In every basic economics or introduction to business class since the original “Adam Smith,” the business student has learned that competition between strong competitors is good for the consumer. As competing businesses battle for consumer acceptance, these businesses tend to offer some combination of better services, higher quality or lower prices in order to entice the consumer to acquire the products or services of that business. Now we are seeing an epic, high budget battle between two of the most affluent powerhouses in the Web-based service industry engaging in a massive battle for consumer acceptance. The latest salvo in this ambitious drive to both acquire new customers and steal existing customers from the competition is Microsoft’s attack on Google’s dominance in both the ubiquitous search engine field and the wildly popular free e-mail service market. Two of Microsoft’s primary weapons in the recent assault on Google’s dominance are its “Bing it On” and “Scroogled” campaigns.
There is not much doubt that in terms of popularity, Google has become the primary search engine for the majority of users. While different reporting services report different market shares for the competitors, one fact is abundantly clear: Google is the No. 1 most popular search engine with a current market share calculated from a low of 67 percent (according to comScore) to a high of about 88 percent (KarmaSnack). Google has become so dominant in the marketplace that the phrase “Google it” has almost become a generic term, much the same way that “making Xerox copies” means making photocopies. By contrast, Microsoft’s Bing search engine scores a market share calculated as low as about 4 percent of the global market share to as high as 16 percent of the domestic market share.
It is inevitable that some type of “Jack, the Giant Killer” will try and topple the market leader, Google, and “steal” market share. While many other search engine services advertise and promote their services, Microsoft, with its deep pockets, is financing a massive campaign to dethrone the champ with is heavily advertised “Bing It On” campaign, promoting the claimed superiority of Microsoft’s Bing search engine with a side-by-side comparison of similar search results on Google.
Microsoft’s BingItOn.com Website asks the user to enter a search term, and then displays an anonymous side by side display from both Bing and Google. The user is then asked to select which one provided the preferred search results by checking a box, or selecting the box indicating that the two results are a draw. After five searches, with each randomly displayed on a side of the window, BingItOn displays the selection results. I tried five different search terms (all in lower case), including “examiner beaumont,” “lamar institute of technology,” “sonic restaurants,” “trend micro,” and “parkdale mall beaumont,” with BingItOn reporting that in all five searches, I selected the Google results. While it appeared to me that Google produced better results, Microsoft reports that in an independent test of a thousand users composing a representative sample of Internet search engine users, Bing was selected over Google by nearly a two to one margin. According to Microsoft, “When the results were tallied, the outcome was clear – people chose Bing Web search results over Google nearly 2:1 in the blind comparison tests. Specifically, of the nearly 1,000 participants, 57.4 percent chose Bing more often, 30.2 percent chose Google more often, (and) 12.4 percent resulted in a draw.”
While Google is clearly the most widely used search engine and Bing is attempting to make inroads on Google’s dominance, I still choose to use Yahoo as my primary search engine — to each his own. While the search results as displayed on Bing are attractive and easy to read, Microsoft has quite a way to go to convince millions of users to switch to Bing from Google.
While search engine wars are appearing nightly on our TV screens, another battle is taking place between the titans, Microsoft and Google. Microsoft is in the process of phasing out its nearly 20-year-old free Hotmail e-mail service, replacing it with a more modern and sophisticated e-mail service under the moniker of its popular e-mail software, Outlook (Outlook.com). While the Hotmail service currently has an estimated 286 million unique global users, all of whom are being encouraged to migrate to Microsoft’s new Outlook e-mail service, Google’s popular Gmail service claims 425 million users, according to current statistics posted on “E-mail Marketing Reports.” Not to be outdone, Microsoft has launched an expansive advertising campaign to attract Gmail users over to its side. In its “Scroogled” campaign (scroogled.com), Microsoft claims that Google electronically scans all e-mails on Gmail for key words, and displays targeted advertising based on the content. The Scroogled website says, “Google goes through every Gmail that’s sent or received, looking for keywords so they can target Gmail users with paid ads. And there’s no way to opt out of this invasion of your privacy.”
In a challenge to the privacy of non-Gmail account holders who send e-mail to a Gmail account, Microsoft says, “Outlook.com prioritizes your privacy. You won’t see ads based on keywords from your personal e-mail. Your e-mail is nobody else’s business. But Google makes it their business. Even if you’re not a Gmail user, Google still goes through your personal e-mail sent to Gmail and uses the content to sell ads” (Source: Scroogled.com). In order to make the point to Google, Microsoft has created an online petition for Gmail users to protest the alleged privacy infringement. As I type this, 103,038 claimed Gmail users have signed this petition, exceeding the petitioner’s (Outlook’s) goal of 100,000 signatures. In order to be fair to Google, it costs an enormous amount of money to process the billions of incoming and outgoing e-mails sent and received by nearly a half-billion Gmail users hosted on Google servers. Google needs to recover that cost and make a profit on the service, as Gmail (like the other e-mail services) is not run as a charity.
For the record, I have free e-mail accounts with Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo, and each has some advantages over the others. Any one of these three free e-mail services would provide an excellent platform and service. As far as the privacy of e-mail with any of these services, it is important that users read and understand the published privacy statements of the respective services, and if they are not acceptable, switch providers. Most of the free e-mail services can import address books and e-mail from the other services, easing the transition from one to another; most will also send out a free, personalized e-mail to addresses in the address book informing others of the address.