Is Microsoft Behind Murdoch’s War Against Google?

According to a report in the Financial Times, Microsoft has approached News Corp. about de-listing their sites from Google, which would be an apparent escalation in the search engine wars.

It appears that Microsoft isn’t limiting this to just News Corp either. It’s reported that they are approaching numerous online publishers and offering to pay them for content if they delist from Google. One publisher approached by Microsoft said this is all about “Microsoft hurting Google’s margin”.

Microsoft’s new search engine Bing is their latest attempt to give Google a run for the money. Here are the October search engine market shares, and as you can see Microsoft has a long way to go to beat out Google:

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Bing has increased at the same rate that Google has, but what is interesting is that it appears their shares are coming from Yahoo. In July of this year Microsoft and Yahoo entered a deal for Yahoo to use the Bing search engine on their sites in exchange for a split on advertising revenue, so Yahoo’s decrease in the market share also directly effects Microsoft.

Of course the whole basis of this plan depends upon the belief that Google is actually “stealing” content, something that is in serious debate in both the tech and legal worlds. If this war does escalate and end up in the courts then we could finally see a ruling come out on exactly what the “fair use doctrine” covers – something we have been running blind on for years. Given the fact that Google only reproduces the headline and first few words of an article and that this use is both for research and archival purposes, it appears that Google would have a very strong case in the courts. To really solidify their case and put the final nail in the coffin of this war, Google could remove advertising from the news section of their search engine, which is the only questionable part of “fair use” when it comes to their service. Even better would be for Google to spin off the news part of their search engine and make it a non-profit partnered with Google. Google can surely afford it, and this would destroy any battle Microsoft or News Corp may be planning.

Whatever happens with this, it is clear the Murdoch still isn’t set on removing his sites from Google. I just checked again and what I reported a couple of weeks ago still stands – News Corp sites have explicit directions asking Google to index them. This could also be used against the Murdoch/Microsoft plan. What would happen if Google showed that News Corp sites saw a large percentage of their visits originate from Google? I know that they have records of those kind of metrics, and it would be interesting to hear News Corp argue that they didn’t mind Google increasing their online visibility all these years for free.