ALTOM: Does Bing have a chance of catching Google?

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Tim Altom

I can’t help it; every time I see the Microsoft search engine “Bing,” I hear Bing Crosby’s voice crooning in my head.

Microsoft hasn’t said that Der Bingle was the inspiration for the Bing name, of course. Rather, it’s said to be one-syllable, easy to remember, and ripe for being rendered as a verb (“I could Bing that for you if you want … ”). Bing never has been touted by Microsoft as a Google-killer, but plenty of commentators have called it that. Mostly in jest.

Few people seriously think Bing (www.bing.com) can successfully stage an assault across the massive moat that Google (www.google.com) has built around its flagship product. But truth be told, Bing is not a bad search engine.

Unlike Google, which sprang onto the world almost fully grown, Bing has a long history of evolutionary development. Its earliest ancestor was a small search engine called “MSN Search” back in 1998, about the time Google was filing its incorporation papers. But the comparison stops there. Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had their search engine coded and ready to go, while MSN Search was badged only as Microsoft. It actually used results from other small search engines, such as AltaVista.

Over the next few years, both its name and its code morphed. In 2006, Microsoft finally coded its own engine and renamed it “Windows Live Search.” Then in 2007, Microsoft dropped the “Windows” part of the name. The search engine kept shifting and changing even after that, absorbing some other products and eventually becoming Bing in 2009. One of Bing’s earlier competitors, Yahoo, has capitulated and become just a display site for Bing searches. Worldwide, Bing now has about 10 percent of the market, when combined with Yahoo.

Bing is a decent competitor to Google, but not a really formidable one. To me, the differences are mostly a matter of taste. Google’s interface says, “You wanna search for something? Let me get outta your way!” Bing’s interface says, “Aren’t baby seals cute? It’s a great day to search, isn’t it?” Bing is more decorative and fun. Google is more Spartan and its controls are easier to spot on the page. But query “IBJ” and both come up with www.ibj.com right at the top, along with related searches and additional links. Google works well with its own Gmail, while Bing integrates with Microsoft’s Hotmail.

Bing does offer some small improvements in other ways. For example, its video search page has previews. Just hover over one of the video thumbnails and you’ll get a short snatch of video just to see if that’s the one you want. There’s a difference behind the scenes in its maps, too. Bing uses Microsoft’s Silverlight to display maps, while Google relies on tried-and-true JavaScript. Silverlight is an application for showing advanced graphics in browsers, and it struts its stuff in Bing maps. Whereas Google maps tend to move jerkily, Bing maps are much smoother. But you do need to download Silverlight. Like Google, Bing searches for images. Unlike Google, there’s no search engine specifically for patents or scholarly papers.

Google is way out ahead in offering online applications. Book scans are peculiar to Google, as are Google Docs and Google Calendar. I’m quite partial to Google Reader, an aggregator for other sites where you can instantly spot updates to blogs or other sites you want to follow. But Bing isn’t by any means a one-trick pony itself. It’s hooked up with Wolfram Alpha, a math-and-science search engine that can even do advanced math. It has a dedicated dictionary, provisions for searching Twitter and Facebook, a translation application, and travelers may appreciate its integration of Microsoft’s Farecast, which allows Bing to look up deals in air fares and reservations. Like Google, it also can search shopping sites, forecast weather and present news from other sites as an aggregator.

Unfortunately for Bing, in the search engine business it’s all about habitual use, and the searching public is definitely fixated on using Google. Bing has some improvements over Google in some areas, but it has yet to eat into Google’s lead. Google still commands some 80 percent or more of the global search engine market. This is important, because Google can also command the vast majority of search engine marketing dollars. If you want to get your company noticed, Google is the obvious choice for an ad buy.

By all means, try Bing and see what you think. Microsoft can always hope it catches Google by the time our sun burns out.•


Altom is a consultant specializing in pairing businesses with appropriate technology. His column appears every other week. He can be reached at taltom@ibj.com.


  • Bing is growing
    Okay it looks like I will be the only one to post here, but here is what I think. Microsoft is one of maybe only 2 or 3 companies in the world that could even afford to take on Google in online search. From what I am seeing, Bing really is the only search provider that is bringing innovation rather than been there done that that is Google. Google has instant search, but for soldiers that are deployed using slower bandwidth, like me, and people still using dial speed connections, its a waste of time. But where Google is really dominating to me is in the News Search, people just don't post any relevant news on Bing, and for users like me that is all I read most of the time. Therefore, for the time being, Google is the search engine of choice until more publications are posting on Bing.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. why oh why does this state continue to elect these people....do you wonder how much was graft out of the 3.8 billion?

  2. i too think this is a great idea. I think the vision and need is there as well. But also agree with Wendy that there may be better location in our city to fulfill this vision and help grow the sports of hockey and figure skating in Indy. Also to help further develop other parts of the city that seem often forgotten. Any of the other 6 townships out side of the three northernmost could benefit greatly from a facility and a vision like this. For a vision that sounds philanthropic, the location is appears more about the money. Would really like to see it elsewhere, but still wish the development the best of luck, as we can always use more ice in the city. As for the Ice growth when they return, if schedules can be coordinated with the Fuel, what could be better than to have high level hockey available to go see every weekend of the season? Good luck with the development and the return of the Ice.

  3. How many parking spaces do they have at Ironworks? Will residents have reserved spaces or will they have to troll for a space among the people that are there at Ruth Chris & Sangiovese?

  4. You do not get speeding ticket first time you speed and this is not first time Mr.Page has speed. One act should not define a man and this one act won't. He got off with a slap on the wrist. I agree with judge no person was injured by his actions. The state was robbed of money by paying too much rent for a building and that money could have been used for social services. The Page family maybe "generous" with their money but for most part all of it is dirty money that he obtained for sources that are not on the upright. Page is the kind of lawyer that gives lawyers a bad name. He paid off this judge like he has many other tine and walked away. Does he still have his license. I believe so. Hire him to get you confiscated drug money back. He will. It will cost you.

  5. I remain amazed at the level of expertise of the average Internet Television Executive. Obviously they have all the answers and know the business inside and out.