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February search engine market data released by Experian Hitwise today differs from the counts issued by comScore yesterday. But the topline takeaway is the same: Microsoft’s Bing continues to nibble its way up the charts.

Today’s Bing front door photo seems apt: An Antarctic fur seal whose kind defied forecasts of their extinction, and are now thriving.

The question is whether Bing’s success comes at the expense of Google, where Hitwise reports a one-half-of-one percent downturn, or at the expense of Yahoo, which dropped two-tenths of a point in comScore’s February count. Hitwise reported Yahoo’s February share as identical to its January rating.

Neither drop is reason to panic … yet. But any business manager knows that one-half of one percent change in market share can mean the difference between profit and loss. And if Bing continues to creep upward month by month, Microsoft will own 20 percent of the search market at some point in 2012. Don’t say the Mayans didn’t warn you.

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