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Search Wars -- With Bing, Twitter and Facebook, There's More to Searching Google

It's easy to assume that when it comes to search, there's Google and nothing else. That was never the case.
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Google is the royalty of search, so powerful that even its name is used as a synonym for searching. But funny thing. I was talking to someone this week who said he'd "binged" for something.

Bing? What the hell is Bing? Those were the exact words from another conversation I had last week, with my retired next-door-neighbor. He'd seen Bing mentioned in a newspaper article that he was reading. Knowing I'm connected with the Internet in some way, he came to ask me more after spotting me outside.

Bing, of course, is Microsoft's "new" search engine launched earlier this year to challenge Google. I put quotes around the word new because Microsoft has had its own search engine since 1998. Formerly called Live Search, previously called MSN Search before that, Bing is Microsoft's hope that the third time really is a charm. Bing brings a new look and some new features to the Microsoft search engine. Bing's also got a multi-million dollar marketing campaign backing it.

Is it working? Microsoft just went over a 10% share of the US search market for the first time in ages. That person I'd mentioned having "binged" something rather than "googled" it. That's just one anecdotal story, of course, but it's coming directly out of Microsoft's marketing campaign.

I'd say the word is getting out. But is moving the dial? The person who'd "binged it" told me he hasn't been back to Bing. Google still safely has 65 percent of search share for itself. Google's a hard habit to break.

In fact, Google's not just a habit. It's a virtual best friend for many people. In the past, we depended on friends, family and professionals for advice. These days, we turn to search engines for a range of issues, from deeply personal questions to trivia answers. Google is the leading search engine. Like a best friend, Google always there for us, listening and offering help. Google challengers like Bing are the equivalent of someone you don't know walking up and saying they want to be your new best friend. Thanks, but I'm covered.

Still, friends do change. And at the very least, the competition is making Google sit up and take notice. After many rave reviews about search features that Google itself already offers (wow -- Bing lets you track flights!), Google rolled out a new consumer-oriented guide to its various search products (we let you track flights too!). And if things like Bing's new search-by-picture feature were to catch on, Google would likely roll out its own version.

It's not just Bing that's making Google react. Facebook lurks out there on the horizon, a community now 300 million strong, with social networking information that potentially could be used to make for better search results. It's data that Facebook holds to itself, one reason behind Google pushing a rival OpenSocial movement. As people have turned to Facebook for "people searching," an area the company wants to excel at, we've also seen Google rollout improvements to its own people search capabilities. Gotten your Google Profile yet?

Then there's Twitter. The company is appearing in so many places these days, in the way Google did during its early years, that I sometimes say Twitter when I mean Google. But how's all that supposedly self-indulgent twittering likely to make Google nervous?

Well, lots of those tweets are actually searches. Many people tweet questions out to their friends, families and others they follow on Twitter. Plenty get back answers, quickly, and from trusted sources. Twitter's not just a new best friend. It's access to hundreds of best friends, for advice.

Outside of tweeting, there's also Twitter Search itself. Was that an earthquake? Is your cable down? Twitter can tell you answers to such "real time" events even faster than Google.

Let's also remember Apple. All that "there's an app for that" stuff? Change "app" to "google" and you better understand the revolution happening via the iPhone. Google has seen mobile searches skyrocket since the iPhone came in, helped by Google being the default search tool. But want restaurant reviews? The UrbanSpoon app gives them to you better than Google can. Eventful's app keeps you updated on local happenings. There's a "google" for seemingly anything you might be interested in -- but they're not all run by Google.

It's easy to assume that when it comes to search, there's Google and nothing else. That was never the case. Some of Google's former competitors have fallen by the wayside, but new competitors like Facebook, Twitter and literally hundreds of smaller companies -- along with re-energized ones like Microsoft -- keep it from resting on its laurels.

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