Microsoft Bing Grew 25% per Week in June, Says Hitwise

Microsoft Bing occupied 5.25 percent of the U.S. online search market during June, its first month of wide release, and also managed to grow at an average rate of 25 percent per week during the period, according to research company Hitwise. However, it remains to be seen whether Bing can maintain its momentum against Yahoo and Google once Microsoft begins to moderate its massive advertising budget for the project.

Microsoft's Bing search engine owned 5.25 percent of the U.S. online search market in the four weeks ending June 27, growing at an average rate of 25 percent per week, according to research company Hitwise. However, Google and Yahoo remained atop the search engine heap, with 74 percent and 16.2 percent, respectively.

The same study found bringing up fourth place in the search market, with 3.15 percent.

Bing represents a huge bet for Microsoft, which is reportedly pouring in between $80 million and $100 million as part of an intensive marketing effort. Since its June 3 launch, Bing has managed to gain small but significant market share, according to most research companies monitoring its progress; StatCounter, for example, found that the site gained 8.23 percent in June, as compared with when Microsoft's search engine was named Live Search and hovered around 7 percent market share.

Despite gains for Bing, which combines traditional "page of hyperlinks" search with tabs that allow access to specific categories such as Shopping and Video, Microsoft may have an uphill battle if it wants to take more of Google and Yahoo's market sahre.

A small case study by the Catalyst Group found that Bing search drew high marks from users in its design and search results-but that those users felt a greater attachment to the Google brand, making them reluctant to switch despite what they thought were superior Bing features. However, given the sample size of the study, the results can be viewed as far from definitive.

The question becomes whether Bing can maintain its growth and position even after advertising for it inevitably begins to decline. Some IT leaders think not.

Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo, said during a technology conference in New York on June 3 that Microsoft was "not going to get scale through Bing" and that any surge in popularity would be "temporary."

Perhaps aware that the situation could eventually turn either way, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has likewise suggested that Bing has a long way to go.

"We have had some very good initial response," Ballmer told The National Summit, in Detroit, on June 17. "I don't want to over-set expectations. We are going to have to be tenacious and keep up the pace of innovation over a long period of time."