Tech wars starring Microsoft: social search and browser-fight deja vu

B(e)ing social: Google earlier this year introduced “search, plus your world.” Now Microsoft will try to outdo it with Bing search, plus the world’s largest social network. It was only a matter of time till Microsoft and Facebook intensified their efforts to gang up on Google. Because Microsoft long ago bought Facebook’s friendship by investing in it, it has access to all the Facebook information Google can only complain about. (See Sergey Brin talks Google and the thorny issue of walled gardens.) It’s not new that Bing is using Facebook information, but a revamp scheduled to go live next month will make it more obvious and more social.

The key change in the big revamp, which also involves a new design: Bing searchers will be able to see recommendations from their Facebook friends, which could come in handy when researching a vacation, for example. Will the revamp, which will also draw from Twitter and other social networks, help Microsoft’s money-losing search engine lure users away from Google search?

Rebecca Lieb, an analyst quoted by the New York Times, calls Bing’s new design elegant, but the paper also quotes Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, who says that with the quality of search results from Bing and Google “pretty even,” many users just don’t feel the need to break their Google habit.

If you’ve got the urge to merge social with search, Sullivan has also done a comparison of socialized Bing and Google. His verdict: The whole idea “still has a long way to go.”

Nobody’s just browsing: Rival browser makers are complaining this week about Microsoft’s grip on browsing in Windows. Wait, what year is this?

Their beef: When Windows 8 comes out later this year, Microsoft seems to be moving to allow only Internet Explorer to run on the desktop environment of ARM-based Windows devices. Firefox maker Mozilla’s general counsel Harvey Anderson aired his problem with that in a blog post Wednesday, saying Microsoft is preparing for “an unwelcome return to the digital dark ages where users and developers didn’t have browser choices.” Chrome maker Google said it shares Mozilla’s concerns.

If all this sounds vaguely familiar, you’re thinking of the whole Netscape drama, the one in which Microsoft’s bundling of IE with Windows effectively killed the pioneering Netscape browser and sparked a U.S. antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft more than a decade ago. So is Anderson: “The decision to exclude other browsers may also have antitrust implications,” he said in the blog post. The Hill’s Hillicon Valley blog reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to look at the accusations.

The antitrust oversight that came out of a government settlement with Microsoft in that lawsuit, by the way, expired almost exactly a year ago. (See Quoted: For Microsoft, the end is near.)

And yes, Mozilla is aware that Apple (revised) has similar policies that limit the way third-party browsers run on iOS (end revised). But in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Anderson appeared to give Apple a pass. “They have a legacy,” Anderson said of Microsoft. “It’s different than what Apple has to deal with.”

Microsoft has yet to comment.


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  • William J. Earl

    One can have other browsers on iOS devices. I have and use Mercury on my iPhone and iPad, particularly for certain sites which Safari does not handle as well, and to be able to display a web page from my iPad onto an external monitor.

    Why did you think there are no other browsers for iOS?

  • Apple does bundle, but it has also made its browser engine open source. It’s the same engine Android browsers use. Anybody who wants to can create browsers in the iWorld who wishes. Opera had a browser for the iPhone, and many apps have browser functions. Apple is not locking anyone out.

  • Levi Sumagaysay

    I’ve revised the sentence about Apple and third-party browsers.