Australia calls Google's bluff; Microsoft offers Bing as replacement
Last month, Google had threatened to disable its flagship search engine in Australia to coerce the government from passing a controversial new law forcing Google to pay local media outlets for sharing their news content. Now, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called Google's bluff and is already in talks with Microsoft to fill in the impending search void with its own Bing search engine.
The Australian premier had since had a Zoom conference with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella over the issue. Morrison revealed that Microsoft was in a position to expand its Bing search capabilities in Australia to offset the potential Google exit. Although Microsoft didn't issue an official statement, it is clear that the company is on board with Australia's proposed revenue-sharing law.
Despite being the second largest search provider in Australia, Bing makes up a measly 3.7% of the total market share. If Google goes ahead with its threat, this will allow Microsoft to capture its massive 95% reach in the country. Morrison stated that "Microsoft's pretty confident" of rising up to the challenge while reiterating the importance of the revenue-sharing model for Australia.
Australia isn't the first country to propose such revenue-sharing arrangements. Just last month, Google signed a similar deal in France, where it is required to negotiate individual licensing deals with local newspapers based on factors such as news volume and readership. The European Union's inherent unity and strong legal framework essentially force companies such as Google to comply without much drama.
Google, however, might be resisting the Australian News Media Bargaining Code because it could potentially give the software conglomerate little control over price negotiations. According to the proposed law, a government arbitration panel would intervene if Google cannot reach a revenue-sharing deal with the local media publications. In that case, the search provider has no choice but to comply with the government's decision.
Facebook had also taken Google's route of defiance by threatening to remove the news feed for 17 million Australian users. Mark Zuckerberg had requested a meeting over the proposed law a day earlier. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, however, revealed that the talks concluded with Facebook CEO refusing to back off on his reluctance to share revenue with Australian news outlets.