Most people have assumed that Google will always be their go-to search engine. In fact, the verb "to Google" suggests that, for most of us, Google defines what a search engine is. I'm reminded of Velcro, Kleenex and Escalator, all brands that have come to represent the generic product because they were the first and the best in their field. (OK, Google wasn't the first search engine, but it was the first to use link analysis to calculate relevance.)
I recently saw a press release from Hitwise, a firm that studies web market share and consumer activity. According to Hitwise, Google's share of the search engine market is down to 66%, from 71% a year ago, with Bing its nearest competitor at 28%, up from 25% last year. Even more interesting to me was that, based on Hitwise's analysis, the "success rate" of searches was significantly higher for Bing (80%) than Google (68%). Wow! [cue the music from "Jaws"]
Google earned the market share it has by consistently delivering better, more relevant search results than its competitors. While it still owns the lion's share of the market, that percentage is inexorably dropping, and Bing-powered search is gaining. (Since searches on Yahoo are actually powered by Bing, Hitwise combines the market share of bing.com and search.yahoo.com.) And the fact that Google has a relatively poor success rate compared to Bing means that we may start talking about "Binging" a question rather than Googling it.
Google has made its search results page attractive to info pros and researchers; the left margin is full of ways to filter or spin your search. Try it on blogs! Search discussion groups! Limit to the last six months! Narrow it to your local area! It's hard to resist the impression that you are conducting a comprehensive search as you work your way through all of Google's search options.
Bing has some search features worth considering, though. In addition to the usual specialized searches -- news, images, video, map and shopping -- it has an interesting Visual Search feature. Right now, there are 90 "galleries", collections of information on topics ranging from world leaders to US stocks and the top Twitterers. Within each gallery is a browsable collection of images representing each item in the collection; in the World Leaders gallery, for example, there are close to 350 photos of heads of state, each linked to a profile compiled from the CIA World Factbook. You can further filter the gallery by region, title or type of leader, or skim the images to identify a particular person. These galleries may turn into valuable tools for quick answers, particularly if info pros could create their own galleries.
I have just switched my default search engine on my browser to Bing and I'll report later on how it works with research queries. So long, Google. We'll still be friends, but we're no longer dating. I've got my eye on a good-looking search engine over there who just might make me happier than you do.