Happy Belated Birthday, Bing!

Screenshot: bing

Microsoft’s Bing—a search engine that literally bribes people to use it and still (still!) can’t seem to grow its witheringly small 4 per cent market share—has been around for an entire decade. As of yesterday. We forgot its birthday and seemingly so did virtually everyone else.

The relevance of Bing is such that all but two niche tech blogs had posts prepared to commemorate 10 years of the search engine owned and operated by one of the most valuable companies in the entire world. Why should it be otherwise: Bing was seen, not long after launching, as an imitator, and accused of being a copycat outright by market leader Google.

What I did not realise until mere moments ago, is how far Bing’s homepage drifts from Google’s nearly-all-white design. It’s splashy, screen-dominating “Image of the Day” and four boxes indicating historical events from this same day in history (the first ever summiting of Mount Everest! [1953]) all scream “WELCOME TO THE INTERNET. You’re here! Isn’t it exciting!” which hits a pitch of enthusiasm that felt appropriate for AOL 2.0, but not for the social media panopticon we endure now instead.


Did you know Bing aggregates news, too? Not especially well, though, and its headlines are seemingly compiled robotically, which results in fragments of nonsense often paired with mismatched images. “Black couple faced gun” shows a photo of an old white lady; “Lose custody of kids” would read as a bizarre command if not for its proximity to two people (celebrities?) I do not recognise. These do not point to any specific article but instead to a search—on Bing of course—saving you absolutely no time catching up on world events.

“Just as I say we welcome competition on PCs, I’m sure the market leader on search would say they welcome competition on search,” then-CEO Steve Ballmer said (while refusing to even use the name ‘Google’) in a clip allegedly originating from 2009, “and we intend to provide some.” But for god’s sake look at this website. There’s even a “fun and games” section with a 15-clue crossword and a geography quiz.

Are people paid to make these? Has anyone besides me ever clicked on them? Without a doubt, Google has an unhealthy dominance over search, but I can’t imagine a company of Microsoft’s stature still considers this a competitive product trying—one which, and I can’t stress this enough, they quite literally trying to pay people to use.

Happy birthday, you dopey old thing. You’ll probably still outlive me somehow.

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