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Microsoft's Bing May Suck Less Than Anticipated

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New search engine survives its first week.

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On Wednesday, Bing.com -- Microsoft's (MSFT) fourth incarnation of its struggling search engine -- will have been live for one full week. While its success and longevity would be hard to gauge so early on, it's safe to say that it's definitely no Cuil. Then again, it's also certainly no Google (GOOG).

But last Thursday -- riding on a wave of media saturation and advertising to the tune of $100 million -- Bing edged out Yahoo (YHOO) to become the second most-visited search engine on the web. According to web trafficker StatCounter, the day after it launched, Bing amassed a 16.28% share against Yahoo's 10.22%. Google still held a commanding 71.47%. Globally, however, Bing's lead was reduced to a mere 0.49% over Yahoo's 5.13%.

It's a promising start, but Microsoft should wait before breaking out the good champagne. StatCounter notes that the numbers could change after 7 days of analysis and quality-assurance testing. If the stats for Bing are lowered, then Microsoft's claim to "have beaten Ask.com" won't seem so impressive.

With the official launch of Windows 7 a few months away, the Redmond company could use the push of some positive coverage. Vista was a disaster, Zune's struggling to reformat and those Seinfeld ads straddle the line between "forgettable" and "regrettably memorable." But the reviews for Bing -- which have averaged a resounding "Ehhh, it's all right" -- could quite possibly be the best that Microsoft could hope for in Google's heavy shadow.

In fact, 2 aspects of Bing's engine have been widely regarded as even better than Google's plain-and-simple interface: image search and video search. Though the image search for Bing and Google are both able to specify for things like size, color and style, visitors to Bing have preferred the single-page navigation over the endless click-through of Google's multi-page results.

On the video side, Bing earned some notice for the auto-play preview feature when the cursor is held over the still frame. Of course, Microsoft discovered it could lead to some unfortunate scenarios, such as adult content unexpectedly playing at work.

It's pretty incredible: A company that's flung itself headlong into some pretty devastating ventures has emerged from this one with some warm reviews, and only a few minor snags. But, having spent $100 million on the ad campaign, it should know in which year The Breakfast Club was released -- an error Microsoft made in its first commercial for Bing.
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