Microsoft Offers To Break The Web In A Desperate Attempt To Get Somebody To Use Its Widely-Ignored Bing Search Engine

from the opportunistic-much? dept

One of the key battles surrounding the EU Copyright Directive involves the threshold at which upload filters will block the use of copyright material in things like memes and mashups. A year ago, Germany was proposing ridiculously tight restrictions: 128-by-128 pixel images, and three-second videos. Now, it is framing the issue in terms of uses that aren't "automatically" blocked by upload filters. The proposed limits here are 15 seconds of video or audio, 125K graphics, and 160 -- yes, 160 -- characters of text (original in German). Even these tiny extracts could be subsequently blocked by upload filters, depending on the circumstances.

The worsening situation over upload filters has obscured the other bad idea of the EU Copyright Directive: the so-called "link tax", which would require large Internet companies like Google to pay when they use even small amounts of news material. One worrying development in this area is that the idea has spread beyond the EU. As Techdirt reported, Australia is bringing in what amounts to a tax on Google and Facebook for daring to send traffic to legacy news organizations -- notably those of Rupert Murdoch. In July last year, the Australian government released a draft of what is now dubbed the "News Media Bargaining Code". One of the people arguing against the idea is Tim Berners-Lee (pdf):

Requiring a charge for a link on the web blocks an important aspect of the value of web content. To my knowledge, there is no current example of legally requiring payments for links to other content. The ability to link freely -- meaning without limitations regarding the content of the linked site and without monetary fees -- is fundamental to how the web operates, how it has flourished till present, and how it will continue to grow in decades to come.

He concludes: "If this precedent were followed elsewhere it could make the web unworkable around the world." This, indeed, is the danger here: if Australia and the EU go ahead with their plans, it is likely to become the norm globally, with serious consequences for the Internet as a whole.

In response, Google has threatened to pull out of Australia entirely. That's probably just part of its negotiating strategy. In a blog post from a couple of months ago, Mel Silva, VP for Google Australia & New Zealand, wrote: "we strongly believe that with the practical changes we've outlined [in the post], there is a path forward." Similarly, Australian's Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is now talking of a "constructive" conversation with Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai. But that hasn't stopped Microsoft sensing an opportunity to make life harder for its rival in the online search market. Microsoft's President, Brad Smith, has published the following intervention:

Microsoft fully supports the News Media Bargaining Code. The code reasonably attempts to address the bargaining power imbalance between digital platforms and Australian news businesses. It also recognises the important role search plays, not only to consumers but to the thousands of Australian small businesses that rely on search and advertising technology to fund and support their organisations. While Microsoft is not subject to the legislation currently pending, we'd be willing to live by these rules if the government designates us.

And here's why it "fully supports" this misguided link tax:

Microsoft will ensure that small businesses who wish to transfer their advertising to Bing can do so simply and with no transfer costs. We recognise the important role search advertising plays to the more than two million small businesses in Australia.

We will invest further to ensure Bing is comparable to our competitors and we remind people that they can help, with every search Bing gets better at finding what you are looking for.

That is, in a desperate attempt to get someone to use its still largely-ignored search engine Bing, Microsoft is apparently willing to throw the Web under the bus. It's an incredibly short-sighted and selfish move. Sure, it's legitimate to want to take advantage of a rival's problems. But not to the extent of causing serious harm to the very fabric of the Web, the hyperlink.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

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Filed Under: australia, bing, competition, google tax, link tax, links, news
Companies: google, microsoft


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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 9 Feb 2021 @ 11:25pm

    Re:

    "A search site that actually returns pages that match what you searched for instead of trying to guess what you wanted"

    So... a site that returns links with no sense of context? I understand wanting better ways of guessing context but I don't think that you'd still get what you want.

    "neither of which is what I searched for!"

    They have no way of knowing that, of course, since the name is so generic that it directly matches people looking for a shop containing icons as well as an application. It also potentially matches file names and descriptions of programs rather than actual titles.

    In short, the search engines have to make a guess on your behalf with the information provided to you, and as the alternatives will be much more likely to return results and be more popularly searches for than some obscure application you apparently don't even know is developed any longer, they guessed the more likely results.

    In your case, you had several better options to search rather than search for some massively generic words and hope that what you wanted was returned. One would be to open the program and go to the help or about menu. There, you will normally see the name of the developer, and often a link to their website. So, use the link to search for the developer, and you'd get what you wanted.

    The other better option would be to search for the older version first, then go from those results to the most up to date download page for the developer. However... I tried this for you on several search engines and that's not happening. A search for "icon shop 1.13" brings up a tiny handful of people mentioning the program on foreign language forums (I got Japanese and Belgian, nothing in English), which link to dead links on non-official FTP sites to download the program. If the developer is still online with an official download page, none of the forum posters bothered to link to it instead of their own uploads.

    In other words, it seems that the program you're searching for is so ancient that no longer is it no longer developed, but no currently active site is even mentioning the version you have. You might get better results searching for developer, but judging from the screen shot I saw on one forum, it seems to be a horrifically outdated program whose functionality has long been superseded by other applications freely available online.

    This isn't simply a case of you choosing a relatively poor set of search criteria, then complaining that Google are guessing the wrong thing based on the non-specific information you tried giving to it. It actually seems to be that the reason why they didn't return any results is because there's nothing online to return. I hope you have better luck searching for the developer, but if I understand the application correctly, you'd be far better looking for something that is currently being developed by typing ".ico converter" - which returns a lot of relevant results.


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