A new character has burst into the Australian plot in which Google is the protagonist – or antagonist depending on how you look at it. Just days after the tech giant threatened Australia with leaving the country if the government succeeds in forcing the mega company to pay Australian media companies to use its news content, Microsoft has come out on top. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that Bill Gates’ company “is confident it can fill the gap” if Google carries out its threat and removes its local search engine from the country. According to the Associated Press, Morrisson spoke with the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, on her search engine Bing so that it is in charge of supplying Google.
While alternatives to Google exist and are many, such as Duck Duck Go, Baidu and the aforementioned Bing, from Microsoft, their viability, coverage and effectiveness is what is in doubt. And in the Australian economy and digital space, Alphabet’s search engine – the parent company of Google and YouTube – is too heavy; more than Australians themselves want to acknowledge. In addition, the threats from the technology giant represent millionaire costs for the company and could create a negative precedent when the rest of the countries ask themselves: can we survive without Google as Australia proposes?
Bing and Google, in figures
What does it really mean for Google to “leave” Australia? It is not what it seems, because the output is not total. “Google would never leave Australia, it would simply stop offering its local version,” he explains. Enrique In, Professor of Innovation and Technology at IE Business School and author of Living in the future. This means that to use the search engine, Australians would simply have to connect to google.com instead of doing it to google.au (the Australian version) or some other version. “Google could even continue to segment its advertising based on the IP address the user comes from, which would allow it to continue to have advertising revenue but would bill from another country,” adds Dans. And they’re not small bills: the Australian market brought Google A $ 4.3 billion (€ 2.7 billion) of ad revenue in 2019 alone, for example.
It’s no secret that the biggest piece of cake in the Australian market has been eaten by Google. More than 19 million Australians use this search engine. Bing, on the other hand, has a 3.6% market share compared to Google, which has 95%. “Google has spent many years investing more than anyone in its search engine technology, something that Microsoft has decidedly not done with Bing. To think that those users who can still consult Google are going to stay calm using Bing, a significantly inferior product, is absurd and simplistic, “suggests the professor.
But taking a bigger piece of the same cake doesn’t guarantee that it tastes better. At least not for Pavel Sidorenko Bautista, expert in social networks and professor of New Narratives at the Francisco de Vitoria University. “There is a world beyond Google when it comes to Internet searches.” The professor cites the case of Russia, South Korea, Japan, China (with the exceptions of censorship that we know of), Ukraine, the Czech Republic and even Kazakhstan and Belarus, where Google “barely reaches 35% of searches.” “Bing is a very good search engine and Microsoft has been in charge of providing it with resources that put it in a competitive role. If we do not use it, it is because we have fallen into the comfort offered by Google, which especially through Android devices centralizes us more and more with its services ”, argues Sidorenko. Bing and the Australian Government bet on this thesis. “I can tell you that Microsoft is pretty sure that Australians would be no worse off [sin Google]”, Morrison assured al National Press Club of Australia this Monday.
Who loses the most?
But if anyone doubted the size of the slice that Google has eaten of the Australian cake, here is more information: Alphabet has a market value of 1.1 billion euros, just below the Australia’s annual GDP: 1.2 billion euros. Can Google afford to lose Australia? Maybe yes. “Competitive pluralism is eroding because those who benefit are big tech companies that apply dubious business practices. Australia wants to take a step now with these regulations, but when you have accustomed companies to operate in one way, they blackmail by leaving in the face of changes ”, he explains Álvaro Lodares Pérez, economist and columnist.
But can Australia afford to lose Google? Maybe not. “Countries do not intend to do without Google. They simply want to force Google to pay more to certain actors or to declare more income. For any country, Google abandoning its local version is a loss for which they must answer to their citizens and it is difficult to justify ”, explains Dans. The French case is an example of what the expert says. A few days ago, the technology company reached an agreement with the French press to remunerate it for the use of its content.
“In the end, Google will decide if it wants to reach an agreement with the media or not. It matters little if the government tells its citizens to use Bing instead, because that battle (and that space) was already won by Google a long time ago, ”says Dans.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.