The deal is done: Yahoo Search is soon to be Bing. Yahoo cuts costs by ditching search technology, both companies share ad revenue, but most importantly, Microsoft now controls a bit less than 1/3 of the search engine market. All of this money, deal-making, and reinvention is designed for one purpose: to take down Google.
While this is the fourth reincarnation of the Microsoft search engine, make no mistake: this is Microsoft’s best shot yet at beating its arch rival on its home turf. It’s never put so many resources towards that goal. With that in mind, will Microsoft knock its greatest threat down a peg, or will billions of dollars be flushed down the drain? The result of the Bing push will ripple across all layers of the web for years to come.
Let’s Remember How We Got to This Point
We need to put the competition in historical context. While Google has remained Google since 1997, Microsoft search has been through no less than four major incarnations since its inception in 1998. Each one has failed to make any sort of dent in Google’s dominating market share.
For years, Microsoft didn’t take search very seriously – it launched the MSN Search engine and utilized search listings from others – Inktomi (the HotBot search engine, ironically acquired by Yahoo), Looksmart, AltaVista, etc. However, as it saw Google rapidly rise in power (thanks in part to powering Yahoo search), the company finally created its own search technology, around 2004-2005.
By then, though, Microsoft was already being left behind:
July 2005 Market Share:
- Google: 36.5%
- Yahoo: 30.5%
- Microsoft: 15.5%
In 2006, Microsoft launched the second incarnation of its search engine, Windows Live Search. At this point, Google was starting to break away from the pack, and Microsoft’s numbers started to shrink. The numbers were not pretty:
December 2006 Market Share:
- Yahoo: 28.5%
- Microsoft: 10.5%
In March 2007, Microsoft decided to separate search from the rest of Windows Live. It was rebranded to Live Search (if you’re counting, this is Microsoft search’s 3rd incarnation).
But the numbers from 2008 speak for themselves:
March 2008 Market Share:
- Google: 59.8%
- Yahoo: 21.3%
- Microsoft: 9.4%
The Bing Era Is Different
Since Bing arrived late this May, Microsoft’s promotion and push for the product has been unprecedented: $100 million in marketing, including an array of commercials and that weird Hulu infomercial that Olivia Munn hosted.
Now we can couple that with the most radical shift in search engine market share since the dot com boom era. If we look at the comScore June 2009, we see the following:
Microsoft, formerly at about 8% share (though that number’s fluctuating since Bing is so new), will now jump up to 28% market share, giving it the biggest leverage it has ever had. Still, it will be fragmented, and just because Microsoft will have a lot more users doesn’t mean it’ll keep them.
It doesn’t mean it’ll convert them from Google, either.
This Could Be the Last Stand
Microsoft is unleashing its full arsenal of engineers, finances, resources, partnerships, and cunning in its push to bring Google back to earth. They have made a multi-billion dollar bet with Bing and the Yahoo search deal, so you can bet Microsoft will do all it must to get a positive return.
Does Bing + Yahoo search represent Microsoft’s best shot at defeating Google? Unequivocally. Are were certain that Microsoft has a strategy for stealing market share? Absolutely.
Will it work? While we still believe Google’s not going anywhere, you never know what can happen when two titans go to all-out war. It fosters innovation, opens up the door to innovative startups, and keeps big corporations on their toes. Google’s needed a legitimate competitor for years. We finally have one, even if it’s made up of many complicated parts.
Reviews: Bing, Google, Mashable
Tags: Google, microsoft, Search, Yahoo