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Mark Jackson

Could Bing Ever Overtake Google in Search?

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Google vs BingPreface: I'm pissed at Google. I don't buy the "protect searchers privacy" deal as the reason for moving all search to HTTPS and not providing us with the valued keyword data (while continuing to provide this to advertisers).

While at a Bing Ads event last week, an engineer pretty much confirmed my feelings ("doesn't make it any safer; you can still hack what's there," I was told; his feeling was that the move was purely for PR purposes).

I've been around long enough, too, to remember that Google wasn't always the number one search engine (I worked for Lycos "back in the day" and remember Alta Vista, HotBot, AOL, etc.). I know that things can change. And, it seems to me that Google's market share increased pretty significantly after they partnered to power AOL's search.

Um, Bing/Yahoo, anyone?

Do you think Bing will ever surpass Google in search? Well, before you say that it isn't possible, let's look at what it would take.

Where is Search Going in the Future?

If Bing were to lead the search engine market share over Google, the search landscape would be entirely different than what we see today. And it's clear that users would be accessing search in a different way.

During Matt Cutts' Keynote Address at Pubcon Las Vegas we learned about Google¹s "moonshot changes", which he broke down into these areas:

  • Knowledge Graph
  • Voice search
  • Conversational search
  • Google Now
  • Deep learning

Google is focused on deep learning and understanding what users want so searchers don't have to use simple keyword phrases to search Google. Bing, on the other hand, has partnerships with every major social site and receives data directly from those sources. So, rather than trying to understand what users mean and predicting it, Bing actually knows what user want based on actual data from social sites.

The Future is Mobile

Like it or not, we are using our mobile devices (both smartphones and tablets) to access the web. Cutts specifically said that a focus on mobile site usability is imperative.

YouTube traffic on mobile has skyrocketed from 6 percent two years ago, to 25 percent last year, to 40 percent of all YouTube this year. Some countries have more mobile traffic than they do desktop traffic.

Microsoft is obviously serious about mobile and mobile innovation. They recently bought Nokia for $7.2 billion, and sales of the Lumina phone set another record for the third quarter of 2013. The world continues to buy Nokia phones.

As we access the web more using mobile devices, search will become more important than ever. That's where we potentially could see a shift from Google's traditional search to Bing's search. If Bing continues to do search right and uses actual social media data to influence search results, the search results will continue to become more personalized.

How Users React is Key

We are at a time where Google is taking a big risk in search. Cutts said it in his keynote address last week. They are making moonshot changes. They are shooting for the moon and hoping that they hit a home run with their search changes.

Google's changes are huge. Taking away the keyword referral data from website owners was one big step, and depending on the Knowledge Graph more to populate search results is another big step. Information is being presented to users directly in the search results, and users don't have to click through to websites to get the info.

In my opinion, this is a make it or break it type of move by Google. Google users will either continue to like their search or they will end up using search less and less to find what they're looking for. Bing users may be more likely to actually like their search results because the results are biased towards their own social media activities and friends' activities online.

Mobile usage will eventually dictate which search engine, Bing or Google, ends up winning the search game. Cell phone users upgrade their phone every 21.7 months, and the search wars will be more and more dependent on the mobile market.

In quite a short period of time (just a few years), we could see a switch from Google search to Bing search depending on the adoption of certain mobile devices.

Which search engine Apple goes with in the future may allow Bing to gain even more users. If Bing were embedded more on Apple devices, rather than Google search, there would be a larger shift to Bing usage. On the other hand, maybe that's just a pipe dream: it's not as if Apple is likely to welcome Microsoft products anytime soon, is it?

While at the Bing event, we were presented with a demonstration of Bing Smart Search. In my opinion, the way content is presented is pretty slick. While this was specifically engineered/designed for tablet/touch screen "scrolling" (left to right, rather than up and down), I found the organization of content to be pretty appealing. We'll just need to see what the adoption rate will be of the new Surface 2/.

To me, this is the one "core" market that Bing can take advantage of using their hardware/software to push Bing adoption.

1 Billion Microsoft Users

Sure, mobile usage is going up, and we aren't using our desktops as much as we have in the past. But what about other devices? What about other Microsoft services, including the Windows operating system, Skype, and Xbox? Combine all those Microsoft users and there are over a billion users. This is where Microsoft can leverage those users to shift the tide in their favor: integrating search into all of those services could change the search market share over to Bing.

In Windows 8, Microsoft has integrated Bing into a lot of the operating system. That makes perfect sense, and I am surprised that Microsoft didn't make that move earlier, with earlier versions of Windows. For laptop and desktop users, it will take some time before the majority of them have upgraded to Windows 8, but it will happen: and again, using Bing as their search engine in Windows 8 will have a direct impact on Bing's search market share, perhaps even a larger impact than mobile alone.

Let's not forget about Microsoft Office. If Microsoft were to integrate search into all of these services and devices and provide a seamless experience, Google may have a hard time keeping their number one place in the search wars.

Wanted: More Competition

Google has dominated search for many, many years. I can recall discussions "way back in the day" when people wondered about "who would be left standing" when the search engine "wars" consolidated. Everyone speculated that there would be three major search engines left, out of AOL, Yahoo, MSN (at the time), Lycos, AltaVista, HotBot, Excite, and Google.

Things can change fast. I also remember how Google rose to their dominant position. A bunch of geeks were telling anyone who would listen at the time that Google was a better search engine, and the word went around. At the time, it wasn't even close. It was very clear that Google was, in fact, a better search engine.

Today, when you look at Google results and Bing results, they are actually pretty close. The reason Google dominates today is because they "dominate", and they continue to innovate. But, I'm also one to say that they are pissing me off and thisgeek is starting to think that a little competition might be good for them.

Microsoft has a real opportunity to influence searcher behavior and Bing adoption through the integration of Bing search through its vast network of assets. Mobile adoption is certainly key, too.

I sincerely hope that market share of search gets a little more evenly spread. Competition is a good thing.


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