Microsoft's Bing search engine went live over the weekend, three days ahead of schedule, making it the company's latest attempt to grab a larger slice of the online search market from Google. features a home page with colorful hot air balloons rising against a desert backdrop. The page also included links to specific search categories, such as news, videos, shopping, maps, and travel.

Microsoft CEO launched the engine on Thursday at the D: All Things Digital conference.

Today, search engines do a decent job of helping people navigate the Web and find information, but they don't do a very good job of enabling people to use the information they find, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, said at the time. When we set out to build Bing, we grounded ourselves in a deep understanding of how people really want to use the Web.

Among the other naming changes that go along with the new search, Live Search Cashback is now Bing Cashback, while technology from Microsoft's Farecast acquisition now powers Bing Travel. Virtual Earth gets a name change (though not an upgrade in my book) and is now Bing Maps for Enterprise.

With Bing, Microsoft is marketing the product as a new decision engine, a solution to today's unsatisfying search engine experience.

Nearly 98 percent of the traffic at is passive (coming from MSN, etc.) and Bing will be an attempt by Microsoft to establish its search offering as a destination Web site with high active traffic, Collins Stewart analyst Sandeep Agarwal said in a research note on Monday. In our view, though Microsoft's search technologies are ready for prime time, making a call on the success of Bing now will be premature.