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Microsoft Plays Down anti-Google Search Plans

(FT) — Microsoft’s top search technology executive on Wednesday all but dismissed the likelihood that the company would pay newspaper owners and other publishers for removing their content from Google.

His comments came a week after it emerged that Microsoft had been in talks over a News Corp-led initiative that would have paid publishers to leave Google as a way to boost Microsoft’s own search engine, Bing.

Meanwhile, Google extended another olive branch to the news media on Wednesday, with a new technology tool to make it easier for those that do not want to be included in Google News to be able to remove their content from the service.

The move came a day after Google allowed publishers to set new limits on the amount of free content they make available while still being included in the Google search index, and was the the latest indication of efforts to appease publishers who have complained that the search company is damaging their online efforts.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s senior vice-president for online services, refused to comment directly on talks with News Corp, but said that Bing was not looking to get a leg-up on Google by securing preferential access to information.

“That’s not at all a focus for us,” he said, adding: “We generally are not focused on getting non-Google content.”

He also said that keeping information off Google was “not the thing that would be a benefit to us in the long run”.

Although it distanced itself from the idea on Wednesday, Microsoft’s earlier willingness to discuss the anti-Google plan with News Corp, and also to make similar proposals to other online publishers, highlights the urgency of its efforts to gain a stronger foothold in search.

Since relaunching its search service under the Bing brand in May, backed by an expensive marketing campaign, Microsoft said that in the US its number of unique visitors had risen by 16 per cent to 83m, while its share of internet searches had grown by 1.9 percentage points, to 9.9 per cent.

Microsoft claimed that those relatively modest gains had marked a successful first five months for Bing. “Ever since Google launched, no one [else] has grown five months in a row or gained a point of market share,” Mr Nadella said.

Josh Cohen, business product manager for Google News, denied that his company’s latest efforts to win over news publishers had been prompted by a backlash from media organisations such as News Corp. “Having paid content online, and being in Google, are not mutually exclusive,” he said.


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