Last week we told you about Tim O'Reilly's concern about the impending Web wars fought by giant industry players looking to replace one another. The news today about a potential deal between Microsoft and News Corp. to delist the latter's content from Google suggests these wars are really heating up.
News Corp. has not been shy about its distaste for Google. At the recent Web 2.0 Summit, an editor from The Wall Street Journal, Robert Thompson, said that "Google wants to be a home page and a front page," and that Google's VP of search, Marissa Mayer, "unintentionally promotes promiscuity." Shortly thereafter, Rupert Murdoch said he planned to de-index his sites' content from Google once News Corp. implements pay models.
In the midst of it all, Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo, made some noise with a suggestion that if Microsoft wants to kill Google, it should make exclusive deals with publishers. Plenty of bloggers said Calacanis's idea held no water. In addition to rattling off a series of reasons why such a deal wouldn't hurt Google, Danny Sullivan from SearchEngineLand wrote:
It's an extremely odd move to me for Microsoft to be trying to strike exclusive deals like this. It's one thing to license content. It's another to try and suggest that a competitor be locked out. Microsoft has a terrible anti-competitive reputation... You can expect that Google will use an anti-competitive partnership with News Corp. as a sign of arguing that Microsoft is 'back to its old tricks' to pressure against [the Yahoo deal].
But today The Financial Times reports that Microsoft and News Corp. have entered early discussions about a deal whereby the company would de-index its content from Google but keep it on Bing. FT says Microsoft has been in touch with other publishers as well.
This tactic isn't all that shocking: Recall that Steve Ballmer has said he's willing to spend whatever it takes for Bing to become a real competitor to Google. But will it work? Is this the answer to defeating Google?
Proobbbbably nottttt. Well, not this alone, at least.
OK, let's assume Microsoft gets away with this, despite its seeming uber-anti-competitive. But let's say Google rolls its eyes and the Department of Justice falls asleep and misses the whole thing. A potential deal whereby Microsoft pays News Corp. to index its content exclusively with Bing could be a big deal... for News Corp. and any other publisher wanting a long-sought payday from the search engines that index their content.
But as far as this turning Bing into a surefire Google killer? Considering that the majority of people doing searches on Google are seeking plenty of information beyond news headlines, I'm not sure acquiring News Corp. content will raise the little green line quite that high.
However, at the very least, if this somewhat unlikely situation pans out, it might give the search-engine landscape the interesting makeover it's been lacking since Google became omnipotent. Alleged Google competitors have come and gone, but none have been successful at offering something that Google can't. But with enough steam from the publishing world -- and a chunk of Microsoft's money -- Bing may be able to do just that.
And in that case, if Bing succeeds at stealing some of Google's thunder by making exclusive deals with publishers and thereby banning their content from Google's index, one might start to legitimately consider that "evil" is a contagious ailment in the search-o-spehere.
— Nicole Ferraro, Site Editor, Internet Evolution