Microsoft Bing share vs Google smaller than Safari vs IE
July 15th, 2009
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 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?
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%.
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.