Bing's 30-Minute Outage: A Sally Field Moment?

"The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!" --Actress Sally Field during her Oscar acceptance speech for Best Actress in 1984's Places in the Heart

In case you missed it--and most of you probably did--Microsoft's Bing search engine was offline for about 30 minutes on Thursday evening. What's noteworthy here isn't that fact that a Web service was down briefly (just ask Gmail users) but that the short-lived outage resulted in a flurry of media coverage, including a couple of stories right here on PCWorld.com.

In fact, a quick check of Google News reveals numerous reports on Bing's minor glitch--and not just from tech news sites and bloggers, the folks you'd expect to cover such things. Mainstream media outlets including the BBC, UPI, and Seattle Times did as well. The Washington Post's site also had the story, but it was really a repost of TechCrunch's take.

The updates continued Friday morning when Microsoft's Satya Nadella, senior vice president of online service, apologized for the outage in a blog post. The glitch was caused by "a configuration change during some internal testing that had unfortunate and unintended consequences," she wrote.

Good or Bad for Bing?

I'm sure that some critics will see the Bing outage as an embarrassment for Microsoft, which is busting its hump to build a search engine good enough to steal a few users away from Google. But I think Redmond should be pleased with the response the Bing glitch has generated. It shows the news media have Bing in their sites, and are taking it seriously as a Google competitor.

Think about it: A flurry of reports about a 30-minute outage? That's a lot of attention for a search engine with a miniscule 10 percent market share, give or take a few points. Would Microsoft's Live Search engine--Bing's largely ignored predecessor--have gotten the same kind of coverage? Not a chance.

I checked PC World's archives for pre-Bing stores on Live Search. While I found a few, including the occasional report on a new or upgraded feature--the search engine was treated indifferently, as is often the case with also-rans.

Of course, Microsoft's ongoing marketing campaign and highly publicized Bing upgrades have a lot to do with today's media coverage. And with the attention comes snarky scorn from the pundits, but that's appropriate given Microsoft's hard sell.

So is Bing just like Sally Field? Do we really, really like it? Not necessarily, but we are thinking about it. And that's good news for a fledgling search engine taking on Google.

A brief outage? Who cares? As they say in Hollywood, just spell my name right.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci ) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com .

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