Microsoft on June 4 announced the availability to consumers of Bing Travel, saying it "will help consumers make smart travel decisions through a variety of innovative tools and features." According to Microsoft's news release:
"Bing Travel is part of Bing, Microsoft's new Decision Engine and consumer brand announced on May 28, designed to help people overcome search overload and make faster, more informed decisions when searching online. Bing Travel combines many of the airfare and hotel tools from Microsoft's 2008 acquisition of Farecast with rich news and editorial content from MSN Travel. Bing Travel is available for travelers today at http://www.bing.com/travel.According to a recent survey by Bing Travel, 52 percent of potential travelers search three or more sites before booking their airfare. Forty-two percent of travelers spend between one and four weeks weighing their travel options, and 17 percent spend more than one month. Bing Travel aims to dramatically reduce the amount of time consumers spend searching for travel information by presenting comprehensive results in one place, and to help consumers make more informed decisions with tools such as Price Predictor and Rate Indicator."Bing Travel has a simple goal: help people make smarter, more informed decisions regarding travel," said Hugh Crean, general manager of Bing Travel. "Travelers face plenty of challenges-from airport security and luggage restrictions to finding their hotel in an unknown city or trying to speak a foreign language. Researching and booking travel should be simple and easy, and now Bing Travel is here to help."Microsoft research shows that 45 percent of people use a search engine to select a flight or hotel. Bing Travel provides new, innovative travel answers within the Bing search experience. Starting today, people searching on Bing for hotels in a given city with a search such as "Vegas hotels" will get Bing Travel Instant Answers included directly in search results, featuring the Rate Indicator, which helps people choose the right hotel."
Bing Travel's features include a price predictor, a rate indicator, travel deals for up-to-the-minute flight and hotel specials, comparison flight and hotel search, fare alerts, and "original travel editorial content."
Bing represents the rebranding of Farecast with new features added. The switchover to the Bing brand is being handled gradually, as the Farecast destination can still be used although the Bing engine lies beneath it. Microsoft has rebranded its other search subproperties over to Bing, including health care, product search and local search.
Meanwhile, according to a report by StatCounter, Microsoft's Bing search engine has, at least temporarily, overtaken Yahoo as the No. 2 search engine in the United States and worldwide. Data from the StatCounter Global Stats report showed that as of June 4, Bing had taken over the second-place slot by taking market share from Google, with 16.28 percent of the U.S. market, while Yahoo has 10.22 percent. And Google still commands the U.S. search engine market with 71.47 percent of the market.
"It remains to be seen if Bing [will fall] away after the initial novelty and promotion, but at first sight it looks like Microsoft is onto a winner," said Aodhan Cullen, CEO of StatCounter. "Steve Ballmer is quoted as saying that he wanted Microsoft to become the second-biggest search engine within five years. Following the breakdown in talks to acquire Yahoo at a cost of $40 billion, it looks as if he may have just achieved that with Bing much sooner and a lot cheaper than anticipated."
StatCounter data finds that Bing at 5.62 percent globally has taken a narrow lead over Yahoo at 5.13 percent. Google retains 87.62 percent of the worldwide market.
According to company officials, StatCounter, which provides free Website traffic analysis, is one of the largest Web analytics companies in the world, monitoring in excess of 10 billion pageloads per month. In March it launched StatCounter Global Stats, a free online service that captures the market share battles of search engines, browsers and operating systems including mobile.