Microsoft Corp. has finally reached a long-sought and expensive goal – its Bing search engine now ranks second behind Google in the Internet’s most lucrative market. Bing and Microsoft’s other websites fielded 2.75 billion search requests in the U.S. during December, catapulting in front of Yahoo Inc. for the first time in the jockeying for runner up to Google Inc., according to statistics released Wednesday by comScore Inc. Bing’s December volume translated into a 15.1 percent share of the U.S. search traffic, comScore said. Yahoo processed 2.65 billion search requests, representing 14.5 percent of the U.S. market. Google remained Internet’s go-to place for information, with 12 billion U.S. requests in December. That works out to a 65.9 percent market share. Other research firms track the Internet search market. But comScore’s numbers matter the most to industry analysts and the companies trying to attract queries so they can make more money from the ads that appear alongside the results. Google’s dominance of online search is the main reason it has established itself as the Internet’s most profitable company. Analysts have expected Microsoft and Yahoo to flip-flop their positions in Internet search since they announced a partnership in July 2009. The 10-year agreement has enabled Yahoo to save money by relying on Microsoft to provide the bulk of its search technology. Microsoft wanted the deal so it would have billions more search requests to analyze each year, giving it a better chance to learn about people’s tendencies and preferences.
One year after its debut, the world is still not ready for Wolfram Alpha. Few would argue that despite the success of Google, Internet search is a solved problem. The way that content is being shared across it is evolving so quickly means that better ways of discovering and presenting that content will always be welcome. Wolfram Alpha certainly provides a different way to think about Internet search. It’s heavily weighted toward computational queries, and its practice of curating its results as opposed to simply serving up whatever is available on the Web means its results can be more authoritative than a list of links. But that strategy – useful as it might be to researchers and technical types- hasn’t resonated with the general public. ComScore’s assessment of unique users to wolframalpha.com over the past year shows that fewer people visited the site in April 2010 than did in May 2009. That traffic last year was undoubtedly juiced by curiosity and media attention, and usage has risen since a trough in late summer 2009, but as a search provider Wolfram Alpha doesn’t even register on ComScore’s radar. Changes are coming that might boost Wolfram Alpha’s profile among those without Ph.D.s. The company plans to make over its home page, and will start adding data for more pop-culture-friendly information such as sports, music, health information, and even its own take on local mapping. With the first anniversary, Wolfram Alpha has expanded its content. Local street maps will be available on the search engine, and – perhaps a little less useful but kind of cool – weather information for outer space.
Microsoft has teamed up with a web tool once hailed as a rival to Google to provide results for its search engine Bing
As statistics from renowned internet measurement groups show, every day, more and more people who are searching for valuable information or data (around 19% of all searches according to Neilsen) are moving away from classical search engines, which produce reasonable but random results of varying degrees of reliability. The “new search engines” are now to be found in the social media field, and are based more on ‘trust’ ‘authenticity’ and ‘confidence’ – so, for example, recruiters now start researching a person on an application like Linked In or they examine his or her Facebook site, instead of just hitting Google and hoping.
Therefore, tailored search apps that can ‘go beyond’ the normal limitations of search engine optimisation – a technique which web site ‘owners’ either know or don’t – and that restricts where on a final opening page list the ‘perfect’ search result will finish on a Google query, are now rapidly going to become the norm. Hence Microsoft and its decision to allign itself with Wolfram Alpha in order to increase the relevancy and accuracy of Bing – its new Google-targeting baby.
Wolfram Alpha aims to answer questions directly, rather than display a list of links like a search engine. The “computational knowledge engine” is the brainchild of British-born physicist Stephen Wolfram. It will be used to bolster Bing’s results in areas such as nutrition, health and mathematics. The partnership will initially be rolled out in the US.
Bing has been gradually grabbing market share from other search engines since its launch in May. Figures from Experian Hitwise suggest its market share in the US rose from 8.96% in September to 9.57% in October. The figures put it well behind market leader Google which has 70.6% of the market.
Wolfram Alpha differentiates itself from standard search engines by attempting to answer questions directly. The tool computes many of the answers “on the fly” by grabbing raw data from public and licensed databases. People can use the system to look up simple facts – such as the height of Mount Everest – or crunch several data sets together to produce new results, such as a country’s GDP. The data it consults is chosen and managed by staff at Wolfram Research who ensure it can be displayed by the system.
The Wolfram team said the new partnership with Bing would allow Microsoft to access “tens of thousands of algorithms and trillions of pieces of data” to incorporate into its results. Microsoft said that the nutritional and fitness data in Wolfram Alpha could be of use to the “roughly 90 million Americans” who choose diet to each year.
“When you search for specific food items on Bing, you’ll get a nutrition quick tab that allows you to learn more about it,” the firm said. “You also get a nutrition facts label at the bottom of the results page that summarises all information on that food item in a very familiar and friendly format.” The partnership was made possible by Wolfram’s decision to offer an API (Application Programming Interface) in October. APIs are a set of protocols and tools offered by a firm to allow third party developers to build tools and services for a platform. They have become increasingly common amongst web firms, such as Facebook and Twitter, who use them to extend their reach beyond their own website