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  1. What Is
January 21, 2023updated 20 Jan 2024 3:32am

What is Bing?

By Tech Monitor Staff

Bing is a web search engine owned and operated by Microsoft and is the latest iteration of past engines such as MSN Search, Windows Live Search and Live Search.

Unveiled by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in 2009, Bing has a broad range of features, from advanced filters which allow users to refine search results, to image and video search. Its instant answers feature spans sports, finance, dictionary, calculations, flight tracking, translation and conversion of units, among others.

Bing (image: Shutterstock)

Why is it called Bing?

The search engine was given its name after being chosen through focus groups, with Microsoft settling on the name as it would remind people of the sound made at ‘the moment of discovery and decision making.’

David Webster, an advertising strategist at Microsoft, had originally proposed ‘bang’ for much of the same reasons that ‘Bing’ was suggested. However, ‘bang’ did not make the cut after it was realised that it could not be properly used as a verb for searching the internet. Webster remarked that ‘I banged’ had vastly different connotations to ‘I binged’.

Despite the prominence of its parent company, Bing is far from the market leader in the search engine landscape. That crown, of course, goes to Google, with a market share of between 85% and 95%, depending on the estimate.

Bing, on the other hand, has a share of between 3% and 9% and – despite its second-place market share – is not typically seen as a serious challenger to Google’s hegemony. That may be about to change, however.

Microsoft and OpenAI

Following a recent $1 billion investment in OpenAI – the company behind the GPT-3, GPT-4, ChatGPT and Dall-E artificial intelligence – Microsoft is looking to get ahead in the AI arms race and is planning to integrate the technology into its products, including Office, Teams and Bing.

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Dubbed “Prometheus” after the titan of Greek mythology who stole fire from the gods – perhaps as a statement of intent – the Bing-specific implementation of ChatGPT will add its familiar natural conversation functions with the specific aim of answering queries. Crucially, Prometheus will include links in its answers to aid in the verification of the information it provides.

Google has announced its own competitor AI to Prometheus, named Bard and based on the company’s LaMDA large language model, which is currently being tested by select users. However, the unlikely upstart has fallen at the first hurdle with Bard’s first public demo containing a factual error.

If Bing manages to successfully leverage the use of generative AI in answering user queries, it could represent the first major shakeup in the balance of the search market since the 2000s.

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