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News Plus 3 Feb 2021 - 2 min read

Microsoft president says Bing happy to take Google's $4.8bn as small search engines surge

By Brendan Coyne - Editor

NEOs: '4.7m Australians are the high spending consumers that will power growth'

Microsoft President Brad Smith has strengthened the government's hand against Google's threats to pull search services from Australia in order to avoid regulation. Amid the fallout, smaller search engines report triple digit growth.

What you need to know:

  • Microsoft president says Bing ready if Google backs up threat to pull search over news bargaining code.
  • Brad Smith says Bing would "never make such a threat".
  • Confirms talks between CEO and federal government.
  • Other search engines report big traffic surges as Australians react.
Bada bing

Microsoft has upped the ante on Google’s threats to pull search services in Australia. President Brad Smith says Bing is more than willing to take Google’s place.

Meanwhile Google has indicated its threat is binary: While some have suggested the company may just filter out news, or remove the news tab altogether, Google states that is not possible.

Per Google’s latest open letterIn this proposed law, ‘news’ is defined vaguely and broadly – way beyond what most of us would consider ‘news’. There seems to be no clear or obvious distinction between news and non-news content, and the way that Google works, there is no algorithm that could navigate such a vague and broad definition.”

Should the search giant see fit to walk away from $4.8bn in revenue, and a 95% market share, Microsoft is ready to step in to the breach, said Smith, and would abide by the news bargaining code rules.

To allay concerns Bing may struggle to fill Google’s boots, Smith added that Microsoft would invest and promised Bing would “get better … with every search”.

He also said, should Bing become an overnight monopoly, it would not hold Australia to ransom.

“One thing is clear: while other tech companies may sometimes threaten to leave Australia, Microsoft will never make such a threat,” said Smith. “We appreciate what Australia has long meant for Microsoft’s growth as a company, and we are committed to supporting the country’s national security and economic success.

 

Search surge

The news comes as Australians apparently flock to smaller search engines following Google’s public ultimatum.

Prior to Microsoft top brass going public, Bing's local lead told Mi3 the firm could not comment on the Google-government wrangle, as did Verizon-owned Yahoo. But it is understood both of their search volumes have increased in recent weeks. DuckDuckGo – which is seeking a global marketing director – is yet to confirm growth. However, sustainability-focused search engine Ekoru.org reported a 500% spike “within days” of Google making its ultimatum.

While off a low base, the surge has taken it to 1 million searches a day, “primarily from Australia”, according to founder Ati Bakush. The firm, which does not track users, donates 60% of revenues to ocean clean-up.

“We realise that's a drop in the ocean compared to Google's traffic, but it’s a big increase for us. We had to very quickly provision new resources to absorb the additional traffic – and we hope it’s a sign of things to come,” Bakush told Mi3.

“I imagine this is occurring across the board with every other search engine to varying degrees.”

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