Daniel Eran Dilger
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Microsoft Bing share vs Google smaller than Safari vs IE

Browsers Vs Search

Daniel Eran Dilger

Lately, it seems like all those writers who take gifts from Microsoft can’t help but talk about Microsoft’s Bing as a looming threat to Google. Can you imagine those same people characterizing Safari as a potential savager to Internet Explorer? Of course not, yet Safari’s share of the browser market is greater and growing faster than Bing’s share of search.

Yes I’m not making this up. According Net Applications, Google has 81%, Yahoo 9%, and Bing 5.3% of browser search traffic, while among web browsers themselves, Internet Explorer has a 65% share, Firefox 22% and Safari 8.4%. Search figures are reported for June, while browser figures are from May. The latest June figures for browsers are still “under review” because they appear to show a huge and therefore what is assumed to be a statistically improbably drop in IE users.

While nobody is paid to say it, Safari is bigger than Bing, when compared to their respective markets, which in both cases are dominated by a single player, either IE in browsers or Google in search, and complemented by a distantly second place rival, Firefox or Yahoo.

The only real difference is that in the browser market, Firefox and Safari have each been biting off regular new chunks of IE’s lead in a consistent fashion for years, while Yahoo and Microsoft’s share of search haven’t actualy improved since Google took over search many years ago.

Isn’t Bing new?
But wait, it’s it unfair to compare Bing’s early progress against Safari? Only if you’re fooled by Microsoft’s charade of renaming its failed products. Bing is just the new name Live Search, which was formerly Windows Live Search, which was originally MSN Search when it debuted in 1998. For the last couple years, Microsoft has been operating MSN Search and Live Search as separately branded search properties.

Safari was launched in 2003, making it over a half decade younger than Microsoft’s search business. The most recent release, Safari 4, could be equated to the “new” Bing, apart from the fact that users actually have to download Safari, whereas Bing is a website. That should tip adoption in favor of Bing, as most users face no barriers in trying Bing. In contrast, Microsoft leverages its monopoly position in Windows PCs to install Bing as the default search engine for Windows, as it has for years with Live/MSN Search. That means the market is actively rejecting Microsoft’s search for Google, just as it is actively rejecting IE for Firefox and Safari.

Why Does Microsoft Really Want Yahoo?

Why is Bing newsworthy?
And yet, all pundits can tell us is how interesting Bing is and how marginalized and unimportant Safari is. Do they not understand that Safari is promoting a new open web based on HTML 5 and other interoperability standards, in contrast with Microsoft’s dogged efforts to keep the web proprietary and tied to IE, with new efforts to force users to download Silverlight just to watch basic video content?

Is the “new photo a day” feature of Bing really that newsworthy to demand that coverage of the Bing-a-thon continue non-stop, with “hold the press” reports anytime a statistical search business number even somewhat flattering to Microsoft is uncovered?

Are the nation’s tech journalists who almost all voice the same “you can do it, underdog!” encouragement when talking up Bing really that dense to not understand how critical important is it for the world’s search and web browsers to not be held under the same monopolized control of the company that, once having achieved a dominant position in web browsers, canceled development of its Mac browser and even mothballed the progress of IE on Windows? Why are they cheering on the loser when it is really a monopolistic superpower that abuses its position of control as soon as it achieves it?

Apple in the Web Browser Wars: Netscape vs Internet Explorer

The numbers are worse than I thought.
A closer look at historical numbers reveals that the situation is even more damning to “selective journalism” than I originally expected. Net Applications reports that, when combining all of Microsoft’s various search brands together, the company has actually significantly fallen behind in search, dropping from 14% in 2004 to 12.5%, 8.7%, and then 6.3% in 2007. In the last year, Microsoft’s share dipped under 5%, only to recover slightly to its current 5.9%, according to Net Application’s methodology.

(Note that these numbers are not directly comparable to the stats reported by other companies, but are relevant to each other over time, as Net Application’s methodologies haven’t changed over time.)

Google has actually grown from a 57.2% share in 2004 to 61.9%, 71.4%, to 76.0% in 2007, and is currently at 81.2% of search traffic. Google is hardly in the fragile and vulnerable position that many of Microsoft’s paid shills would like to portray to their audiences.

In contrast, over the same time period Microsoft has fallen dramatically in web browsers. In 2004, IE had a 91.3% share, down to 87.1, 83.0, and then 78.6% annually in 2007. Today IE has a 65.5% share and is still dropping. In contrast, Safari went from 1.5% in 2004 to 2.1%, 3.5%, and 4.9% annually in 2007, to the current 8.4% today. Firefox climbed from 2004’s 3.7% to 7.9%, 11.6%, and to 15% in 2007, up to today’s 22.5%.

The Web Browser Renaissance: Firefox and Safari

So very clearly, while Safari and Firefox are making great strides in the browser wars, the much chatted about Bing is irrelevant and making no real progress in search, despite Microsoft’s pouring of $80 to $100 million into marketing its search property. Even the morose Yahoo (who?), which fell from 18.5% of the search business in 2004 to today’s 9.2% share is still way ahead of Microsoft and has fallen less precipitously, having lost only half of its 2004 share as opposed to Microsoft’s loss of almost 60% of its search business from a half decade ago.

The next time you read about how fascinating Microsoft’s MSN/Live/Bing service is and how spectacularly it is doing, make a note that you’re probably reading an advertisement rather than legitimate news, and ask the source how much they’re getting paid to prattle it.

The graphic below (click to enlarge) shows Net Application’s historical figures for the top three web search and web browser vendors (Microsoft’s search properties are combined together). The left end of the chart shows an annual scale, the right end shows monthly scale. Google is consistently increasing its share of web search despite Microsoft’s bundling of search with Windows, while IE is dramatically losing share despite its monopoly-tying.

Browsers Vs Search-1

  • WebManWalking

    Once again, you put everything into perspective. Thank you.

  • bartfat

    well, the only thing i use bing for is the cashback, where they pay up to 20% of the cost of buying whatever retailer they support and you go to. They do get your email, but honestly, this is why so many people were abusing the Live Search cashback on eBay to buy Macbooks with (at the time) 30% cashback. To think that cashback would work to inflate their search market standing was ludicrous, but thank you Microsoft for the free $250 from the cashback! hmm, i wonder why Macs got a sudden boost in market share last year…

    This must be why Microsoft didn’t want to buy Yahoo, it would bleed even more money than their scheme of cashback would lol. Well, the only problem I see with this is that Microsoft TRULY is in the underdog position here, since Google has the search market practically cornered. So since Yahoo is an also-ran that is shown to not compete effectively, they have to root for someone other than Google. And Microsoft is the only viable alternative besides Yahoo in the search market, so there isn’t really any other option.

    But then again, Google hasn’t really shown any motive to destroy competition so far, besides gobbling up lots of advertising networks and buying financial sinkholes like Youtube. So I’d say it’s completely useless to even try to ponder what search engine is going to win out; I just hope none of them do… keeps them honest. Even if Microsoft manages to dominate search (unlikely, as they never did), they still can’t turn back the clock on web standards compliance, as people will complain and start using Google again. So there we go, Microsoft is caught in a catch-22, where they’re doomed to lose billions on search or doomed to lose customers to Google whenever they try to pull anything funny (ie become a non standards compliant website).

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  • http://www.marketingtactics.com davebarnes

    The “daily photo” is a feature of Bing that I find very annoying. I surf to Bing to search and then I find myself exploring the photo and its links. More time wasted.
    I prefer the clean empty Google page.
    The photo on Bing as reminds me why I don’t use Yahoo.

  • funkygrooves

    While I like your writing, and generally agree with your sentiment, you’ve made two major flaws in this argument:

    1) The graph goes through May 2009, Bing was announced at the end of May and launched in June

    [Actually the web search graph goes through June 09, using the same numbers stated in the article; it is labeled through May 09 in error because I labeled web browser graph through may, as no june numbers are yet available. There is no “missing growth” that should have appeared in the graph because Bing hasn’t done anything to really gain on Google. ]

    2) It IS unfair to compare Bing with Safari, because whether or not its an existing Microsoft property, it has received a new (very expensive) marketing campaign, which DOES have an effect on user growth.

    Beyond that, it even looks like google is down in May 09, and Microsoft is up.

    [You can keep telling yourself that, but it is clearly not a rational position supported by facts. Bing is irrelevant and only in the news because Microsoft is paying people to talk about it. – Dan ]

  • beanie

    Safari versus IE: Safari on Windows combined is 0.45% share. Safari browser marketshare must be related to Mac marketshare. So far not many Windows users have chosen to use Safari. Chrome browser has about 1.6% share.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    Good article. One nitpick:

    “That means the market is actively rejecting Microsoft’s search for Google, just as it is actively rejecting IE for Firefox and Safari.”

    Well, Bing is the default search engine in IE, right? So when users switch from IE to Firefox or Safari – or from Windows to the Mac – they’re ditching Bing by association too. The thing that’s being “actively rejected” is IE. Bing just happens to be attached to that.

  • benlewis

    @daGUY. I think he’s saying for those who keep IE and switch default search to GOOG.
    @DED. OK, so I have a philosophical dilemma. Should I use the Bing click-through to siphon some free money from M$, or am I letting them pay me to pump up their search stats?

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  • bartfat


    the way i see it, is that if they’re offering free money for you to use their service and you think it’s a good benefit, sure, use it. and about the search stats, actually most of the searches don’t start out shopping-related, so the cashback won’t even apply there, so you’re not inflating their search figures much by simply taking advantage of their cashback :)

  • http://www.freeiphone4me.co.uk freeiphone

    The misconception that Bing is a threat to google seems to me to stem from the fact that microsoft have spent millions on advertising. Every other internet site or blog has something nice to say about bing, and it is because of this that people are taking look, and getting the idea in their heads that google has some real competition. But if you think about this, google has not even responded with its own advertising campaign – because it doesn’t need to, and yet it is still the preferred search engine. I won’t be changing to bing – why should I? It doesn’t affer any advantage over what I know and trust.

  • http://crankyoldnutcase.blogspot.com/ The Mad Hatter

    Daniel, do you trust Net Applications? I don’t. It appears that Microsoft pays them to jiggle the numbers (and no, I can’t prove this, however if you compare their numbers with everyone else’s they don’t come close).

    In which case Bing’s market share may be worse than stated.

    I’ve done a lot of testing, Google against Bing, and in my opinion you get far better results from Google. And the Google results appear to be unbiased, if you search certain sensitive terms such as ODF on Bing, you get some really strange results.

  • enzos

    A tarted up copy of Google: search, maps, news.. nary an innovation nor improvement to be seen. What a wast of money is Bing. What a waste of space is Microsoft.

  • http://www.geoffrobinson.net geoffrobinson

    I think publicly traded companies have a big flaw. You have to keep growing revenue to satisfy shareholders.

    Now, I don’t think being publicly traded is all bad. But in cases like Microsoft, where it is fully mature and has little room for natural growth but only decline in market share, they just waste a lot of time and money trying to create new revenue streams.

    Economically speaking, they would be better off giving it to the shareholders.

  • http://spacecynics.wordpress.com Thomas

    Looks to me that the only one hurting from Bing’s existence is Yahoo. Google’s line hasn’t moved.

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