Can Microsoft outsmart Google in search?

bing wants to make it easier for you scope out a new neighborhood zoom in
In March, Bing claimed one in five of US-based desktop searches, according to comScore. The numbers vary depending on the source; StatCounter reports only 12 percent for Bing’s desktop market share. What’s consistent, however, is the trend. Bing is becoming more relevant.

What’s more, the Bing algorithm powers Yahoo!, which has significantly increased its desktop market share. Together, they rack up over one in three US desktop searches by comScore’s measurement. That’s a significant chunk of search. Is Google starting to falter?

Over the past year, Bing’s US deskop search share grew by over 10 percent

You’d expect the growth to originate from a change in browser market share. Purchases of desktop devices are stagnating in favor of tablets and other mobile devices. You could suspect that less tech savvy and enterprise users, who stick with a desktop computer and Internet Explorer as their default browser, are causing a shift towards Bing. The data, however, reveals that Google Chrome’s market share has been increasing, while the overall trend for Bing-powered Internet Explorer is down.

StatCounter Global Search Engine Stats

Interestingly, Internet Explorer briefly surpassed Chrome in July and December 2014, which was around the time of Back to School and Christmas shopping seasons. My guess is that users switching from one machine to another still use Internet Explorer to download a new default browser.

If not from a change in browser market share, where does Bing’s growth originate? Desktop search statistics incorporate any search operation initiated from a desktop environment, including not only browser and website based searches, but also searches from within a desktop application or from the desktop itself. If you look at how the market share of operating systems has developed over the past year, you’ll spot a likely candidate. Windows 8.1 has risen from around six percent market share in March 2014 to 17 percent in March 2015.


Windows 8.1 integrates Bing Smart Search in the search charm, offering search results directly on the desktop. Moreover, Microsoft released a cheaper Windows edition called Windows 8.1 with Bing, which prevents the PC manufacturer, but not the end user, from changing the default Internet Explorer search engine. In other words, Bing is front and center in Windows 8.1.

Windows 8.1’s desktop web search isn’t that popular

Windows 8.1, however, doesn’t appear to be the sole driver of Bing’s growth. Internationally, Windows 8.1 adoption equals U.S. numbers, yet Google continues to dominate the global market with a share of around 88 percent, despite being banned in China. Meanwhile, the global market share of the Bing search algorithm, including Yahoo! search, has only grown from around 7.6 to 8.3 percent. More importantly, Bing’s accelerated growth started in early 2013, prior to the release of Windows 8.1.

One last suspect is Bing Rewards. Microsoft’s loyalty program awards points for using the Bing search engine, trying new Bing features, and testing selected Microsoft products and services. Bing Rewards tracking is available in the U.S.only, which would match with the pronounced growth in the U.S. Bing Rewards was introduced in 2010 and didn’t contribute much to Bing’s market share at first, but continued promotions may have gained traction eventually.


Bing’s increasing popularity in the U.S. could also be due to successful marketing. Since 2013, Bing Predicts has accurately predicted the majority of Oscar winners. Being a search engine, Bing has first hand information on fashion, food, technology, and travel trends, but it also tries its hand at predicting sports results. Last year, Cortana correctly predicted the World Cup finals. Since October last year, Bing has been predicting elections.

Bing is hidden under the hood of other search tools

As mentioned above, Bing’s search algorithm powers Yahoo! search, which is the default search engine in Firefox. Likewise, Amazon’s Silk browser, found on the Kindle Fire, is using Bing as its default search engine. In 2013, Apple made Bing the default search engine for its digital assistant Siri. A year later, Apple also integrated Bing into its Spotlight desktop search. Meanwhile, Google remains the default search engine for Safari and powers searches in Chrome, two of the world’s most popular browsers.

Bing’s influence is slowly expanding, but according to Microsoft’s director of search Stefan Weitz, Bing is not expecting to compete with Google in the “pure search” market. Microsoft is focusing on machine learning, natural language search, and weaving search technology into the things people already do.

Cortana could make Bing even better

Seitz is clearly pointing to Cortana. Microsoft’s Bing-powered digital assistant combines the popular Halo video game character Cortana with advanced search features. Microsoft is somewhat late to the game, but it may be ahead when it comes to consequently implementing the new technology. After making its debut on Windows Phone 8.1, Cortana is becoming a key feature of Windows 10.


In Windows 10, search moves to a prominent location in the Windows Taskbar. You can type in keywords or command your digital assistant with your voice, similar to Siri and Google Now. With Cortana, Microsoft is pushing a paradigm shift in how we search; away from the browser and right onto the platform. Who is going to open Google if they can simply say “Hey Cortana?” To expand its reach, Cortana will eventually be available on iOS and Android.

In an interview with Time, Bing’s general manager Ryan Gavin was quoted saying “We fundamentally believe that as search evolves, it will move well beyond the point where I launch a browser and type a query into a search box.” If Microsoft makes moving beyond the search box easier, it could enjoy even greater adoption of Bing in the future.

Google risks its market share in Europe

While Bing is fixing its reputation, winning sympathies, and building a following, Google is getting into hot water. Following its refusal to comply with the “right to be forgotten,” considered a human right by the European court, Google has become the subject of a four-year-long antitrust investigation by the European Commission. Recently, Google was accused of abusing its monopoly and breaching antitrust rules in regards to presenting its own services.

Besides bad press, the consequence could be hefty fines and further restrictions placed on the search engine. Seeing that its algorithm currently processes around 91 percent of desktop searches in Europe, Google has a lot to lose.

EU Browser BallotIn 2010, Microsoft was facing similar accusations. Distributing Windows with Internet Explorer pre-installed was seen as an abuse of market dominance. Microsoft was forced to offer Windows users a choice of browsers. The decision led to a rapid decline in Internet Explorer’s European market share. Earlier this year, the browser choice ballot expired and its reactivation has not been considered.

With Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, pre-installed on Windows 10, and Cortana winning sympathies, Bing could rapidly gain popularity, not only in the United States, but also in Europe and the rest of the world. Not least because 1.5 billion current Windows users globally will be invited to upgrade to Windows 10 this summer. For free. Hey, Cortana — are you plotting global domination?

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.


Microsoft to separate Cortana from search with the next version of Windows 10

Changes are on the way for two key features in Windows 10. A separation of Windows 10 search and Cortana will allow Microsoft to more often innovate on each of the features independently.

Turn to these apps to help you in your next hunt for a job

Looking for a job can be a stressful experience, but these days, a simple mobile app can help you to find and apply for jobs all over the country -- here are some of the best job search apps for iOS and Android.
Home Theater

New TV? Here's where to go to watch the best 4K content available

Searching for content for your new 4K UHD TV? Look no further. We have every major source of the best 4K content, along with the cost, hardware requirements, and features that make each service worth a look.

Still miss Windows 7? Here's how to make Windows 10 look more like it

There's no simple way of switching on a Windows 7 mode in Windows 10. Instead, you can install third-party software, manually tweak settings, and edit the registry. We provide instructions for using these tweaks and tools.

Chromebook 13 vs. Google Pixelbook: Acer model takes on the king

Acer's Chromebook 13 is throwing tons of speed at the Chrome OS market, to go with a midrange build and traditional clamshell design. Is that enough to challenge the Google Pixelbook?

Data breach compromises 773 million records, 21 million passwords

A security researcher was alerted to a collection of breached data that included more than 773 million compromised records. After digging deeper, the breach was revealed to contain more than 21 million passwords.

Dell teases new XPS laptop with Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake for summer 2019

After teasing a mysterious Ice Lake-powered XPS laptop during Intel's keynote, Dell confirmed that it will announce a new 10th-generation Ice Lake-powered XPS laptop this year. The new XPS notebook could debut as early as summer.

Faster new PCIe 5.0 standard leapfrogs the best feature of AMD’s Ryzen 3

PCIe 5.0 will bring even faster data transfers, but it may only be found on HPCs and servers initially. The standard is four times faster than your current PC at transferring data, and new devices could appear later this year.

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for January 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.

Keep your laptop battery in tip-top condition with these handy tips

Learn how to care for your laptop's battery, how it works, and what you can do to make sure yours last for years and retains its charge. Check out our handy guide for valuable tips, no matter what type of laptop you have.

Protect your expensive new laptop with the best Macbook cases

If you recently picked up a new MacBook, you’ll want something to protect its gorgeous exterior. Here, we've gathered the best MacBook cases and covers, whether you're looking for style or protection.

Watch out for these top-10 mistakes people make when buying a laptop

Buying a new laptop is exciting, but you need to watch your footing. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid and we're here to help. Check out these top-10 laptop buying mistakes and how to avoid them.

Don't spend a fortune on a PC. These are the best laptops under $300

Buying a laptop needn't mean spending a fortune. If you're just looking to browse the internet, answer emails, and watch Netflix, you can pick up a great laptop at a great price. These are the best laptops under $300.

Dell XPS 13 vs. Asus Zenbook 13: In battle of champions, who will be the victor?

The ZenBook 13 UX333 continues Asus's tradition of offering great budget-oriented 13-inch laptop offerings. Does this affordable machine offer enough value to compete with the excellent Dell XPS 13?