Bing is slowly eating into Google’s massive UK search dominance

Is the tide starting to turn on Google’s European search dominance?

The site has long enjoyed a near-total lock-up on searchers’ mindshare. But now that share has dropped below 90 percent in the U.K. for the first time in five years, according to Experian Hitwise.

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Bing (s MSFT), Yahoo (s YHOO) and Ask took Google (s GOOG) market share, with Bing gaining almost a percentage point from a year ago.

Why is Microsoft’s search engine now gaining ground? Hitwise speculates:

“October saw the launch of Windows 8 with bing set as the default search engine which may have gone some way to increasing Microsoft’s market share.”

But, with Windows 8’s launch having come so late in the month, it is unlikely to have been a big contributing factor. Bing was already beginning to eat into Google’s lead, albeit slowly.

Here is one interesting possibility — couple these numbers with recent Experian Hitwise research that showed a decline in search volumes across the board and it could be that Google, as leader, is the biggest sufferer from what is the growth of social services over search engines.

Google won’t fret too much. It still enjoys a massive lead over all rivals, far more pronounced than in the U.S., where share was pegged around 66 percent last year.

Ironically, with European antitrust inquiries and news publisher gripes growing around it, perhaps it might serve Google well to be able to highlight that — directionally, at least — its dominance is receding.