Bing's vault over Yahoo in U.S. search volume should come as no surprise to anyone who's been following the horse race, but it's a symbolic milestone for a baby search engine whose prime directive is to take some of Google's advertising pie.
With Yahoo out of the way, according to the latest search share statistics from Nielsen, Bing's goal of becoming a genuine competitor to Google becomes a little more realistic. Bing, along with MSN and Windows Live, now has 13.9 percent of all search share. Yahoo fell to 13.1 percent, and Google still dominates with 65.1 percent. As Search Engine Land points out, Bing is still in third place by other metrics from comScore and Hitwise.
Ultimately, though, the horse race is only interesting in the way it inspires new features and services among the competitors. Look for the battle between Google and Bing to play out in three venues:
Google's recent launch of Google Instant, which displays and modifies search results as you type, is the perfect example of how search engines will try to one-up each other and differentiate themselves. Actual search results are somewhat indistinguishable when detached from their interfaces, but there's no mistaking Google from the pack now. A year ago, an independent programmer used Bing APIs to create a similar version of instant search results. Will Bing implement instant search on its own, or decide that it's not an idea worth imitating?
Using different search engines for different services is a pain, so it falls upon Google and Bing to create the most attractive overall services, including maps, images and other areas besides traditional search. Lately, Google has beefed up its real-time search engine to provide better results from Twitter and Facebook. Bing has added streaming music (following Google's lead), plus games and movie information to its search results. Bing also updated Maps last month to include a cab fare calculator and support for OpenStreetMap.
Google has a strong grip on mobile searches, as the default search engine for iPhone and, of course, Android. But Windows Phone 7 has the chance to give Bing a boost, as do Bing's iPhone and Android apps. Also, the mandatory use of Bing in Verizon's new Fascinate phone may not sit well with Google fans, but it will give Microsoft's search engine another helping hand, albeit by force.