needs to hook into myriad Web services that people enjoy using.
For example, Bing Travel today quickly puts consumers in touch with Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz and other purveyors of travel. Weitz said Microsoft needs to do that with additional Web service providers.
Accordingly, Microsoft is working on integrating with additional Web services to draw more users into its broadening search experience.
"We aim to refine intent so that a human can understand what you're asking," Weitz added. "Google organizes the world's information and that's great. We are moving beyond organizing information and what comprises knowledge and that's more than links or multimedia on a Web page. Knowledge can be a combination of opposing points, it can be services that provide data that we will never ingest, but we know it exists and we can pull it in real time to augment that answer."
Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of Microsoft's Online Audience Business, Bing is expected to discuss Microsoft's direction with Bing at the Search Engine Strategies show in New York City March 25.
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