A bleak future for search?

Microsoft's Bing is reportedly considering paying for the ability to search paywalled content on the Wall Street Journal's website. With exclusivity.

Rupert Murdoch, who runs News Corp. (which is the Fox network and its cable spin-offs in the U.S., along with newspapers and TV stations in the U.S., UK and Australia), the Journal's owner, has made no secret that he is considering blocking Google from searching paid content on the Journal's site. Google isn't exactly fighting back – the search engine figures that they make that option available to everyone, and if the Journal doesn't want the Internet's most popular search engine finding its content, that's no skin off Google's teeth.

But let's say Bing pays for the privilege of being the only major search engine that can search the Journal for news (the idea being that people will want Journal content included in their searches and as such will turn to Bing instead of Google). Then let's say a whole chain follows suit – maybe Bing signs up Hearst, or Belo, or both. At some point, Google has to counter.

When that happens, we come to a point where, if you want to include certain news outlets in your searches, you have to know which search engine carries what content. And maybe by now that extends to musical artists – perhaps Bing has paid one studio and Google another for access to search their artists' pages.

This is where the two search engines cease to be money-making platforms for their respective companies. Why? Because now I'd just go to Bingle, which searches them both. And then Bingle gets lots of competitors, all who search both Bing and Google. And all those search engines make money.

OR:

This exclusivity fight leads someone to develop an entirely new way to search the web. And it becomes the next Google. And then the next Bing follows. And then we do this whole thing again. Vicious cycle, anyone?

(Hat tip to James Bedell for the story link.)

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07/01/2010

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