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Could Bing be the New Google in Australia?

The Australian government has plans to make tech giants pay for news content, following an announcement from Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday amid ongoing efforts by Canberran the capital of Australia, to crackdown on big tech, which was followed by threats by Google to shut down their search engine operations in Australia, and Facebook saying they will ban news content from the platform. Reports say that Microsoft is confident their search engine Bing (currently with just 3.7% market share) can fill the gap if Google does pull operations due to the required payments to media outlets.

In 2019 Google Australia reported revenues of around $3.7 billion and $3.3 billion of which was from advertising, and reported a profit of $103 million. The VP of Google Australia and New Zealand, Mel Silva, stated that it would cause unmanageable financial and operational risk to Google's Australian operators, as well as;

"Google is committed to achieving a workable News Media Bargaining Code. In its current form, the Code remains unworkable and if it became law would hurt not just Google, but small publishers, small businesses, and the millions of Australians that use our services every day."

It has been reported that Microsoft is already positioning Bing to be the primary internet search engine if Alphabet's Google, makes good on its threat of unavailability in Australia as a result of a potential passing of a law that will require Google, Facebook and others, to pay for the content that tech giants take from Australian news sites and pay to domestic media outlets who create the content that drive traffic to these platforms. Google search engine currently holds around 94% market share, while Bing's 3.7% is currently dismal in comparison, but Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has since reportedly spoken with PM Morrison about the proposed rules, with Morrison stating that the software company is ready to grow its presence and operations of Bing as a primary search tool. While a Microsoft spokeswoman did confirm the discussion took place, she declined to comment further as the company doesn't have direct influence or involvement on laws.

“We just want the rules in the digital world to be the same that exist in the real world, in the physical world,” - Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Google has found itself under similar circumstances and pressures in other countries around the world, in a bid for making the tech giant pay for its news content, but the obstacle with the proposed Australian law is the establishment of a binding arbitration process that would determine what and online platform must pay to a news organisation if the conclusion couldn't be met individually. Earlier, in December 2020 google struck a deal in France with a newspaper publisher that meant payments would be linked with various factors such as the amount of content published and traffic figures.

It is unclear whether the removal of Google's search engine operations from Australia would impact the accessibility to its wide range of other services, that are hugely popular worldwide, such as Gmail, Google Maps, and YouTube. If Google does actually exit operations in Australia, much of the opportunity for Bing would be the publicity and acknowledgement by other countries as a viable alternative to Alphabet's Google search engine, rather than the financial gain itself, albeit huge.

"The wider concern is whether Google wants a modern Western democracy to showcase how using its competitors can be perfectly viable," - BBC

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