The Intriguing Facebook/Microsoft Alliance

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 15 2013 4:05 PM

The Intriguing Facebook/Microsoft Alliance

154431686
Rich Shea and Kristin Cavallari hosts the Bing It On Halloween Costume Challenge at Spirit Halloween on Oct. 19, 2012 in New York City

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Bing.

My colleagues Will Oremus and Farhad Manjoo have what you need to know about Facebook's new Graph Search feature, but I was most intrigued by this aside at the end of Will's piece: "Oh, and get what happens when you search for something that it can't find in your social graph: It delivers Web results via Bing."

This is an interesting alliance because Microsoft's Bing is an interesting business. It's a solid product. It works really well. I like Google better, but if for some reason it was impossible for me to ever Google again and I had to rely on Bing I think I'd lead a happy and productive life. That's a big contrast from, say, my preferences in soda. Sure, I'll drink a Diet Pepsi in a pinch but I'd much rather drink Diet Coke. My Google-over-Bing preference is relatively tiny. But the difference is that Pepsi and Burger King have great profitably businesses even though they're perennially number two to Coke and McDonald's. You'd rather be number one, but having the number two burger chain or soda or car company is great. Number two in web search, by contrast, looks to be a semi-disastrous business.

Advertisement

There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of them is simply that having a lot of people use Google provides Google with a lot of data that it can use to keep making Google better. The rich get richer.

One possible response to this dynamic is to do what every non-Microsoft company on the planet is doing and stay away from the business. Either focus on other things (Apple, Amazon) or if you're really bold take a glancing blow at search like Facebook is doing. But Microsoft seems determined to charge ahead. And the gains if they win are potentially enormous. But that in turn means very generous deals may be available for partners whose Bing tie-ins might conceivably help Microsoft gain an advantage.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.