Microsoft Faces Google In "Best Search Engine" Challenge
September 6, 2012

Microsoft Faces Google In Best Search Engine Challenge

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

In what is being billed as a 21st century “Pepsi Challenge” — harking back to the 1970s challenge started by also ran Pepsi Cola against leading brand Coca Cola in the first of so-called “blind taste tests” — Microsoft has challenged Google over who has the best search engine.

And while this is no doubt Microsoft´s attempt to break out from being a distant also ran, the Redmond, California-based software giant might want to be reminded that Pepsi is still second place worldwide to Coke! Moreover, the two soft drink companies have actually seen market share slides as people look to alternative beverages including energy drinks, sports drinks, juices and in America at least iced tea.

However Microsoft is looking to “Bing it On,” as the side-by-side search result marketing campaign launched on Thursday. Microsoft is reportedly confident that consumers will like what they see in Bing, and make the switch. Microsoft reported that in its own blind studies people prefer Bing two-to-one over Google.

“When we do a blind comparison test on the results of the core quality between Bing and Google, studies done by a third party have basically been showing that people are preferring Bing's results over Google's nearly two-to-one,” Mike Nichols, corporate vice president and chief marketing officer for Bing, told Fortune magazine.

In June Microsoft actually performed “man on the street” tests in San Francisco, where the software giant bet people that they would prefer Bing to Google. The side-by-side tests were stripped of any formatting so as not to reveal which search engine was actually being used. The challenge offered a free Xbox 360 video game console if the person chose Google.

But if Bing won instead, the person had to give up a personal item and exclaim their love for Bing on camera. Reportedly Microsoft accumulated a pile of items that included shoes, cameras, and even a yoga mat. The commercials will debut during Thursday´s MTV Video Awards, and challenge viewers to take their own test online to see which they prefer.

As CNN/Money reported, the bar is certainly high for Microsoft as this challenge isn´t merely against just another search rival, it is against “Google,” as in a word that has become synonymous with search.

In fact, since dethroning Yahoo — which was really always more of a web directory than search engine anyway — Google has faced competition but none have come close to replicating its success in search. Prior to Google there were also a slew of search engines including Infoseek, HotBot, Excite, WebCrawler,, AOL Search, Lycos, AltaVista and Dogpile.

So what became of those who looked to dominate search? Yahoo has made headlines of late for its revolving door of executives as the company goes through restructuring; Lycos has become a portal for games, news and entertainment; remains a portal and search powered ironically by Yahoo! Search; Infoseek redirects to; AOL Search and Netscape are a portal; Excite is crawling along as a search engine but it looks far from exciting; HotBot is owned by Lycos; and WebCrawler is a search powered by Google and Yahoo.

Will Bing join the ranks of the also rans? Time could be on its side. While the online service division of Microsoft, which Bing is a major part, has lost $10.8 billion since the launch of Bing five years ago it is actually gaining — albeit slowly.

Google maintains 66.8 percent of the market, which is up 1.8 percent since the 65 percent it had when Bing launched; but Bing now controls 15.6 percent of the search market, up from 8.4 percent when it made its debut.

Finally, while Microsoft reportedly knows it can´t dethrone Google in the near future the company has had success coming from nowhere. Prior to the launch of Internet Explorer the company had zero market share in browsers; meanwhile Windows Phone 8 is looking to displace the BlackBerry for third place in the mobile phone space; and prior to the launch of the aforementioned Xbox brand, Microsoft had no market share in video game consoles. Today that system is the top seller.

Microsoft clearly is a company that isn´t afraid of a challenge. The question is whether Google should be worried.