Bill Gates Believes Bing is a Better Product than Google, But is It?
There is no writing a headline for this news story that wouldn’t result in most readers thinking “duh.” Telling the world that Bill Gates believes Microsoft’s search engine Bing is a better product than rival Google, is like telling the world Steve Jobs felt the iPhone is a better product than a Samsung Galaxy S III. Gates, the richest man in America, founded Microsoft along with Paul Allen and served as the executive chairman of a company that went on to become the largest personal computer software company in the world.
Gates no longer serves as the executive chairman for Microsoft, though he does retain a position as a non-executive chairman, but that hasn’t stopped him from promoting the company’s Bing search engine. Although he now devotes his full attention to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that didn’t stop him from boasting about Bing’s superiority in a recent “Ask Me Anything” conversation on Reddit.
During the course of the online conversation, a Reddit user asked Gates “Do you guys really use Bing? I mean seriously…” The question from the user prompted the following response from Gates:
“Seriously Bing is the better product at this point. Try the challenge. I am biased but the work to make Bing better has been amazing.”
First and foremost, at least Gates was honest with the world in admitting that he was biased toward the Microsoft search engine. It should come as no surprise that he would back Bing over Google, but with that said he didn’t really answer the question from the Reddit user. What he did do however was call attention to Bing’s efforts to take a chunk of the search market from Google.
The challenge Gates referred to in his remark is the “Bing it On” challenge. Users are invited to conduct a search on Bing.com that offers a side-by-side comparison of results from Bing and Google. The company launched the challenge last September in an effort to woo web surfers from Google to Bing.
In the immediate aftermath, Microsoft claimed that 33% of users who took the “Bing it On” challenge planned to use the search engine more often in the future. But the question remains, is Bing really a better product? And do web surfers believe that?
Judging by the data that was collected during 2012, it appears that the answer to the question of which search engine is better will remain subjective. Bing was launched a little more than three years ago, and while it has made consistent gains in the market against Google’s dominance it has not been enough for the search engine to overtake Google.
The data supports this stance as well. Since its inception Bing has made respectable gains against Google’s dominance. Recent data from comScore shows that Bing continued to grow throughout 2012. The search engine’s market share increased from 15.1% in December 2011 to 16.3% in December 2012. Moreover, Bing posted steady month-to-month increases during 2012 with its share increasing from 16.2% in November to 16.3% in December (for example).
There is bad news to go along with that good news for Bing though. First and foremost, Google still controls the lion’s share of the search market and that trend continued to increase in 2012. Google’s market share increased from 65.9 % in December 2011 to 66.7% in December 2012. Perhaps the most challenging aspect for Bing is its alliance with Yahoo! through the Yahoo! Bing Network.
The network was formed shortly after Bing was founded in 2009, but together their effort has failed to yield significant market share growth and remains stagnant since its 2009 inception. The partnership has benefited Bing as the company posts steady gains, but Yahoo! continues to lose market share (14.5% in December 2011 compared to 12.2% in December 2012). While the losses by Yahoo! don’t directly concern Bing, it does affect their partnership.
Together the two search engines control roughly 29% of the search engine market but if Bing’s gains continue to come at the expense of Yahoo! and not Google, the overall goal of challenging Google becomes muddled. All these numbers represent the landscape of searches in the United States. The situation across the world is not exactly a bright spot for Bing and Microsoft.
Recent data about worldwide searches, again coming from comScore, show that Google remains the dominant search site in the world. Google maintained a monstrous lead in the total number of searches conducted through its service in 2012, surpassing the competition by over 100 billion searches and commanding 65.2% of the market. The only change in the big five was Microsoft’s slip from third to fourth place, surpassed by Yandex.
The report refers to Microsoft rather than Bing alone because the data represents searches on all sites run by Microsoft, such as Microsoft.com. Nevertheless, bad news for Microsoft is bad news for Bing. Yandex erased a 1% deficit against Microsoft between July 2012 and the end of the year to surge past Microsoft sites to gain a 4.844% share of the market compared to Microsoft’s 4.477%.
Bill Gates may be correct in believing that Bing offers the superior product to Google, or he may be towing the company line. The data shows however that if Bing is the superior product, web surfers have either yet to realize that or they have tried Bing and beg to differ.