Rebranded, Microsoft Bing Focuses on Reform Amidst Regulatory Discussions

By Elijah Labby Monday, October 12, 2020

On Monday, Microsoft announced that its in-house search engine Bing would be renamed to Microsoft Bing.

The change, Microsoft said in a blog post, “reflects the continued integration of our search experiences across the Microsoft family.”

The website features a revamped logo and expanded functionality within its Give With Bing program, which allows international users to donate points they collect by using Microsoft Bing to charitable causes.

Microsoft has changed the names of several of its products to include the company, such as the Windows Store, Edge, and Office 365 (now the Microsoft Store, Microsoft Edge, and Microsoft 365, respectively.)

The effort may reflect an attempt to increase usership by utilizing the Microsoft brand to lend legitimacy to the search engine, which is a distant second to Google in American usage.

With only 2.83% of the US search engine market share compared to Google’s 92.26%, Bing is unlikely to surpass Google in American or global usage anytime soon. However, a few factors work in its favor.

Firstly, Google’s subpar privacy record could push data-security-conscious individuals to adopt an alternative. And while Bing does not go as far as more privacy-focused engines like DuckDuckGo, it is the most mainstream alternative.

Secondly, Microsoft devices automatically include Bing as the default search engine. While Bing has a dismal market share in the search engine sector, Microsoft dominates the operating system space. Over 50% of computers use Windows 10, greatly increasing Bing usership by extension.

Thirdly, Yahoo search is also powered by Bing. It holds a 1.59% market share.

The search engine industry has experienced solid growth in the last five years, with an average yearly growth of around 12%, according to IBISWorld. And with an industry valuation of $99 billion, even a relatively small market share is extraordinarily valuable.

The increased prevalence of virtual work during the coronavirus pandemic has helped to grow these engines, and adjacent industries like online shopping earn Google and Bing money for every click on affiliate marketing listings.

This growth will almost undoubtedly continue, but increased legislative scrutiny has accompanied leading technology companies’ successes as of late.

For Google’s part, right-leaning members of Congress are keen on punishing the search titan for alleged anti-conservative bias, while their left-leaning colleagues are more concerned with the company allegedly directing its users away from competing products.

These congressmen have introduced numerous bills attempting to rein in the power of Big Tech by various means, including requiring the companies to allow users to permanently delete their personal information or transfer to a competing service.

A July House Antitrust Subcommittee hearing, in which the majority-Democrat subcommittee engaged in heated questioning of the CEOs of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, showed these tensions at perhaps their most raw.

The hearing had no shortage of soundbites and attempts to corner the executives, and culminated in subcommittee chairman Rep. David Cicilline, D-RI, saying that the companies “have monopoly power,” and that “some need to be broken up. This must end.”

Last week, the Democratic leadership of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Antitrust Subcommittee, released a formal report recommending the same.

“Our investigation leaves no doubt that there is a clear and compelling need for Congress and the antitrust enforcement agencies to take action that restores competition, improves innovation and safeguards our democracy,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, and Cicilline in a joint statement.

Microsoft has attempted to get out ahead of these efforts by making public statements in support of government regulation.

“We need to work together; we need to work with governments to protect, frankly, something that is far more important than technology: democracy,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith in a 2019 interview with NPR. “It was here before us. It needs to be here and healthy after us.”

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates also weighed in, saying that government intervention was crucial to protect elections.

“Technology has become so central that the government has to think: What does that mean about elections? What does that mean about bullying?” Gates said. “So, yes, the government needs to get involved.”

A 2019 study from the Stanford Cyber Policy Center found that Bing frequently featured misinformation and content related to conspiracy theories from Russian state media outlets RT and Sputnik.

While it appears that neither Bing nor Microsoft directly commented on the study at the time, the company has taken steps to reform search results related to coronavirus misinformation.

“We’re taking new steps across our services, including Bing, LinkedIn, Microsoft News and Microsoft Advertising, to include curated resources on Microsoft News and LinkedIn that link to official guidance from organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” read a blog post from April.

“There is so much COVID-19 commentary circulating online that even those with the keenest eye for misinformation can sometimes find it tricky to separate fact from fiction,” it read. “We’re giving prominence to authoritative content across our platforms and coordinating with government healthcare agencies around the world to share critical updates.”

About the Author

Headshot of Elijah Labby

Elijah Labby is a graduate of the National Journalism Center. He has previously written for Broadband Breakfast, a technology and internet policy website.

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