Microsoft Bing Reaches First Anniversary of Chasing Google

Microsoft's Bing search engine, despite early predictions of its demise from some luminaries in the tech industry, reached its first-year anniversary with a healthy percentage of the U.S. search engine market under its belt. Since June 2009, Bing has steadily added new features, attracted some controversy and found itself positioned to take over back-end search for Yahoo's Web properties. Bing and Google will likely continue to trade blows with regard to market share and features for some time to come, although Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer admits it could take a long time for Bing to overcome Google's hold on the market.

Bing proved to be the little search engine that could, at least for the first year of its existence.

In summer 2009, many of the tech industry's higher-ups expressed little public hope that Bing-originally code-named Kumo-could endure for long in the search engine arena dominated by Google. At its outset, Bing's competitive differentiator from its behemoth rival was the ability to quickly drill down, via a set of tabs on the homescreen, into specific search categories such as Videos, Shopping, News, Maps and Travel.

Soon after Microsoft announced Bing's imminent release in May 2009, at the seventh annual D: All Things Digital conference in California, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer attempted to downplay the search engine's role in the company's overall strategy. "I spend more of my time on talent than trying to be 'the search guy,'" Ballmer told an audience during the conference.

According to a transcript from the event, Ballmer offered some of the rationale behind the engine's peppy name: "I'm not the creative guy, here ... short mattered ... people like to 'verb up' ... works globally, doesn't have negative connotations."

Ballmer added: "It's not a substitute for innovation, but we need to build brand equity in addition to technology equity."

The company planned to deploy Bing on June 3, 2009, but ended up jumping the gun by two days, releasing it widely on June 1.

For more on how Bing has grown in a year, click here.

At the Bank of America and Merrill Lynch U.S. Technology Conference in New York, in June 2009, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz seemed to dismiss Bing's marketplace chances. "They're not going to get scale," she predicted, adding that interest in the search engine would be "temporary."

Google CEO Eric Schmidt also, understandably, dismissed Bing. "It's not the first entry for Microsoft," he said during a June 9 interview on Fox Business. "They do this about once a year. From Bing's perspective they have a bunch of new ideas and there are some things that are missing. We think search is about comprehensiveness, freshness, scale and size for what we do. It's difficult for them to copy that."

Some analysts, however, thought differently.

"Today most advertisers buy search ads just with Google and Yahoo because Microsoft has a measly ... share of searches-not enough reach to make buying search ads with MS worth the trouble," Shar VanBoskirk, an analyst with Forrester, wrote May 28, 2009, on the Forrester Blog for Interactive Marketing Professionals. "Forrester expects Bing to change that."

Bing's market share grew in fits and starts over the following months. In what could be construed as a bit of irony, considering Carol Bartz's earlier comments (unless said comments were a deliberate attempt at misdirection), Microsoft and Yahoo announced an agreement that summer that would see Bing power back-end search on Yahoo's sites, while Yahoo would handle worldwide sales duties for both companies' search advertisers.

If Yahoo's current U.S. search engine market share transfers to Microsoft with no attrition, then Bing's share would rise to somewhere just south of 30 percent. The deal effectively eliminated Yahoo's presence in the U.S. search market, casting search as a battle between two players, Google and Microsoft. (With one caveat: Under the terms of the 10-year agreement, Yahoo can escape the deal if Google's RPS, or revenue per search, query rate becomes higher than the combined RPS rates of Microsoft and Yahoo; Yahoo can also terminate if its RPS rate in the United States is less than a certain percentage of Google's estimated RPS on a 12-month average.)

In fall of 2009, Microsoft announced that Bing would integrate results from Wolfram Alpha, a computational engine that provides a definitive numerical answer to a search query, into its search features, as well as Twitter and Facebook.