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Bing vs Google: is Microsoft losing its grip?

Steve BallmerDon't look now, but Microsoft's search engine may be starting to lose its momentum. Following a few months of modest growth, the search engine formerly known as Live seems to be reverting toward its pre-Bing levels.

According to some new data, Bing's market share slipped downward in September, marking the first blip in what had been a very slow but consistent climb for the recently rebranded site.

Now, it's certainly too early to sing "ding dong, the Bing is dead" - though if you really want a Bing-related song, don't let me stop you - but the shift is an interesting change in the closely followed game of search engine smackdown.

Let's head into the ring.

Google stings Bing

The new numbers, compiled by online metrics firm StatCounter, show Bing dropping to 8.47 percent of the US market in September. That's a fall of 1.17 percent from its position in August.

Before Bing, Microsoft struggled to crack the 8 percent mark. But since its early June debut, the company has consistently ridden a wave of excitement upward each month, reaching 8.13 percent in June, 9.41 percent in July, and 9.64 percent in August. September's slip, then, is most noteworthy for being the end of Bing's initial growth trend.

Also of interest: Bing's lost customers, gauging from StatCounter's data, appear to have gone to Google. Google shot up from 77.83 percent of the US search market in August to 80.12 percent in September. That's even higher than it sat before Bing's birth: This past May, prior to Bing's introduction, Google was holding only 78.72 percent of the American market.

Not that anyone's keeping count.

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The thing about Bing...

So is Bing's honeymoon truly over? It's really too soon to say. The September slide could just be an anomaly; Bing may suddenly skyrocket to new heights in October.

Realistically, though, Bing's growth wasn't terribly gigantic even at the peak of Microsoft's marketing push. If all the promotion and news/blog coverage only managed to squeak Bing up by less than two percent, a significant growth spurt now seems unlikely.

Of course, there's still that whole Microsoft-Yahoo deal that could shake things up, at least behind the scenes. But it's still far from being approved: The US Department of Justice is now said to be reviewing the partnership proposal, as are antitrust regulators in Europe. The Microsoft-Yahoo romance may or may not ever make it to the altar.

If all else fails, there's always the possibility of some good old-fashioned Microsoft-style bribery to bring the deal to fruition. Or the two companies could turn to Yahoo's latest strategy and start haphazardly tossing around exclamation marks to see what falls where. Hey, you never know.

For now, though, we'll just have to stick a question mark at the end of this saga. Sorry, Yahoo.

See also:

Microsoft Bing review

Microsoft uses 'Bing & Ping' to share search results

Microsoft Bing more popular than Yahoo

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