Does Bing Matter?

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icrosoft launched Bing last week to a lot of fanfare. And the response that I have heard is one of pleasant surprise. And I have used Bing fairly extensively, and my  response is also one of pleasant surprise. It is a lot less crowded and flashy  (in that bad, buzzing neon sign sort of way) than previous Microsoft efforts.
So, the big question is “Does Bing Matter?”
And, the answer is…uhhh….maybe? Bing has a very nice consumer facing front, and the multi-media selections are really well integrated. And I love the play on the page video.  It makes me want to stick around on the page…which is very different than Google, which is totally tweaked to get me to click on something fast (like an ad).
Bing feels a little more like a portal page, or a content page to me. It is delivering to a small degree, more information that a a Google SERP page. That is good for the searcher, and less good for Microsoft. If I get to see the video on the page, and get a good glimpse at some images, and see a bunch of related searches…I might actually get the answer that I am looking for without clicking on a result.
That is a totally rockin’ result for the searcher, but it diminishes Bing’s role as a money maker. If searchers get the answer they are looking for without clicking away, Bing loses out on the lucrative pay per click advertising business. It makes Bing a content  aggregator ratther than a traffic referral system.
Now, to be fair, Google has this issue too, but they leverage their PPC ads across a wider selection of products (You Tube, GMail, etc) and their dominant position in search allows them to attract the best advertisers.
So, does Bing matter? I don’t actually think so. Bing is starting so far behind Google in search share that they could double their traffic (or quadruple even) and Google would scarely notice. But it does raise an interesting question…does a more complete search result threaten the business model of search? Wolfram Alpha is in that boat. (If you get everything you need in the result, how do you monetize your traffic?) Wikipedia is in that boat…
As search gets better and provides more authoritative results, does it threaten the very business model that built it? In that respect, Bing may very well matter…

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