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. identicon
    Rekrul, 11 Feb 2021 @ 12:44pm

    Re: Re:

    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.

    Context is fine, but I can't count the number of times Google has shown me search results that don't have what I searched on the page.

    When you enclose words in quotes, Google is supposed to return matches that contain that exact phrase, even if the context is wrong. For example, if "icon" is the last word in a sentence and "shop" is the first word in the next. However many of the results I looked at didn't have those two words in that order. For example;

    5th result
    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/502221795922417321/
    6th result
    https://www.flaticon.com/free-icon/shop-with-cart-in-window-inside-a-circle_38538
    7th result
    https://www.vectorstock.com/royalty-free-vectors/shop-window-sign-board-vectors
    9th result
    https://www.softicons.com/web-icons/shop-icons-by-newidols/bag-icon

    If I hadn't used quotes, those matches would be perfectly understandable. I used quotes specifically to try and filter out matches that don't contain that exact phrase, but Google (and Bing) ignored them. Googole ignored +"icon shop" as well.

    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.

    Things like enclosing words in quotes and adding plus or minus in front of various search terms is supposed to at least partially override the guessing and force it to confine the search. Except that those don't work. It just ignores them and pretends as if the quotes and plus/minus aren't there most of the time. Minus works for filtering out some stuff, but plus rarely seems to narrow down the results very much.

    I'm not asking for them to make a 100% literal search engine because I know that people would quickly grow frustrated with it, but it would be nice if the tools for confining the search actually worked like they're supposed to.

    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.

    Yup, tried that. :)

    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.

    Tried that too. :)

    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.

    Yes, I came to that conclusion. I was hoping to see if maybe he had released later versions before he disappeared. I thought maybe it would turn up on an archive of old software. You can still find collections of DOS programs on the net.

    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.

    Typically when I want to browse/extract the icons contained within other files I use Icon Snatcher. It's not so much that I wanted this specific program, I was mostly using it as an example.

    A friend had asked me about creating/managing icons and I was going through all the icon programs I'd collected over the years to see what I had. As some of them were quite old, I thought I'd check for newer versions and that's when I got annoyed at Google and posted here.

    It actually seems to be that the reason why they didn't return any results is because there's nothing online to return.

    To be clear, If I had typed;

    "icon shop" windows

    Into Google and all the search results contained the words "icon shop" in that order, along with the word Windows, I wouldn't have posted. (you can believe me or not, I know I have a reputation for complaining) But when I click on a result, do a find for;

    icon shop

    In the page and the browser says those words don't exist in that order, I have to wonder why it's showing me that page. That happens quite often. Google does not say that it couldn't find a match, but it shows me results that don't contain what I searched for. Sometimes it ignores whole words. I can't think of an example right now, but I swear it happens. I'm searching for something specific, I click one of the links, press CTRL-F, type in the word I want to find and the browser tells me it's not on the page.

    I get that it tries to give people what they want, even if they didn't enter exactly the right terms, but why does it show me results that don't have what I searched for when I specifically told it to limit what it shows me?

    If you were to search for "Tom Cruise", would you expect to get results that have "Cruise Tom Playland" in them? Obviously, Tom Cruise is famous enough that that would never happen, but you get the idea.


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