Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Web-wide war

EVEN technology pundits can sometimes be right. Jason Calacanis, an entrepreneur and noted agent provocateur, recently argued that there is a simple solution to the woes of both Microsoft and big media companies. The world’s largest software firm should pay Time Warner, News Corporation and others firms to block Google, the search giant, from indexing their content—and make it searchable exclusively through Bing, Microsoft’s new search service. Media companies would thus get badly needed cash and Bing a chance to gain market share from Google.

This week it emerged that Microsoft and News Corp are talking about just that. Although the discussions may come to naught, or prove a mere ploy in the media firm’s ongoing negotiations with Google, the news caused a stir. It is a sign not only of how far Microsoft is willing to go in order to turn Bing into a serious rival to Google, but also of how the entire internet could well evolve.

It should come as no surprise that News Corp would be the first to discuss such a deal. Rupert Murdoch, its boss, has long criticised Google for “stealing” his newspapers’ stories by pasting links to them on Google’s own site. He has also announced loudly and often that he wants to charge for more of the content that his firm puts online. What is more, he needs to renegotiate the deal that in 2006 gave Google the exclusive right to place search ads on MySpace, a social network owned by News Corp. Back then Google agreed to shell out $900m over three years for the privilege, although it may in the end pay less, as traffic on MySpace has not met the targets specified.

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