- Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, debuted in 2009 as a rebranded version of MSN Live Search.
- At its peak, Bing “powered” searches realized almost 27% market share in the U.S.
- Over the past decade, the erosion of Bing’s market share has made the search engine largely irrelevant.
- Microsoft clings to roughly 5% market share by concealing Bing inside core Windows search functionality.
- Although Bing indexes white supremacist websites and does little to curb child exploitation, the search engine routinely deindexes legitimate critics of Microsoft products.
A Brief History of Bing
Microsoft’s entrance into web search transpired at the dawn of the public Internet. Along with Yahoo!, Alta Vista, Infoseek, Excite, and many others, Microsoft provided the tools for everyday users to navigate the nascent World Wide Web. At this time, Google didn’t even exist.
These were exciting days. I was working in Mountain View at the time, and I always drove by this “new” company called “Google” on the way to work at Intuit. I thought their logo was goofy and assumed they made educational software for children. I still think their logo is goofy, and their search engine used to be better, but it’s still the best option.
Life before Google was no hardship. Someday we will be able to teleport, but I don’t sit around helplessly lamenting the reality that I can’t transport myself across the globe in a few moments. Similarly, we lived everyday lives in the 90s without much suffering. (I actually prefer life before social media and dating apps.)
Instead of ordering DoorDash, we ordered pizza, Chinese food, or whatever over the phone. Instead of dating horrible people we meet online, we found our matches in the real world, with many pre-social media relationships still lasting today. In many ways, these methods were superior.
At this time, the Web was a simple network. Although there were a few sophisticated web apps, some developed by yours truly, the Internet was still a barren place. Search engines were low-hanging fruit. Anyone could create a functional search engine, but not a great one. Microsoft, one of the largest corporations on the planet, couldn’t make anything better than the startups.
Microsoft launched MSN Search in 1998, relying on third-party companies for the bulk of its functionality. The mighty Microsoft was unable to build a search engine in-house at this time. AltaVista and Inktomi were the brains behind MSN Search. Eventually, Microsoft brought it in-house and rebranded it as Bing in the wake of its rapidly declining market share.
I constantly experienced ASP errors on Microsoft’s search portal, particularly in the late 90s. If you weren’t online at the time and didn’t witness this mess firsthand, imagine if Google was down five or more hours a day. Microsoft’s web technologies like Active Server Pages and COM were utterly unreliable. I ditched Microsoft’s search engine for Excite and then Metacrawler, which employs multiple search engines.
I also stopped developing web apps with Microsoft products, instead moving to the verdant pastures of J2EE. I quit my job and went off to a startup because I was sick and tired of Microsoft and working around its defective software development tools.
I remember leaving Intuit and starting a new career at a startup. Everyone was from MIT, Stanford, and Cal, and most were more intelligent than me. The buzz was all about Google. I tried it, and yes, it was faster, but not the miracle that many claimed. Nonetheless, why wouldn’t you use a faster search engine?
At this point, the search results were almost the same, regardless of which brand you used. Google’s main advantage was speed and the claim of its PageRank algorithm’s superiority. Since there’s no cost to switching to another search engine, many did and stayed there. Google quickly outpaced competitors.
Microsoft Live Search continued to face declines, forcing the Redmond, Washington-based company to rebrand as Bing and invest in marketing, PR, and promotions to boost market share. None of this worked. Bing continues to flounder with an uncertain future.
Today, Google is not only faster but much better. Google isn’t just search. It’s a whole suite of interconnected products and services. It’s an ecosystem. Unlike Microsoft, Google created a highly successful mobile operating system, now the world’s most popular OS. Android even outpaced Windows and convinced many across the globe to pass on PC ownership in deference to a smartphone, tablet, or Chromebook.
Some technologies are so transformative that it’s hard to imagine life without them. I could live without Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc. If Google suddenly disappeared, it would be a massive problem for billions. Unfortunately, for Microsoft, no one would miss Bing if it vanished. In fact, thousands of content creators, including myself, hope that Bing will just die off.
Bing Search Results Suck
The main problem with Microsoft Bing is that it doesn’t index the entire World Wide Web. Instead, Bing automatically indexes some sites and skips others. For the others, webmasters must request indexing through a Kafkaesque process conducted by overseas agents. If Microsoft doesn’t like your content, perhaps because you wrote an unflattering review of its products, you’re toast! They deindex any website that’s critical of Microsoft. The good news is that Bing’s market share is so low that you might not even notice they deleted your site.
It goes beyond that. A quick Google search reveals an entire community of disgruntled Internet professionals sidelined by Bing. Although Bing’s market share hovers around 5% these days, most Internet publishers wouldn’t mind the extra traffic. Unfortunately, when Bing puts a block on your site, it’s difficult to remove it.
One day, not so long ago, I decided to see how this website, Appledystopia, ranked on Bing. To my surprise, not one of my pages showed up. Many of my pages are ranked #1 in Google search results, but Bing totally deleted my site from their index. You see dozens of other search results where sites have linked to Appledystopia or are referencing this site somehow, but the real McCoy isn’t indexed or listed on Bing.
I tracked down the date when Bing deindexed my site using its webmaster reports. They’re sneaky. They don’t ban your account. They don’t send you any emails. They just shut you down quietly, hoping you won’t notice. Well, I did, and this article is one of many retributions. (I wonder if Satya Nadella even understands how karma functions.) Thousands of webmasters and even major corporate Internet publications believe Bing sucks, and we’d all be better off without it.
My Bing banishment happened a few months after I published an article entitled “Mac vs. PC“. I contacted Bing’s webmaster customer support. They told me there was a block on my account. I asked them why and they said they couldn’t tell me. After a legal threat, they begrudgingly restored my site; however, it was clearly ranked as low as possible.
The irony is that Bing indexes white supremacist websites. Microsoft’s poor-quality search engine has also been accused of doing very little to curb child exploitation. Again, Nadella doesn’t understand how karma functions. Karma yoga seems alien to this corporate leader.
These results come from an unconscious, reflexive mind that’s only concerned with short-term profit. It’s not the result of a moment-by-moment acceptance of reality. Thus, sloppy action creates consequences. Inevitably, Microsoft will ditch Bing and probably adopt Google Search for a fee. Apple has a similar arrangement with the Mountain View search giant.
Do you want to use a search engine that purges content critical of Microsoft? Do you want to use a search engine that doesn’t index as much of the Web as technically possible? If you want to use a s***ty search engine, Bing is the way to go. Those seeking the truth are better off with Google.
How to Avoid Using Bing
If you use mostly Apple and Google products, it’s relatively easy to avoid using Bing. Both default to Google. Google pays Apple billions of dollars for this privilege, but trust me; they’re doing you a solid because Bing SUCKS!
Bing is so bad that Microsoft tricks users into engaging with the search engine. If you use Windows, both Edge and Firefox default to Bing and trick you into using it. Also, multiple search features within Windows employ Bing; however, they’re usually not branded. Microsoft is ashamed of Bing and knows that users don’t want it, yet they continue to force and trick users into its adoption.
Those who use Microsoft products are often deceived into using Bing. With nearly identical search result pages as Google, it’s easy to be fooled. It sometimes takes me a few seconds to realize that Microsoft bamboozled me into using its decrepit search engine.
If you’re on Windows, the easiest way to avoid using Bing is to ditch Edge and start using Chrome. Chances are, you’ve already done this, as Chrome dominates the browser market. Once you install Bing, make sure to make it the default browser. Microsoft will constantly try to get you to default to Edge. They do it so often that one may eventually opt in by mistake — a feat of muscle memory.
The bottom search bar on Windows is a mess. I have no idea what they were thinking, but I try to avoid it at all costs. Unfortunately, the Windows control panel hides many options, requiring one to search. It’s best to avoid the main search bar affixed to the Windows taskbar in deference to searching directly in Settings or Windows Explorer.
Why Microsoft Continues to Sustain Bing
If you’ve ever read Moby Dick, you may be familiar with Captain Ahab. The character is obsessed with hunting down the White Whale. Microsoft’s unwillingness to pull the plug on Bing may be due to personal reasons. It’s Sataya Nadella’s baby. At Microsoft, Nadella headed the Live Search and Ad Platform team, which eventually evolved into Bing.
Many in technology become attached to the fruits of their actions. Engineers of all levels put in hard work to build the future. Most are naturally attached to the end result, even if it’s a product they can’t use, such as an electronic prescribing system.
When I worked at a startup, canceled products seemed to upset most people. They were always reassigned to another product and didn’t lose employment. They were paid for their time and granted pre-IPO stock options. Yet, if the company decided that a particular product was no longer viable and canceled it, it often led to several resignations and ugly scenes at meetings.
This seems to be the case with Bing. It’s impossible to get inside the heads of Microsoft decision-makers; however, they simply won’t ditch the search engine from what we can observe. From my experience, this is due to attachment to the end result. Furthermore, delusional thinking tends to thrive when people are distracted from the moment. With demands for human multitasking and the constant intrusion of communications, the corporate world makes clarity nearly unattainable.
In a good year, Bing brings in $8.5 billion in revenue; however, costs are also involved. If Microsoft just gave up on Bing and adopted Google, they could earn twice as much with lower expenses. They would also increase customer satisfaction. I’m not the only one who gets frustrated when Microsoft tricks me into using Bing.
Microsoft will likely hang on to Bing as long as possible. Users can vote with their devices. If we all stop using Bing, we can force Microsoft to remove it from Windows altogether. Microsoft makes some fine products, but Bing is digital doo-doo. Sometimes you gotta tell your friend that the Von Dutch hat is no longer in style. (Was it ever?)