‘Bing!’ The Sound of Failure

Posted on Aug 13 2013 - 12:18am by Kate Simmons


Microsoft has an enviable track record when it comes to software, although detractors might think that this record came to an end a long time ago. The company has often found themselves playing catch-up when it comes to other areas of their operations, which often seem hastily thrown together when a rival launches a product that turns out to be exceptionally popular.

In the animated sitcom Family Guy, the (fictional) wealthy industrialist Carter Pewterschmidt teases Microsoft’s Bill Gates by asking him to help program his Zune, before adding, “Oh wait, I have an iPod like the rest of the world.” For those who don’t remember (which is probably most people), Zune was the Microsoft answer to the iPod; it sold poorly and was discontinued in 2011.

The animated Bill Gates then throws a childish temper tantrum, and unsurprisingly, the real Mr Gates opted to not voice his own character. Microsoft is currently waging a battle against the iPhone by partnering with Nokia in order to release the “Windows Phone.” The success of this venture remains to be seen, but Microsoft is presumably cautious of a previous attempt to steal a throne, when they thought that they could stop the world from wanting to Google. After all, why Google something when you can Bing it?

What’s a Bing?

Microsoft amalgamated their search engines (MSN Search, Live Search, Windows Live Search) and even signed a 10-year contract with Yahoo, meaning that Yahoo would become part of the Microsoft family for this period. The shiny new Microsoft backed search engine known as Bing was launched with much fanfare in June 2009 to directly counter the dominance of Google. Has it succeeded? Consider this- how many times have you “Binged” something since 2009?

Changing the Language

Some online reports suggest that Microsoft in fact expected that Bing would succeed to the point where it would become a common use verb- people would either Google or Bing something (and ideally, just Bing it) when it comes to online searching. They’ve apparently resigned themselves to the fact that this simply won’t happen.

The Numbers Game

While Bing is aesthetically pleasing in a way that Google simply isn’t (despite the multitude of Google Doodles that pop up each week), it failed to take off as expected, and at its peak, only accounted for 17% of Internet searches (as compared to 67% for Google. Bing reportedly needs to double its usage before it can become a profitable division of Microsoft, and the search engine has lost $2.5 billion per year since its launch.

Why Don’t People Bing?

It’s possible that the Internet using public have become too engrained in Google. They weren’t consciously “searching” for something online- they were Googlingit, and Google has become irreparably intertwined with the act of searching online. No matter where a rival comes from, whether Microsoft or a tiny start-up, it’s more or less impossible to break through that kind of mentality.

Corporate Lack of Bing

Of course, most online enterprises are highly Google-centric. Businesses modify their online efforts to climb up those coveted Google rankings, and search engine optimization tips are likewise fitted to Google. Bing simply doesn’t have the market share to make it worth a businesses while, and it probably never will.

The name Bing was chosen after much wrangling and focus group discussion, as it’s supposedly indicative of the sound of discovery- the sound of having an idea (perhaps in a cartoon). In the real world, Bing is more likely to be the sound of a Microsoft executives’ head hitting his or her desk in despair. Google is no doubt keeping a close eye on the underdog (which is a division of one of the best known companies on earth), but they’re still able to sleep deeply each night, dreaming up new Google Doodles.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Oran Viriyincy

About the Author

Kate Simmons is a freelance tech and business writer & blogger. In her writing, she currently focuses on case studies related to digital media companies and search engine optimization tips.