Bing Search API Becoming Premium Service

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Regardless of what you think, Microsoft's Bing is still pretty popular. It's the number two search engine on the Web. So obviously Microsoft wants to continue this momentum by making Bing get better results, easier to use... and charge for it?

That's what Microsoft announced today on the Bing blog at least. The company is making some changes to the Bing Search API and will be bringing the updated service to the Azure Marketplace. The key word there is marketplace as the company is going to begin charging for its use.

Let's get to the good news first. Microsoft claims that the updated Bing Search API will "have access to fresher results, improved relevancy, and more opportunities to monetize their usage of the Search API." Of course, these features come at a price with that price being $40 a month for up to 20,000 queries a month.

They aren't just going to start charging for the Search API right away, so don't worry about that. In fact, there's going to be a transition period that will last several months. During this time, they encourage developers to try the Bing Search API for free. From now until the end of the transition period, the Bing Search API 2.0 is free to use for everybody.

For developers, they say that you can look forward to a "new API end point, moderate changes to the request and response schemas, and a new security requirement to authenticate your application key." More details including those Web sites that process over 3 million queries will come shortly.

With this, Bing is moving more in line with how Google handles their Custom Search API. Google offers free use of the API for up to 100 queries a day. After this, they will charge Web site admins $5 per 1,000 queries up to 10,000 queries a day.

It's hard to say at this point which one would be better - Google or Bing. On one hand, Bing is immediately cheaper, but you get far less queries since Google allows Web sites to handle half of what Bing offers a month in a day for a maximum of $50. I think it's all going to come down to the pricing for Web sites that handle a much larger volume of searches. Neither Google or Bing display pricing for searches in the millions, but it would be a lot if Google still sticks to its $5 per 1,000 queries.

On a different note, the comments on the blog post bring up a good point. What about non-profits that use the Bing Search API for their Web sites? One of the comments comes from a library that uses the Bing Search API that only gets 100 to 200 queries. Charging them $40 per month might be a bit too much. The only thing the Bing Team would say is that they're "thinking about ways to enable smaller scale applications to keep experimenting with the API."

Is the Bing Search API too expensive? Should they make exceptions for non-profits? Let us know in the comments.

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