Microsoft doubtless hoped that the launch of Bing AI would help attract users to the Bing search site, but that hasn’t happened going by some fresh stats.
Statcounter has just aired some figures on search volume and the bad news (for Microsoft) is that Bing’s share of the search engine market in the US has dropped by half a percentage point.
Bing was on 7.4% this time last year, but is now on 6.9%, whereas Google has notched up from 86.7% in 2022 to 88% now.
Okay, so it’s not a big drop for Bing, but nonetheless, it shows that – at least according to one source – Microsoft’s AI chatbot hasn’t made any difference to its search traffic.
The better news in these stats (spotted by Windows Central) is that Edge is up 1% in the browser market, but it’s only on 5.5% in total, so Google’s Chrome remains just as dominant as its search engine.
Analysis: A reversal of priorities?
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Bing AI not helping Microsoft’s search traffic efforts. A few months ago, Statcounter’s global stats also showed that Bing.com traffic fell slightly (to be fair, by 0.04% which is margin of error stuff, so effectively it stayed the same). The global stats for October 2023 also show a slight drop year-on-year.
The broad conclusion, then, is that Bing AI is not managing to drive any meaningful level of traffic to Microsoft’s search engine.
Does Microsoft really care overly about that, though? Maybe not so much now we’d suggest.
While the initial aim with Bing AI (or a big part of it) was to boost the attractiveness of Bing.com, since the launch of the chatbot, the AI explosion has been so pronounced – and the bandwagon so attention-grabbing – that artificial intelligence has become overrulingly important itself.
By which we mean that Bing search considerations, or persuading folks to adopt Windows 11 to get the Copilot AI (essentially integrated Bing with bells and whistles, though not many of the latter yet), have now taken a back seat.
If a fresh rumor is to be believed, Microsoft is bringing Copilot to Windows 10 – a surprising move after the software giant said that the older OS was no longer getting any new features (except for very minor tweaks – and the AI assistant most definitely is a major upgrade).
What this shows – if true – is that Microsoft is less worried about encouraging Windows 11 adoption (which has been seriously slow) and using Copilot as a carrot to persuade upgrades, and more concerned about getting all the many folks on Windows 10 using its AI, bolstering the figures for that.
We can believe this might be the case, given that in the bigger picture, AI has become such a huge deal – with everyone getting in on the act, and for example the likes of Nvidia making a ton of profit from its AI-targeted GPUs. Team Green is very keenly focused on those products now, to the extent that we even worry about the future of the best gaming GPUs (the GeForce ones, that is).
It’s likely the end goal is shifting to Microsoft advancing its AI tech across web properties and its desktop OS ecosystem alike, getting people used to Bing or Copilot being their everyday helper – and that being the primary goal.
Rather than leveraging AI to push the company’s other products, Microsoft is now prioritizing the other way round, possibly. Maybe also thinking that if its AI systems gain enough clout, users will follow to other products eventually, anyway.
Cryptocurrency is a field that’s only grown since its inception, and Opera wants in. The company is making headway by developing another variant of its web browser: the Crypto Browser Project.
This app enables users to store their crypto wallets within the new browser. Users can also follow and manage different types of electronic coin, as well as the controversial NFT content that’s being offered by various companies. These capabilities are all grouped into what’s called Web3, a collection of activities that some predict will be heavily used across the web in the coming years.
Opera is breaking into new frontiers, creating specialized browsers like the gaming-focused GX. The Crypto Browser Project is Opera’s attempt to target users that have a crypto wallet.
TechRadar spoke with Jan Standal, VP of Product Marketing at Opera, to understand the need for a cryptocurrency-focused web browser.
The crypto-elephant in the room
If you’ve used an Opera product before, the Crypto browser will feel familiar to you. The layout is similar, but with a blue and green color scheme.
We asked Standal what Opera’s browser could offer to the crypto market:
“Browsers have always provided a trusted gateway through which consumers experience and engage with the internet – and all the new digital trends and technologies on it,” Standal explains. “With the Crypto Browser Project, we set out to build the first truly custom experience for people who want to experience blockchain and Web3 technologies, channeling almost three decades of experience we have in creating user-friendly browsers.
“Our Crypto Browser lowers the barriers to entry to the Web3 world by providing our users with easy access to blockchain news and tutorials, seamless browsing of Web3 Services and apps, and our trusted non-custodial wallet built directly into the browser.”
Why go all-in with a browser, rather than a plugin?
We wondered why the aim was a browser from Opera focusing on cryptocurrency, rather than a browser extension.
“By controlling the browser, we are able to solve experiences that can’t be solved with just extensions. Take, for example, the secure clipboard feature in the Crypto Browser beta: it protects your wallet address from being manipulated by other apps. Solving such cases makes Opera the most secure option for cryptocurrency and Web3 enthusiasts – something that wouldn't be possible to do with traditional browsers.
“While the shift to Web3 is underway, most of the apps are being created by small software companies, and we hope they can benefit from our technologies, experience, and user base.”
Since cryptocurrency is still in its infancy, we asked Standal how the browser could cater to different types of crypto.
“Partnerships are a priority for Opera – we are pursuing an inclusive multi-chain strategy. By creating a solution respectful of all ecosystems, and encouraging the development of common standards and practices amongst developer communities, we hope to help this incredible and diverse new field of creators achieve the fullest potential for their technologies.”
We pressed Standal on Opera’s decision to create a separate browser that focuses on cryptocurrency rather than incorporating crypto features into Opera or Opera GX.
“With the Crypto Browser Project, we are trying an all-in approach, providing people with a specific experience they need in order to interact with Web3,” Standal explains. “As the technologies of Web3 become more advanced, we will see a strong divergence in the way the browser will interact with the world – and it was important that we prepared for that.
“We believe that if you’re interested in cryptocurrencies, blockchain technologies, even funny coins, you should have a dedicated space for that. If you’re starting and simply want to understand the space better, the Crypto Browser Project will be the perfect starting point.”
Standal continued: “With Opera GX, we learned the power of community, and how we could craft a browser built just for the needs of our awesome gaming users. With the Crypto Browser project, we are showing the same care and attention to the crypto community focused on safe, easy, and intuitive access to crypto services and tools in a way even a novice can understand.”
Feeling safe with crypto
There’s still the ongoing issue of security and authenticity when it comes to bitcoins. There’s also this persistent idea that crypto goes hand in hand with gambling, especially considering Bitcoin’s rise and fall in value is always making news. We asked Standal what steps Opera has taken with this browser to keep users safe.
“While it's true that crypto is not for everyone yet, we see that millions of our browser users are already onboarding to crypto and Web3 is happening. We strongly believe that it's better for serious companies to participate in the space, help the users and shape the industry rather than avoid it,” Standal explains. “Helping our users avoid scams is a natural part of this. The Crypto Browser provides you with the Crypto Corner, which is a source of tutorials, access to influential publications, and key information about the space. There’s also a whole set of security and privacy features such as the built-in VPN, ad blocker, the secure clipboard, and others.”
Another side to cryptocurrency is the NFT, or Non-fungible Token. These are digital assets, like images or videos, that are allegedly uniquely yours. Opera’s crypto browser will allow you to use your wallet to purchase these. We wanted to know where the company stood on this process.
“Those steps are outlined on NFT platforms,” Standal clarifies. “From our side, we make sure no one meddles with your wallet address by providing you with a built-in wallet and a secure clipboard to copy and paste your wallet address and other sensitive data.”
The company also announced in a blog post that the crypto browser is in development for Apple devices, and will be submitted to the App Store. But with features allowing users to manage their crypto wallet within a web browser, we asked Standal if Apple’s most likely response will be to reject the app, especially if there's explicit ways to buy and sell crypto.
“The Opera browser for iOS already comes with an array of crypto features. The Crypto Browser Project isn’t that different in terms of features; rather [it] builds them into a unified experience,” Standal continues. “It’s your entry point into Web3, with its apps and other solutions – as well as providing information about blockchain technologies. And [it’s] a safe and trusted source for where to explore next.”
Analysis: is this web browser a sign of things to come?
It was surprising to see Opera announce a web browser solely focused on cryptocurrency. Considering some of the negative connotations of the field, it’s currently a slippery slope for any company to include any features that involve crypto and NFT content.
But Opera has gone all-in with this venture by presenting an entirely new browser, as opposed to a feature or a browser extension. While Standal maintains that the Opera Crypto Browser can guide users in crypto wallet management, while helping them to keep track of any other trend within the world of electronic currencies, users might do well to use dedicated apps instead.
Companies like Coinbase offer apps that give you a direct overview of your wallet, and only your wallet. Having a web browser that lets you watch YouTube videos, while allowing you to keep track of Bitcoin, may be too much for most users.
Time will tell if other browsers, such as Firefox and Microsoft Edge among others, will introduce features focused on cryptocurrency. We’d be surprised if any other company went the extra mile and created a whole crypto-browser, in the same way that Opera has.
Crypto could still be a fad that ends, a story that’s remembered at the end of the decade in some Netflix documentary. But then again, if companies don’t push some boundaries, we’ll know how far technology can go – or how convenient new ideas might be for us.