Microsoft has surprised many with its latest attempt at cracking the search engine market. While its ‘decision engine‘ Bing is no threat to Google, it’s starting to look like Yahoo had better hope its deal to outsource its search business to Microsoft passes regulatory scrutiny.

According to Nielsen, total searches at Bing hit 1.1bn in the month of August, a 22% jump from July. That gave Microsoft a 10.7% market share amongst search engines for the month. With 1.7bn searches in August and a 16% market share, Yahoo is starting to become a visible target on Bing’s horizon.

While Microsoft still has its detractors and there’s still good reason to be skeptical about many of its internet initiatives, the Redmond software giant has managed to do something Yahoo hasn’t: reinvent its search product. Microsoft’s expensive Bing ad campaign certainly gave Bing an early boost but if Microsoft didn’t have anything new to offer, Bing wouldn’t be seeing continued growth. People would simply come. And leave.

Instead, Bing appears to be gaining momentum. Obviously that momentum isn’t going to carry it all the way to Google’s throne anytime soon. But a few short months ago it was easy to write Bing off as yet another soon-to-be failed Microsoft attempt at search that would fizzle out quickly. And many did. But writing Bing off is not so easy now, especially if you’re a Yahoo executive contemplating the possibility that Microhoo might not go through after all.

With Microsoft continuing to develop new functionality for Bing (like visual search) it’s clear that Redmond has no plans to let up anytime soon. Microsoft is committed to search and while it’s worth questioning whether Microsoft’s total investment in search over the years will ever pay dividends, it’s undeniable that Microsoft has reminded itself (and the public) that it can compete successfully in markets it doesn’t naturally dominate. If that’s all Microsoft ever gets out of Bing, it just might have been worth it.

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