Bing, Microsoft’s replacement for Live Search, was unveiled by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on May 28, 2009, at the All Things Digital conference in San Diego, California, for release on June 1, 2009. Notable new features at the time included the listing of search suggestions while queries are entered and a list of related searches (called “Explore pane”) based on semantic technology from Powerset, which Microsoft had acquired in 2008.
In July 2009, Microsoft and Yahoo! announced a deal in which Bing would power Yahoo! Search. All Yahoo! Search global customers and partners made the transition by early 2012. The deal was altered in 2015, meaning Yahoo! was only required to use Bing for a “majority” of searches.
In October 2011, Microsoft stated that they were working on new back-end search infrastructure with the goal of delivering faster and slightly more relevant search results for users. Known as “Tiger”, the new index-serving technology had been incorporated into Bing globally since August that year. In May 2012, Microsoft announced another redesign of its search engine that includes “Sidebar”, a social feature that searches users’ social networks for information relevant to the search query.
As of November 2015, Bing is the second largest search engine in the US with a query volume of 20.9%, behind Google on 63.9%. Yahoo! Search, which Bing largely powers, has 12.5%.
Microsoft originally launched MSN Search in the third quarter of 1998, using search results from Inktomi. It consisted of a search engine, index, and web crawler. In early 1999, MSN Search launched a version which displayed listings from Looksmart blended with results from Inktomi except for a short time in 1999 when results from AltaVista were used instead. Since then Microsoft upgraded MSN Search to provide its own self-built search engine results, the index of which was updated weekly and sometimes daily. The upgrade started as a beta program in November 2004, and came out of beta in February 2005. Image search was powered by a third party, Picsearch. The service also started providing its search results to other search engine portals in an effort to better compete in the market.
Windows Live Search
The first public beta of Windows Live Search was unveiled on March 8, 2006, with the final release on September 11, 2006 replacing MSN Search. The new search engine used search tabs that include Web, news, images, music, desktop, local, and Microsoft Encarta.
In the roll-over from MSN Search to Windows Live Search, Microsoft stopped using Picsearch as their image search provider and started performing their own image search, fueled by their own internal image search algorithms.
On March 21, 2007, Microsoft announced that it would separate its search developments from the Windows Live services family, rebranding the service as Live Search. Live Search was integrated into the Live Search and Ad Platform headed by Satya Nadella, part of Microsoft’s Platform and Systems division. As part of this change, Live Search was merged with Microsoft adCenter.
A series of reorganisations and consolidations of Microsoft’s search offerings were made under the Live Search branding. On May 23, 2008, Microsoft announced the discontinuation of Live Search Books and Live Search Academic and integrated all academic and book search results into regular search, and as a result this also included the closure of Live Search Books Publisher Program. Soon after, Windows Live Expo was discontinued on July 31, 2008. Live Search Macros, a service for users to create their own custom search engines or use macros created by other users, was also discontinued shortly after. On May 15, 2009, Live Product Upload, a service which allowed merchants to upload products information onto Live Search Products, was discontinued. The final reorganisation came as Live Search QnA was rebranded as MSN QnA on February 18, 2009, however, it was subsequently discontinued on May 21, 2009.
Rebrand as Bing
Microsoft recognised that there would be a problem with branding as long as the word “Live” remained in the name. As an effort to create a new identity for Microsoft’s search services, Live Search was officially replaced by Bing on June 3, 2009.
The Bing name was chosen through focus groups, and Microsoft decided that the name was memorable, short, easy to spell, and that it would function well as a URL around the world. The word would remind people of the sound made during “the moment of discovery and decision making.” Microsoft was assisted by branding consultancy Interbrand in their search for the best name for the new search engine. The name also has strong similarity to the word ‘bingo’, which is used to mean that something sought has been found or realized, as is interjected when winning the game Bingo. Microsoft advertising strategist David Webster originally proposed the name “Bang” for the same reasons the name Bing was ultimately chosen (easy to spell, one syllable, and easy to remember). He noted, “It’s there, it’s an exclamation point […] It’s the opposite of a question mark.” This name was ultimately not chosen because it could not be properly used as a verb in the context of an internet search; Webster commented “Oh, ‘I banged it’ is very different than ‘I binged it’”.
According to the Guardian “[Microsoft] hasn’t confirmed that it stands recursively for Bing Is Not Google, but that’s the sort of joke software engineers enjoy.” Qi Lu, president of Microsoft Online Services, also announced that Bing’s official Chinese name is bì yìng (simplified Chinese: 必应; traditional Chinese: 必應), which literally means “very certain to respond” or “very certain to answer” in Chinese.
On July 31, 2009, The Laptop Company, Inc. stated in a press release that it would challenge Bing’s trademark application, alleging that Bing may cause confusion in the marketplace as Bing and their product BongoBing both do online product search. Software company TeraByte Unlimited, which has a product called BootIt Next Generation (abbreviated to BING), also contended the trademark application on similar grounds, as did a Missouri-based design company called Bing! Information Design.
Microsoft contended that claims challenging its trademark were without merit because these companies filed for U.S. federal trademark applications only after Microsoft filed for the Bing trademark in March 2009.
Yahoo! search deal
On July 29, 2009, Microsoft and Yahoo! announced that they had made a ten-year deal in which the Yahoo! search engine would be replaced by Bing, retaining the Yahoo! user interface. Yahoo! will get to keep 88% of the revenue from all search ad sales on its site for the first five years of the deal, and have the right to sell advertising on some Microsoft sites. All Yahoo! Search global customers and partners made the transition by early 2012.