Why Bing Isn't a Failure (& the Future of the Internet)

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May 18, 2018


Why Bing Isn't a Failure (& the Future of the Internet)
Why Bing Isn't a Failure (& the Future of the Internet) thumb Why Bing Isn't a Failure (& the Future of the Internet) thumb Why Bing Isn't a Failure (& the Future of the Internet) thumb


  • Here’s something you’ve never, ever heard before:
  • “Hey, good question, you should Bing it”
  • Okay, maybe once.
  • But, except maybe as a punchline, nobody uses Bing.
  • Microsoft has tried, and tried, and tried again,
  • They redesigned the website, spent millions advertising a pun making Google
  • look better, even paid people to use it.
  • And yet, a decade later, Bing is still Bing.
  • So, at this point, why not just abandon the project?
  • Well, because Bing isn’t actually a failure.
  • Far from it.
  • It’s a story of data, and control, and, ultimately, the future of the internet.
  • In 2012, CEO Steve Ballmer announced Bing was finally a real contender.
  • He said “By revealing our most popular searches, we’re showing Bing is ready to compete with
  • the big boys.”
  • So what were they?
  • google, goggle, googlle, suicide, googler, and hot sauce.
  • Hmmm…
  • I mean, when it comes to spicy food, the crown clearly goes to Bing.
  • Take, that, Google?
  • But, to be fair, we should’ve known Ballmer was no prophet.
  • After releasing the Windows Phone, you know, that best-selling, world-changing sensation,
  • he was so confident it would be successful he held a funeral for the iPhone - literally,
  • iPhones carried like caskets.
  • Yeaaahhhh…
  • So when I saw this chart of search engine market share,
  • I wiped my nonexistent glasses, reloaded the page,
  • cleared the cache, restarted my computer,
  • threw it away, then bought a new one.
  • But, somehow, it’s true: A third of U.S. internet searches use Bing,
  • 26% in the UK, 17% in Canada.
  • And like Google, they sell ads to the highest bidder.
  • Multiply by over a billion users a month, and Bing makes $5 billion a year.
  • as in one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,
  • nine zeros.
  • Hundred dollar bills stacked higher than the Burj Khalifa.
  • Times five.
  • To put that in perspective, that’s what YouTube, made, with basically no competitors,
  • in 2016.
  • The difference is Bing actually makes a profit.
  • Companies like Twitter and Snapchat lose money for years, hoping money will come later.
  • And yet, here’s Bing, actually in the black.
  • Hats off to you, Ballmer.
  • Oh wait
  • But seriously, how can this be? and what does it mean?
  • Microsoft has had plenty of ups and downs, but one thing has always been consistent.
  • 82% of the world’s computers run Windows, and that hasn’t really changed.
  • Besides making a ton of money, this gives them an incredibly powerful tool they’d
  • be dumb not to use.
  • In the same way a change to the iPhone is a change to the entire industry, clear throat
  • Even the smallest adjustment to Windows has a huge effect among hundreds of millions of
  • devices.
  • And that’s especially true for one simple reason:
  • People just don’t change their settings.
  • Microsoft lets you switch browsers and search engines, but ignorance and apathy are on their
  • side.
  • People don’t know how, or don’t care enough to change them, making the defaults incredibly
  • popular.
  • Internet Explorer may not be… universally loved,
  • but it came with Windows, so it doesn’t matter.
  • Same with Edge, their new browser, which looks a little familiar…
  • And they’ll do anything to get more users.
  • Microsoft and Apple may not be the best of friends,
  • but the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
  • Nearly all of Google’s revenue comes from search ads, most of which are mobile,
  • and even though only 12% are iOS devices, they make up 75% of that mobile revenue.
  • Of course they’d prefer you generate that money on Android, but in the meantime,
  • it’s possible iOS users are worth more to Google.
  • They really benefit from and depend on Apple.
  • But the feeling isn’t mutual.
  • Apple would like to keep a distance.
  • To escape Google Maps, they built Apple Maps.
  • Which, wasn’t so good at keeping a distance
  • And that’s where Microsoft comes in.
  • In 2013, Siri waved goodbye to Google and hello to Bing.
  • But money can heal all wounds…
  • Google now sends Apple a 3 billion dollar check every year, and Apple says Fine,
  • you can be our default search engine
  • That’s maybe the world’s most expensive flip of a switch.
  • The success of Bing isn’t really about Bing, it’s about control.
  • If people had to go out of their way to find it, nobody would.
  • The difference between a 5 billion dollar business and a completely bankrupt one is
  • the power to decide what users see.
  • The decisions of tech companies will often seem strange and reckless, like why pour so
  • much money into the Windows and Fire Phones? until you understand the larger goal: moving
  • up the hierarchy of control.
  • The strategy of entire companies, entire industries,
  • is to climb this triangle.
  • The lower something is, the more companies it relies on, and the greater its risk of
  • being shut down.
  • At the very bottom are plugins, extensions, mods, and hacks.
  • They fundamentally depend on the obliviousness or indifference of a larger company,
  • who they often mean very little to.
  • And when their goals differ, the larger company always wins.
  • The Hackintosh community, for example, trick macOS into running on their custom-built computers.
  • It’s clever, but if Apple woke up on the wrong side of the bed, they could end it faster
  • than you can say How do you like them apples?
  • sigh
  • Slightly higher are websites, who can send you any code they want, but are at the mercy
  • of your browser to show it.
  • And browsers, like all apps, are beholden to the operating system, who may just say
  • Nah, I don’t think so
  • The company Astro makes an app to turn your iPad into an extra computer monitor, and they
  • wanted to add a button without covering the screen, so they had a cool idea: They’d
  • use the camera.
  • You “press”, it detects less light, and activates the button.
  • A thumbs up from me, but a thumbs down from Apple, who rejected it from the store.
  • Or, they may really like your app, incorporate it into the OS,
  • and kill your business.
  • When Macs had a feature called Sherlock, Someone made a companion called Watson, a
  • $30 app with some extra features.
  • But it was so good that it came with the next version of macOS.
  • And above all of these is the holy grail of tech companies: physical devices.
  • When you own the hardware, you own everything.
  • Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world not because he’s good at making profit,
  • and certainly not because he’s good at labeling charts, but because he understands the power
  • of getting Amazon in front of you, whatever the cost.
  • He would’ve happily lost money on the Fire Phone just to get in more people’s hands.
  • Kindle, Fire Tablets, Echo - they all make little or no profit, but they’re incredibly
  • important.
  • It’s the same reason Windows Phone refused to quit for so long.
  • And you can bet companies like Facebook hate being in the hands of phone companies.
  • Please don’t do it, Mark.
  • They’re gonna it
  • Speaking of Facebook, the other reason control is so important is data.
  • More data means more and better ads, and ads mean profit.
  • Companies can buy it from places like Digi.me, who you can sell your private information
  • to for a few bucks,
  • Or, companies can just get it themselves.
  • And the higher on the triangle, the more they can collect.
  • It’s a terrible incentive that could forever change the internet…
  • In 2013, Facebook suddenly felt exceptionally generous
  • Hey, we should give everyone in the world access to the internet
  • So here’s what we’re going to do: you get an internet,
  • you get an internet, everyone gets an internet
  • I know who I’m voting for in 2020…
  • But it’s Facebook, so where’s the Black Mirror twist?
  • When users were surveyed, something strange happened: more people said they used Facebook
  • than used the Internet.
  • 65% of Nigerians and 61% of Indonesians they asked agreed that “Facebook is the internet”
  • And that’s no accident…
  • Make no mistake: what Facebook is so generously donating is not the internet, but Facebook’s
  • internet.
  • They only give access to their website and handful of others which meet their requirements.
  • No net neutrality.
  • In other words, a clever way to get more users.
  • Google is also getting into the philanthropy business with what they call AMP.
  • The technology is boring, so here’s a summary:
  • What you see on a website is a fraction of what’s actually there.
  • the rest is, well, garbage.
  • Garbage that tracks you for advertising, makes the site look fancy, whatever.
  • So Google says “All that garbage is really slowing things down, why don’t we host your
  • website for you, we’ll strip away the garbage and it’ll load faster.”
  • It sounds great, but, what do ya know, it only works if you add to your website the
  • same garbage it’s supposed to remove.
  • Because it isn’t about speed so much as control.
  • Websites don’t need Google to remove their garbage,
  • if they want to load faster, they can just do it themselves.
  • Google wants you to hand them control of what users see.
  • Sure, it’s “optional”, but if you say no, they rank you lower in search results,
  • so not really.
  • Google and Facebook already have incredible control over the internet, but they’d like
  • all of it.
  • Their dream isn’t to dominate the internet but to be the internet.
  • And that’s bad for everyone.
  • The beauty of the internet is that power isn’t in the hands of any one company.
  • Anyone can do or learn anything without the permission of a Google or a Facebook.
  • That’s the power of a website like Brilliant.org, you take control of your learning on topics
  • like computer science, math, and physics.
  • Behind all the technology in this video are some really fascinating concepts like machine
  • learning, neural networks, and computational logic.
  • All of which may sound intimidating, but are actually pretty fun and rewarding to learn
  • with Brilliant.
  • In too many of my classes, and probably yours too, we’re taught the steps to do a problem,
  • but not really why, or how.
  • That’s because we’re only memorizing one specific problem, not actually understanding
  • the process.
  • The latter is what’s actually fun and useful in the real world.
  • And that’s what you get with Brilliant - you practice the skills and see examples along
  • the way.
  • Here we’re learning about how computers store information,
  • There’s an explanation, a visual, and a chance to check our understanding.
  • All very approachable.
  • If we answer incorrectly, it shows us exactly how to get the solution.
  • It really is a fantastic way to learn, especially if you’re currently a student or just like
  • learning new things.
  • You can support PolyMatter and learn more at brilliant dot org slash PolyMatter and
  • sign up for free.
  • The first 200 people to use that link, which is in the description, will also get 20% off
  • the annual Premium subscription.

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Learn math, science, computer science, and get 20% off with Brilliant: https://brilliant.org/Polymatter

CORRECTION: There’s incredible power to data in the hands of companies operating at immense scale.
It’s why there’s now a movement to limit this,
why companies like Digi.me, who I’ve previously mistaken for a data collection company, actually let users manage and safeguard their

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Bing is laughed at but it’s actually a profitable product, which demonstrates the power of the control tech companies can have.

*The end of this video includes a paid sponsored promotion. This company had no part in the writing, editing, or production of the rest of the video.

*Clarification: The top Bing searches at the beginning is from a satire website (although I suspect they're not far off from the truth) https://www.thebeaverton.com/2012/07/keyword-term-google-number-one-most-searched-item-on-bing-for-28th-straight-month/


Big thanks to Varsity Star for making the music: https://open.spotify.com/artist/4EbSc50zkOhLL9lCWmop2T?si=9-KyKUtNTMyxNtKqGY_H-g

One of the sections was largely inspired by: https://staltz.com/the-web-began-dying-in-2014-heres-how.html





Steve Ballmer going crazy: /watch?v=04FOUQpnGsc



Burj Khalifa Graphic based on: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Skyscrapercompare.svg

Microsoft ad: /watch?v=V-qriKXcips

AstroPad App: https://astropad.com

Digi.me: https://digi.me










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