Bing Use May Be Leveling Out


Four months following Bing’s entry into the search engine arena, the early appeal of the market’s newest combatant may be wearing off, with the gains seen by Microsoft’s self-described “decision engine” in its first days now slowing, according to Web tracking firm comScore.

Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) market share of total U.S. searches grew by only 0.1 percent in September, giving it a total of 9.4 percent compared to 9.3 percent in August, according to figures expected to be released later today from comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR).

In August, Bing’s search share had jumped by a small but significant half a percentage point in comScore’s rankings. A slowing of Bing’s growth could be an indication that users are reverting to their old search habits. That could mean good news for industry leader Google, but dimmer prospects for Bing down the road.

Meanwhile, Yahoo’s (NASDAQ: YHOO) search engine lost slightly more than half a percent of market share, ending September with 18.8 percent, down from 19.3 percent in August.

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), meanwhile, picked up 0.3 percent share for the month, growing to 64.9 percent, up from 64.6 percent in September.

The apparent slowing in Bing’s numbers growth appears to be supported by another tracking firm’s recent measurements as well. Although Web analytics firms measure searches in different ways, StatCounter’s September figures for U.S. searches had Bing losing more than a percentage point for the month, falling to 8.51 percent from 9.64 percent in August.

By StatCounter’s numbers, that was also Bing’s first decline since it debuted in June.

Microsoft is widely seen as having caught on too late to the importance of Internet searches, much as it was late to embrace the Internet itself in the early 90s. Since then, Microsoft has been struggling, with mixed results, to make a dent in Google’s hegemony with search users.

Finally, after a failed bid to buy Yahoo, the company struck a licensing deal whereby, once it goes into effect, Microsoft’s Bing will provide search capabilities to Yahoo sites in exchange for a percentage of Yahoo’s search ad revenues. The agreement is under review by government regulators including the U.S. Department of Justice.

Even without the deal in place, Bing may be poised to become the second-place player — with Yahoo showing continuing declines in its share of the market. And by comScore’s count, if the Yahoo and Microsoft deal were in place today, Bing’s combined search share would be 28.2 percent of all U.S. searches.

That’s still less than half of Google’s market share, but may provide more serious competition for Google in the long run.

Additionally, Microsoft has the deep pockets needed to hang on through what is expected to be a long battle to make Bing a long-term competitor. For instance, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said that he is willing to spend as much as 5 to 10 percent of his company’s operating income to make Bing succeed.

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