April 4, 2007
@ 06:56 PM

Paul Bryant has a blog post entitled How Microsoft could crush Google in one easy step. Seriously. where he writes

Henry Blodget has a post up on "One way for Microsoft to Kill Google" It's interesting, but I think there's a much easier and faster method that Microsoft could use to more effectively “kill” Google tomorrow if they so chose.

It’s more than a little bit evil - - but on the other hand, I never heard Microsoft promise that they wouldn’t be:

So what is it?

The height of simplicity. Introduce an integrated ad-blocker to Windows (purely as a customer service, of course) that blocks all Google ads in both IE and Firefox.

Allow users to temporarily or permanently turn off the blocker if they choose. (Knowing full well that 95% of users use just the default settings.)

MSFT would probably need to block their own ads too, in order to make the effort legitimate, but how big a loss would that be for them really, on a relative basis?

For G, on the other hand, it would literally eliminate their entire revenue stream. Overnight. And Microsoft could push this out via a Windows Update in a few weeks time, at most. Buy the very excellent AdMuncher and bundle it if it’s too time consuming to build.

Part of me hesitates to point this out (in fact, I first thought of it a couple of years ago, and didn’t say anything for that very reason) but I can’t possibly be the only person who has thought of this, right? What am I missing?

Usually when I see a post like this, I just post a comment pointing all the ways the idea is stupid problematic. However given that the Paul Bryant's blog doesn't allow comments and I'm supposed to be on vacation, I'll just let the merits of this idea stand on their own without further comment.


 

Wednesday, April 04, 2007 7:37:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Evil and genius. I like it. However, I do not think the courts would be happy with Microsoft specifically targetting Google ads while letting all other ads go through. And if Microsoft blocked all ads, well, that would be the end of the Internet as we know it.
d
Wednesday, April 04, 2007 7:43:20 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Assuming MS did this, it would only force companies to change how their ads are served. Advertising isn't going anywhere. It's the same as Spam. Build a better spam filter and the spammers will find more creative ways around it.

The other side of it is that while it would hurt Google, it would literally destroy millions of other businesses that rely on advertising, either as revenue or as marketing.

If it were implemented well, it would crush a lot of smaller businesses long before it took out Google. I think it would be a great way for MS to force people who had never given it a second thought to seriously consider using another OS.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007 8:50:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
This is an interesting, if not entirely original concept. The major downside would be the drawn out legal battle. It wouldn't be unlike the lawsuits regarding ReplayTV and its "skip commercial" feature. There were similar arguments against the fast forward button when the VCR first came out, and recently major networks have been going after TiVo trying to get that company to remove its standard fast forward button.

Media outlets that rely on ad dollars have made the argument (with success) that providing a way to view their content without displaying the associated ads constitutes stealing their content. I'm not saying I necessarily agree with this logic, but I do think this logic would fire an expensive lawsuit if Microsoft did implement ad blocking (especially if blocking were on by default).
Wednesday, April 04, 2007 9:00:12 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I doubt Microsoft could actually do it. I'm sure Google would be clever enough to figure out ways around it.
pwb
Wednesday, April 04, 2007 9:03:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
matt graven wrote
>This is an interesting, if not entirely original concept. The major downside would be the drawn out legal battle.

Incorrect.

Wayne Hunt wrote
>The other side of it is that while it would hurt Google, it would literally destroy millions of other businesses that rely on advertising, either as revenue or as marketing

Ding! Ding! Ding! Wayne wins the prize. The outrage from Google would be tame compared to how pissed off all the companies that depend on AdSense and Adwords would be.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007 9:20:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Microsoft could also just deploy a well-tuned hosts file as "security" patch.

Anyway, the ads won't go away; they'd just be integrated into the pages in ways that would be more difficult to filter out, which in turn out make it more difficult for the ad filters that Firefox users generally employ to work.

The bottom line is there would be a short period were people wouldn't see as many ads while everybody adjusts, then there would be more ads than ever for everybody.

I sort of like it the way it is now: There's the web as Firefox users enjoy it, and then there's that other web that IE users are forced to wade through.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007 9:29:22 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
It would also be rather hilarious to what folks at places like BoingBoing would have to say about this sort of thing given there contempt for others trying to protect their revenue streams.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007 10:49:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Hi Dare,

Wow - if I'd known I would be getting such illustrious visitors I would have turned comments back on, and tidied the place up a bit first! (I was already getting a few haters after my participation in the free speech/hate speech discussion last week.) Thank you for the mindless link propagation. :)

Whenever you're back from vacation, I'd be very interested in hearing what you think are the reasons my idea is problematic.

Wayne - - "Assuming MS did this, it would only force companies to change how their ads are served."

Agreed, but that doesn't mean it's without strategic business value. Joel on Software's essay on "Fire & Motion" comes to mind: "...the end result is just cover fire. The competition has no choice but to spend all their time porting and keeping up..."

I was mostly just trying to counter the idea I run into more and more these days that Microsoft is sort of this toothless giant and Google runs the table this decade. I think that idea is a bit misguided.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007 10:52:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
It wouldn't kill Google, because Google is making money by deploying a service that both "producers" and "consumers" need. You can't kill a need.

And you can't prevent the inclusion of remote scripts, so you can't cut out the underlying means of distribution, either.

It would simply force Google to go through dozens/hundreds of smaller, unblocked intermediating ad brokers. Those brokers would get slightly more money for their now-necessary service, and Google would make slightly less, but what's the point?

There is never going to be a world where the major browser shows no ads. Firefox users only get ad-free browsing because it isn't yet worth it for advertisers to route around ad-blocking filtersets.
Thursday, April 05, 2007 12:43:55 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I think Paul's idea is boiling over with hubris.

How can could one company with vested interests decide the thin line between advertising and content. Are sponsored links ads, product placement, what about personal and relevant advertising that helps a patient find a life-saving drug? What Paul is advocating comes close to tampering with site content itself.

And if Google wanted to be evil, they could stop serving results completely to the new version of IE and display a message explaining to the user what's happening and recommend that they switch to Firefox. I doubt that Firefox would go along with Microsoft's plan given that many of their contributors work for Google and are not so very evil.
Thursday, April 05, 2007 2:43:48 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Microsoft (IE team) could go about it in another way though and avoid the bad consequences:

Simply add a new community-enabled "Content filter" that would be featured prominently in the next IE release. Users could add and rank the filters and if the users felt that Google ads were the worst annoyance, the filter for google ads would rise to the top of the list and with suitable design it could be made to be enabled in even 2 clicks without downloading anything assuming user had already gotten the new IE from Windows Update.


What would really happen though? I think it'd be those Microsofts partners annoying ads that'd be filtered. For example the one that advertised Windows Server 2003 with a modal in your face pop-up when visiting certain site which featured content about good web design :-)
ac
Thursday, April 05, 2007 7:55:07 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Paul,
I guess my sarcasm was too subtle. First of all, the idea is pretty obvious and unoriginal. The fact that you didn't find it in Technorati doesn't mean you're the first person that came to this revelation.

Anyway, the idea is problematic on several levels. Assuming that Microsoft decides to risk pissing of the DOJ and the EU after still smarting from payouts in billions of dollars for anti-trust violations AND assuming that Google doesn't immediately complain to the DOJ and the EU given their penchant for raising issues the last time Microsoft added a search related feature to IE (see http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20060501/091241.shtml) there are still issues. The chief of which are (i) this punishes millions of advertisers and websites that get a significant amount of value from AdSense/Adwords and (ii) this destroys the entire internet advertising business model which is probably one of the few growth areas left for Microsoft.

This ignores that as others have mentioned Google will find technological means around such ad blockers, they aren't just going to lie there and let Microsoft kill their business. Oh, then there's the negative PR fallout for Microsoft.
Thursday, April 05, 2007 11:40:34 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Paul - the biggest problem with your 'idea' is that Microsoft is not in the business of 'killing' companies this way. The only way you compete is by building the best damn products out there and making your users really, really happy.
Friday, April 06, 2007 2:22:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Shu:

Re: hubris, undoubtedly - though that has no direct bearing on the merit of the idea (or lack thereof.)

Re: Google promoting Firefox - sure, in fact they already are - but just to clarify, my idea was ad-blocking at the OS level, not the browser level (see Admuncher link in my original post.)


Dare:

Re: sarcasm being too subtle - nah, I'm just too dense. Per my original post, I doubted that it could be an original thought - I was just surprised that I couldn't find any existing discussion of it.

Re: objections - as I also said in my post, I'm not qualified to argue the legal aspects, and I absolutely agree that this would be an evil tactic - in no small part because it would damage Adsense publishers’ business models. As to it being a growth area for Microsoft - true - but it's also less than 5% of overall revenue for MSFT vs. 99% for G. And, at least historically, Microsoft has demonstrated a willingness to take a short term hit to the bottom-line in order to gain competitive advantage.


Sriram:

I certainly admire your outlook, though I'm not 100% certain it's supported by history. As to Microsoft not being in the business of "killing" companies - OK, I will take your word for it - but somebody should perhaps tell your boss? http://battellemedia.com/archives/001835.php



Joking aside, I should end by noting that I’m not arguing for ANY of this, just playing devil’s advocate. As I said above, there seems to be a general assumption in a lot of quarters that Microsoft is the new IBM, and that Google more or less runs the table this decade. As I was telling somebody earlier, I kind of miss the old Microsoft, killer instinct and all – – and I say this as somebody who had to compete with them.

Best regards,

Paul
Sunday, April 08, 2007 10:45:05 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Reading all that Microsoft-killing-Google stuff makes me think what would happen if Google decides to invest some not that much money in polishing and promoting OpenOffice on Linux to large businesses, puts some not too much money in improving Java as a gaming platform...

To give an actuall example of that strategy at work - think of Eclipse and Visual Studio Express.

The truth is that in the long run proprietary software looses value to open source software and there are money to be made mostly in content, services and hardware.
yuri m
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