Bing Versus Wolfram Alpha: A Tale Of Two Search Engine Launches

In the past month, we’ve seen some new search engine launches. Two in particular were able to generate a hype cycle of early positive reviews and excitement: Bing and Wolfram Alpha. One was launched by Microsoft, and the other by a startup. It is inherently not a fair comparison because Microsoft has so much more money to spend on marketing ($80 to $100 million is earmarked for Bing)> But most of the buzz so far has been generated by the respective launches with all of the blog and news coverage that entails.

So even though it is not fair, let’s compare the two, because it is instructive. There is little data on actual traffic or search volume for either site at this point. Instead, I looked at another proxy of interest: Google searches for both sites as measured by Google Trends. As you can see by the chart above, searches for “Wolfram Alpha” began to build up the weekend that it soft launched on May 15, peaking the following Monday, and then trailing off after that. It had a strong showing, and then interest waned.

Interest in Bing, on the other hand, started out just as strong with its unveiling last week. Then when it actually launched, interest shot up even higher. The positive experience many people had with their first search certainly helped.

Now, the question is: Can Bing keep up the momentum, or will interest in the latest search experiment fade away as fast as it did for Wolfram Alpha? That is where Microsoft’s big check book and that advertising campaign come in. You are going to be hearing a lot more about Bing overt the next few months: on TV, on the Web, and, yes, even on Google. Microsoft cannot afford to let Bing disappear from view.