Australian Government and Microsoft Think Bing Can Replace Google Search

Can Microsoft fill the gap if Google exits Australia following a tussle with the government over payments to media outlets? Both the Australian government and Microsoft think that the software giant's Bing search engine can fill the gap in the country if Google pulls its search over required payments to media outlets.

"I can tell you, Microsoft's pretty confident, when I spoke to Satya ... We just want the rules in the digital world to be the same that exist in the real world, in the physical world," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, according to Reuters.

 Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Reuters

While a Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed the discussion between the company and the government, Google did not offer any comments. "We recognise the importance of a vibrant media sector and public interest journalism in a democracy and we recognise the challenges the media sector has faced over many years through changing business models and consumer preferences," Microsoft said.

The long-running dispute between the Australian government and Google came to a head last week when Google threatened to shut down operations in the country even as lawmakers pressured the company to pay for the news stories.

A Google logo on the wall of The Gasworks building in Dublin, Ireland taken on September 2, 2008 Carlos Luna/Flickr

Under Australia's new internet code being hammered out by the lawmakers, Google will have to pay news publishers in order to be able to display their work in its search results. "If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google search available in Australia," said Mel Silva, MD of Google Australia and New Zealand, according to the Business Insider.

Apart from Google, Facebook will also be required to pay news publishers under the new code, a move the Big Tech has condemned. According to industry data, Google's search engine has 94 percent of the country's search market.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Reuters

Meanwhile, the Australian Financial Review reported that Microsoft had told Morrison that Bing is capable of filling the void created by Google's exit. Morrison's meeting with Nadella was followed by another high level meeting between Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, and Australian ministers Josh Frydenberg and Paul Fletcher.