Well, look at that. Last week it was just a silly suggestion
from some netheads, and now come reports that Rupert Murdoch is at least in the early stages of considering opting out of Google, with Microsoft paying it to be "exclusive" on Bing
. Apparently, Microsoft has actually approached a few publications about doing similar deals. It's no surprise that Microsoft and Murdoch would explore this. Microsoft has experimented
for years with programs to bribe people to use its search engine over Google's -- but it hasn't done much to help. Meanwhile, Murdoch continues to not actually understand how the internet or copyright law works, and has some oddly misplaced dislike for Google (despite the fact that Google alone is pretty much what kept Murdoch-owned MySpace alive for years, and Murdoch owns a bunch of sites that aggregate
info just like Google).
Still, if this does go forward, it will signal incredibly short-sighted thinking on the parts of everyone who participates. The initial reaction would be significantly less traffic to any site that agrees to participate, considering that Google still drives a ton of traffic to most major sites. Simply giving that up for a chunk of cash is a very risky proposition. Second, in factionalizing the web, it harms everyone. No one wants to have to think about which sites are included in which search engine, and if the battle begins in earnest, then you have a situation where you end up in an inevitable stalemate, with certain sites in Google's search engine, but not in Microsoft's, and others in just Microsoft's but not Google's -- and no one wins. Third, the cost of this program to a company like Microsoft to make it meaningful
is huge. It's much bigger than the numbers that were being tossed out before. Finally, all this would really do is open up new opportunities for one of three things (or a combination) to happen (1) a new meta search engine shows up that aggregates both Microsoft and Google results (2) technology hacks that will allow you to combine the two results in one or (3) Google realizes that it has copyright law fair use on its site and keeps indexing sites anyways. I'm not sure Google would take that last step, but if things go nuclear, it might make the most sense.
But the key thing is that none of this
does anything to help users
. And that's the problem. It's not adding even the tiniest sliver of additional benefit to users. And these days, that's a strategic error. If your business is focused on making life more difficult for a competitor, rather than adding more value to users, you're doing the wrong thing. Microsoft and News Corp. should be trying to provide more value to users, and instead, they seem to be plotting ways to make consumers' lives more annoying and more difficult. They may think that's smart, but in the long term, such strategies always backfire.