Bing has been able to hold its share of the search market while scrambling slowly up the ladder thanks to its “niche targeting.” Rather than trying to provide the best possible results in every sector, they have focused in on sectors like shopping, sports, images, maps, and travel. To help further this approach, Bing recently partnered with the company KAYAK – a flight, hotel, and vacation search company that will now be powering the results in Bing’s travel search.
Bing states that this move is designed to allow the core Bing team to “focus our development resources on delivering even more unique and valuable features for customers.” Another way of stating that is that Bing is admitting they can’t do search as well as KAYAK, but are confident of their ability to reallocate those resources to other, more worthwhile projects.
Jay Bhatti, a former Microsoft employee, gave his feedback on the deal. Among other items of note, Bhatti reminded the industry that this is the second time that Bing has gone to an outside travel group. Their $100 million buyout of Farecast several years back seems to have been little more than wasted money. Bhatti also comments on how the deal is likely to be demoralizing for members of the Bing team.
KAYAK has been a vocal company inside the industry, especially when it comes to their relation to the major search engines. When Bing was first released, KAYAK representatives actually complained that Bing seemed to be mimicking their structure and services. More recently, KAYAK has been pushing to stop the Google-ITA deal. The Bing partnership will at least resolve the copy-cat accusations.
While Bing entered the search arena as an innovator, eager to create its own internal projects that would dazzle the denizens of the world wide web, their focus has clearly shifted in recent months. The partnership with KAYAK to run travel search is just one of several recent acquisitions, with the list also including the very recent partnership with The Dealmap. Far from trying to present their own niche specializations, Bing is buying or partnering with experts in the field, forming a collage of different search technologies in its bid to gain ground on Google. As for whether this tactic will work, only time will tell.
Update: I received a message from a Microsoft PR representative clarifying that KAYAK had not been purchased, but was simply partnering up with Bing. Her message clarified the exact nature of the deal:
Bing Travel and KAYAK announced a partnership to incorporate KAYAK travel search services within Bing Travel in the U.S, starting with flight search. Bing Travel tools, together with KAYAK’s comprehensive travel search results, will allow travelers to easily and quickly find the best airfare on the Web. What this means for Bing Travel customers is that, in the coming weeks, travelers will have access to a more comprehensive set of flight itineraries including more airlines, airports and cities; in addition to the unique travel tools Bing Travel provides such as Price Predictor, flexible search, Flights Answers and more.