NEW YORK: Edwin Perello discovered that Bing, the Microsoft search engine, could find addresses in his rural Indiana town when Google could not.
Laura Michelson, an administrative assistant in San Francisco, was lured by Bing’s flight fare tracker. Paul Callan, a photography buff in Chicago, fell for Bing’s vivid background images.
Like most Americans, they still use Google as their main search tool. But more often, they find themselves navigating to Microsoft’s year-old Bing for certain tasks, and sometimes they stay a while.
“I was a Google user before, but the more I used Bing the more I liked it,” Mr Callan said. “It’s more like muscle memory takes me to Google.”
Bing still handles a small slice of Web searches in the United States, 12.7% in June, compared with Google’s 62.6%, as measured by comScore, the Web analytics firm. But Bing’s share has been growing, as has Yahoo’s , while Google’s has been shrinking.
And while no one argues that Google’s dominance is in immediate jeopardy, Google is watching Microsoft closely, mimicking some of Bing’s innovations — like its travel search engine, its ability to tie more tools to social networking sites and its image search — or buying start-ups to help it do so in future.
Google has even taken on some of Bing’s distinctive look, like giving people the option of a Bing-like colourful background, and the placement of navigation tools on the left-hand side of the page. The result is a renaissance in search, resulting in more sophisticated tools for consumers who want richer answers to complex questions than the standard litany of blue links.
The competition is a remarkable and surprising twist: Microsoft, knocked around for so long as a bumbling laggard, has given the innovative upstart Google a kick in the pants. As the search engines introduce feature after competing feature, some analysts say they have set off an arms race, with the companies poised to spend whatever it takes to win the second phase of Web search.
“There is a cold war going on,” said Sandeep Aggarwal, senior Internet and software analyst at Caris & Company, who watches both companies. “Clearly, you can see how Bing’s competition is forcing Google to try and catch up in some places.”