Microsoft frets about search woes

Updated: 2013-03-25 11:27

By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily)

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The market share for Microsoft Corp's Bing search engine in China has sunk to a critically low level, a senior executive of the company told a Chinese technology-news website.

"The market share and search quality of Bing's Chinese search products have not reached the degree of making me satisfied yet," Sina Technology cited Shen Xiangyang, Microsoft's senior global vice-president, as saying in a story posted online on Sunday.

"In recent years, Bing's search quality has been greatly improved, but the market share is not positive," Shen said.

Bing was launched in June 2009 amid fanfare and big hopes that US-based Microsoft could begin to challenge the dominance of search giant Google Inc. Known in previous iterations as Windows Live Search and MSN Search, the software company spent as much as $100million promoting its rebranded search engine.

In the United States, Bing's market share has been inching up, though Google still dominates with about two-thirds of Web searches. The Chinese version of the search engine, however, has pushed Bing's market share below 1 percent for the past three years, blamed mainly on performance problems.

According to data from market research firm CNZZ, Bing's market share in China was only 0.52 percent as of February.

"If you don't have enough data for users' questions and selections, there is no way to make progress," Shen said.

Google's search engine operates in English and Chinese in China. But in 2010 the Silicon Valley company moved its search operations in China to Hong Kong over censorship concerns.

Since Google's exit from the Chinese mainland, Inc has seen its market share grow significantly. The Chinese company now dominates online search in its home country, at nearly 80 percent of the market. Other Chinese Internet companies account for much of the rest; the China market shares of Microsoft and US-based Yahoo Inc are negligible.

According to Shen, online search is a volatile business and there are still opportunities along with immense challenges. He said Bing could make progress by developing its English-language search service in China.

In 2009, Microsoft agreed to pair Bing with, which had struggled to improve its English-language search services. The Beijing-based company estimates that its sites handle 10 million English-language searches every day.