High hopes resting on Bing

In a business all about market share, Microsoft’s deal with Yahoo has given it a bigger boost than all the innovation built into its rebranded Bing search engine ever could.

Yahoo’s share of searches is more than twice that of Microsoft – 17.2 per cent in June in the US, according to comScore, the research group, compared with 7 per cent for Microsoft.

Bing, replacing the Live Search brand, was launched at the end of May backed by an $80m marketing campaign. The new name and service were well received by critics.

“Bing is a big advancement for Microsoft’s search efforts,” wrote Greg Sterling on the Search Engine Land blog. “The substantial gap that existed between Google and Live Search is largely gone with Bing.”

Microsoft described Bing as a “decision engine” that would help consumers make decisions in key “verticals”, such as shopping, travel and health.

It introduced better categorisation and features such as expert reviews and user opinions on shopping searches and ratings on hotels with travel searches.

But in spite of its attractive new interface and name, a positive reception and big marketing push, Bing added just 0.4 per cent market share for Microsoft in June, taking this entirely from Yahoo. Google held steady on 63 per cent. As the critics had warned, Bing was no Google killer.

But the service did represent a concerted effort in search by Microsoft, an area where Yahoo had lost focus.

Yahoo’s main initiative was to open up its search technology for others to innovate with its BOSS (Build your Own Search Service) program.

Under the new deal, Yahoo’s search will say “powered by Bing”. Yahoo aims to increase revenues with the handover.

As Carol Bartz, chief executive, put it in a blog post: “We’ll be able to focus on the things we do best – being the centre of people’s lives online with properties like our homepage, mail, finance, news, sports, entertainment, mobile etc.”

But analysts are not convinced that a combined entity, with close to 30 per cent of the US search market, will improve matters.

“The bigger issue remains the consistent decline of market share for both Yahoo and Microsoft, compared with the upward creep of Google’s share,” said Todd Greenwald, analyst at Signal Hill. “Unless Bing.com causes a dramatic reversal (which we don’t expect), we don’t see what will prevent the combined market share to continue to slide downward.”

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