At the time of writing this blog-post, the Australian government is still at an impasse with tech giants Google and Facebook about new laws that would force them to pay for any news articles they provide to internet users – even if the authors of those articles have made them freely available.
This is either a case of “tech giants trying to steal and republish material without paying for it” or “the Morrison government bowing down to the might of the Murdoch media,” (depending on who you believe).
But in any case, Google is threatening to stop linking to Australian search results – and even withdraw from Australia completely – if the legislation goes ahead.
As Misha Ketchell, editor of ‘The Conversation’ points out, this wouldn’t be unprecedented.
Google has already done some of that in Spain and in Germany – but one of the interesting side-effects has been a sudden interest in OTHER search engines and similar services.
One of the big winners has been DuckDuckGo.
There’s been a bit of buzz about DDG because of its strict privacy rules – unlike Google or Bing or almost every other search engine, DuckDuckGo does NOT keep records of what you have searched for in the past.
This means you don’t get a targeted response based on your previous searches.
And you get to see ALL the results, not just the ones Google (or Bing) wants you to see.
It is that increased privacy that is attracting internet experts like James Temperton of Wired, who wrote an article called “I ditched Google for DuckDuckGo. Here’s why you should too”.
Of course, the amusing part is that to access that article, you need to allow Wired’s parent company, Conde Nast, to keep records of your visit.
Oh – and I mentioned Microsoft’s Bing earlier. It was considered a joke by many – but the search engine has become much more effective. It also has a feature that is making it very popular with the penurious.
Simply using Bing for searches (and Microsoft Edge as a browser) can get loyalty points. Mostly, those points are useful for buying stuff from the Microsoft store (eg games and game passes) but they can also be used for gift cards at Starbucks and Burger King in the US, I am told.
I haven’t done much investigation – but I note that there are active forums at Reddit and Whirlpool which examine how to maximise the benefits.
For the moment, I think I’ll stick with Google … but I have to say that I am not wedded to the Alphabet products.
After all, I’ve also been a fan of various other search engines – going back through AskJeeves and AltaVista to Yahoo and Lycos, and Webcrawler – and even further back to Archie and Veronica, which predate the World Wide Web.
Each seemed unassailable.
But a fickle internet-using public dropped them as fast as .. well .. MySpace!
So, returning to the bunfight between Google and Facebook on one side and the Australian Government on the other.
Maybe the tech giants should remember the old adage from politics.
Today you may be a Rooster, but tomorrow a feather duster.