It may not be as sexy as hearing that corporations have colluded with eachother to keep prices high (say in the TFT or DRAM markets), but I see in the NY Times this morning that the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice has quietly opened an antitrust investigation into tech companies such as Google, Yahoo!, Apple, and others. According to the Times, the direction of the inquiry is unclear, but seems to be focused on “whether the companies involved agreed to not actively recruit employees from each other.” See? Not very sexy. The Washington Post apparently was the first one to mention the investigation.
My first impression is that it’s fine, generally no worse than Yahoo!, but probably not quite as “accurate” as Google. (For what it’s worth, I’m beginning to feel that Google’s accuracy is leaving a lot to be desired.)
However, there’s one thing that I think really needs a little tweaking. The interface is really pretty, with lots of pictures and interactive features (which makes it all the more impressive that it loads so quickly), but the froufrou aspects do have the potential to get in the way of the stated function, which is searching. For example, using Firefox, if you go to bing.com, and just click on Images, you get a list of things that are similar to the background image. All well and good. But say you don’t want your results filtered, so you click on the safe search moderate “change” link, and this is what you get:
It seems to work properly, however, in IE7:
Will Bing become my search engine of choice? I doubt it, but not because of its functionality. Indeed, I very strongly want there to be search competition against Google, because of what that monolith has done to the advertising market. No, I’ll be sticking with Yahoo! for my searches because I have been feeling ill at ease about using Google so much, what with their data retention policies. According to this Lifehacker post, it looks like Yahoo! is the clear winner, retaining data for only 90 days, while Google holds on to it for 9 months, and Microsoft holds on to it for 18 months(!!). (I should note, that the 18 months figure comes from MS’s statements vis-a-vis Live.com, which Bing replaces. I doubt that MS will change that policy just because they’re launching a rebranded search engine.)
Google’s walking away from Yahoo “to avoid a legal battle with federal antitrust regulators who had notified the companies that they were planning to file a lawsuit to block the agreement.” (Source) In the long run, I think this is going to be seen as a smart move, even thought it’s being spun as bad for both parties.