A year after Microsoft launched Bing, the product has returned Microsoft to credibility in the search market, and appears to have prompted renewed innovation at Google.
Microsoft took the wraps off the Bing search engine on May 28, 2009, letting it finally replace the far-from-beloved Microsoft Live Search.
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Bing was seen as the firing of a shot across the bow of Microsoft's increasingly successful rival Google, which made its name -- and most of its fortune -- on the back its search engine.
So far, analysts say, Microsoft has been able to stabilize its position in the all-important search business, and appears to have pushed Google engineers to boost the capabilities of its engine.
"Bing had a good first year -- not a breakout performance, but it has succeeded in returning Microsoft to credibility in the Web search arena. That's a huge step forward," said Hadley Reynolds, an analyst at IDC.
"The competition from Bing has certainly had an effect on Google's pace of innovation," he added. "Google has made more visible changes in the past six months than in the several preceding years."
Industry watchers have maintained that the pickup in online search development over the past six months could very well change the face of search all together.
Both Microsoft and Google have integrated real-time search results into their respective engines, allowing users who query a topic to get results, including Twitter posts, that are only a few seconds old.
The Google innovations include Google Goggles, a photo-based search tool, and a new left rail on the search results page offering users query refinement options and navigation aides. Those features were part of Bing at its launch, noted Reynolds.
Meanwhile, a follow-up version of Bing added a feature-rich Bing Maps update had some industry watchers saying that Microsoft may have bested Google Maps.
Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said that while Google definitely sees Bing as a worthy contender, Microsoft's hasn't yet noticeably improved its share of the search market.
Early last month, Hitwise, an online traffic monitor, reported that despite the competition from Bing, users turned to Google for more than 71 percent of all searches in the U.S. in April, 2 percent more than the previous month. By contrast, Bing was used for 9.43 percent of searches for the month, 2 percent less than in March.
Bing had made strong gains in market share in the first months following its release, but by early this year had lost some momentum and saw its numbers start to hold steady or even slip.
Enderle noted that people are simply accustomed to using Google for searches, and that they will need a strong reason to switch engines.