Is Google for grannies? Where Bing could be king

Apr 21, 2010, 2:53 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

Google dominates the online search market. No question. But there is one place where Microsoft’s Bing is closer to becoming king.

Bing 001I asked 100 students on the University of Washington campus if they use Google or Bing when they need to look something up online.

“Do you Google it or Bing it?”

Of the random sample, 39 use Bing; the rest said Google.

That number for Bing – 39 percent – is higher than the general population. The latest comScore ratings show Bing has almost 12 percent of the market, Yahoo has about 17 percent, leaving Google with the much larger 65 percent. My informal survey results are in line with Microsoft’s demographic research that finds younger people, in the 18-24 age range, are attracted to Bing.

“We’ve grown since launch about 35 percent, about 10 points higher than our growth overall,” says Stefan Weitz, director of search at Microsoft. “We’re definitely seeing an upward trend in college students using Bing.”

That makes sense, Weitz says, because the students of today have grown up with the Xbox and “devices that feel more alive.” For them, the idea of typing a few words in a box to search for information is “a little bit old.”

The future of search is having a computer or mobile phone know exactly what you mean when you query something. That’s something Bing is working on.

Stefan Weitz 2009 01He says imagine if you walked into a restaurant and just yelled out the phrase “Gossip Girl.” After people looked at you like you’re crazy, they’d begin to ask you a lot of questions – do you want to know when it’s on, do you want to know who’s in it?

“There’s a natural human tendency to break through ambiguity by asking a bunch of questions,” says Weitz. “We have hundreds of thousands of machines that are running all the time, analyzing all this information, and we’ll get to a point where computers will be able to understand intent.”

More people would probably be happy if search engines would come up with the answers they want. Four out of 10 people go into a search expecting they’ll be disappointed and won’t get the information they’re looking for.

“What other product do you use every single day where you expect to be dissatisfied? If your car only started six out of 10 times, you’d be very unhappy,” Weitz says.

While there is still a lot of work to do with improving search engines’ capabilities, both Microsoft and Google tell me they’re not focused on the competition.

If anything, Microsoft might be more interested in their search and advertising partnership with Yahoo. Yahoo Inc. announced its first-quarter results after the markets closed yesterday. Yahoo profits tripled. Net income rose to $310 million, up from $118 million in the same period last year. Net revenue came in at $1.13 billion. Microsoft earnings will be posted tomorrow (4/22). Google reported last week it had 23 percent growth for the first quarter, with $6.77 billion in revenue.

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Is Google for grannies? Where Bing could be king