Microsoft Bings Facebook to Avoid Being Googled
Richard is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
The idea of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) sending Bing over to Facebook in exchange for an additional stake in the company was recently floated by a Microsoft analyst, and to me it's a no-brainer.
Microsoft introduced Bing three years ago in an attempt to stave off total search domination by Google and the resulting war chest they would amass from this cash cow, which would finance an attack on Microsoft's core (Windows and Office.) To say Microsoft's efforts have been in vain is an understatement. Bing loses 2.5 bills ( high-finance slang for a billion) a year, while Google consistently gains search market share each quarter due to a superior product, and generally better press.
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has amassed the war chest, and struck at Microsoft's heart, bleeding both retail and commercial customers from them with their Chrome OS/ browser, and Google Docs. In giving away their Android operating system for free, and leveraging the technical expertise of mobile handset makers like Motorola (NYSE: MMI), (wich is opposite Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) strategy, who loses some market share in exchange for exacting control,) Google has developed lifelong customers with their brilliant strategy. Whereas I used to occasionally search with Yahoo/Bing, I now search exclusively with Google, as well finding myself using more and more of their other products.
Meanwhile Facebook, in my opinion Google's biggest threat with their vast amount of social data and how much time loyal users spend whispering their exact preferences into the giant's ears, will likely leverage this information to create a social search engine that I anticipate to be the next step in search.
Like Larry Page pointed out recently, if I am searching for "Ben Smith," and information about my friend pops up rather than the other million, I'm likely to be quite pleased with the result. Facebook knows who we "like" more than any other force to have ever existed. (Facebook match-making service?)
Should Facebook acquire Bing, they would be able to improve it in ways Microsoft is unable to by leveraging their vast amounts of social data. Re-branding it, "Bing by Facebook" I think a good percentage of their loyal user base would give it a chance, adopting it depending on the results. Right now, the "search the web function" on Facebook is difficult to find, as Facebook would rather keep users within its gated walls as long as possible.
With a Facebook owned search engine, the company would be adding a monetization app, and keeping the revenue instead of dividing up a good portion of it with a search partner. In getting Bing ready-made, Facebook would be able to allay the massive start-up costs, use their massive amount of propriety data we've given them to make search "social," and save the time associated with creating such a project from scratch, which is especially important, as Google is a moving target, continually improving, and putting vast amounts of resources into Google Plus in an effort to mine their social data.
Microsoft gets, let's say 2-3% more of Facebook (which if Facebook goes off at 100 bills is no small amount) and rid themselves of a Major drag on earnings, further benefiting as Facebook changes the face (haha) of search.
Additionally, special deals could be worked-out from traffic sent to Bing from Microsoft properties like Skype, MSN, X-Box, Hotmail, etc. and at the same time forcing Google to devote resources to defending their cash cow, rather than employing such resources in continued attacks on Softy's heart.
Some might say Bing's alliance with Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) would be a challenge here, as Yahoo has the right according to their contract with Microsoft to terminate the agreement should Softy sell Bing. I don't see this as an impediment. Yahoo discontinued developing their own search capabilities and outsourced them to Microsoft because they realized they had no chance against Google in the search domain. Yahoo benefits freely from Facebook and makes Bing better.
Some might say the deal isn't good for Facebook because they'll inherit a mediocre codebase not built on an open-source stack, and thousands of engineers added to their payroll in an operation bleeding red ink, and right now, they're getting the benefits of having search and maps provided by Microsoft while Softy pays the bills.
This is a valid point, my counter to it is in the battle for internet hegemony, time is of the essence, and if Facebook wants to overthrow Google and grab the throne, this trade makes perfect sense.
Have a thought on the subject? Leave me a comment.
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