Mozilla Executive Promoting Bing Caps Microsoft's Week

November for Microsoft has involved the acquisition of two companies, one focusing on health care IT and the other on automating processes within the data center. But those are relatively minor compared with Microsoft's escalating battle with Google over the U.S. search market. Even as both sides continue to produce new features, including Twitter integration, a Mozilla executive suggests that Microsoft's Bing search engine has a better privacy policy than Google, a statement that will doubtlessly spark massive amounts of debate online.

Talk about the enemy of your enemy being your friend: in a Dec. 10 post on his blog, Asa Dotzler, Mozilla's director of community development, said, "Bing does have a better privacy policy than Google," and urged users to switch Firefox to Microsoft's search engine via an add-on.

That somewhat surprising message came three days after Google opened another front in its escalating search-engine battle against Microsoft, which is attempting to erode the search giant's U.S. market position by adding more functionality to Bing. On Dec. 7, Google added real-time search results pulled from Facebook, Twitter and MySpace-a significant feature boost.

Executives at Google may argue, of course, that the company's market-share position is secure; after all, it currently owns 65 percent of the market in the United States. Once Microsoft consummates its search-and-advertising partnership with Yahoo in 2010, a deal that will see Bing become the underlying search engine for Yahoo's sites, Bing's share of that market could rise to close to 30 percent-but even that, when you come down to it, will likely not be enough to keep those Googlers awake at night.

But Microsoft's recent aggressive moves in the space, including the addition of the beta version of Bing Maps, emphasize that nothing in the search engine realm is static. Add to that the perception from some corners of the tech world that Google is becoming more Big Brother than Don't Be Evil-as exemplified by Dotzler's comments-and Google's position seems, if not tenuous, certainly in need of reinforcement. Hence the addition of a feature like real-time search results, in order to make an already-considered-necessary tool for people seem even more necessary.

Microsoft has also embraced the real-time religion when it comes to search. Take Bing Maps, which marries the typically stolid business of online cartography with real-time features such as a Twitter feed and traffic reports. Typing "New York" into Microsoft's maps feature, for example, will unleash a food of Tweets originating from, say, Bryant Park and every surrounding bar and restaurant; zoom into the Brooklyn Bridge, and a colored line denotes just how fouled its lanes are with rush-hour traffic.

These updates follow a whole slew of new features added to Bing in November, including a more robust video page that integrated feeds from Hulu, MSN Video and ABC. Wolfram Alpha, the computational engine designed to offer primarily numerical solutions to queries ranging from "What is 423,145 times 343?" to "What year did James Dean kick the bucket?" now offers search results on Bing.

Despite those bells and whistles, the greatest stride forward for Bing remains the Microsoft-Yahoo deal, which the two companies finalized Dec. 4. Bing takes over back-end search for Yahoo's sites and Yahoo's sales team will take over worldwide duties for both companies' search advertising. If Yahoo's current share of the U.S. search engine market ports over to Bing with no attrition, Microsoft will gain about 26.7 percent of the market-at least according to market numbers produced by Experian Hitwise in November.

"Yahoo and Microsoft welcome the broad support the deal has received from key players in the advertising industry and remain hopeful that the closing of the transaction can occur in early 2010," the companies said in a joint statement released on Dec. 4. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, during a November trip to Tokyo, previously dangled the possibility that the agreement could eventually expand beyond the United States to the global stage-all of that depending, of course, on whether the U.S. Department of Justice clears the deal, something that neither Microsoft nor Yahoo has seemed publicly concerned about.

The following week for Microsoft was one of warnings, acquisitions and announcements of future plans.