Ten years ago, the shy and retiring Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, whispered the word “BINGGGG!” at a technology conference to introduce his revamped service.
Normally this is a story of promising technology which was squashed by a big tech monopoly but Bing was treated with much mirth by the tech press from the start. Instead it has become the story of technology that quietly got on with it and eventually made good.
Microsoft now generates about $7.5 billion in annual revenue from web search advertising. While that is nothing compared to Google’s $120 billion in ad sales over the last year. But it’s more revenue brought in by either Microsoft’s LinkedIn professional network or the company’s line of Surface computers and other hardware.
Bloomberg said that Bing is emblematic of what Microsoft has become under the more pragmatic Satya Nadella. Microsoft outsourced chunks of its advertising business and stuck Bing in spots that it controlled or that Google couldn’t reach.
Microsoft made Bing front and centre for people using search boxes on Windows computers and Office software, practically guaranteeing that a healthy share of PC owners would wittingly or unwittingly use it.
Research firm comScore estimates Microsoft accounts for a little under one-quarter of US web searches conducted on desktop computers.
Microsoft struck a deal to handle searches and ads tied to searches on Yahoo, AOL and other Verizon Communications internet properties. Nothing sexy, but they have a lot of traffic and people searching for running shoes and local dentists, Bloomberg points out.
Bing taught Microsoft how to run big data collecting and crunching technologies.
Google is not making too much of a noise about its rival. If anything a stronger Bing, which does not seriously harm Google’s main business saves it from being an obvious monopolist in web search.
Ballmer might have wanted Bing to be a counter strike to Google and that never happened – but after ten years tech writers are less likely to make jokes at its expense.