The Herald Bulletin

Overnight Update

Local Business

January 21, 2013

Emmett Dulaney: An enemy of my enemy

I found something interesting in the announcement by Facebook this past week that they have created their own search engine. It wasn’t that they now have a search engine (called Facebook Graph Search) — it’s easy to understand why they would want a share of the marketing dollars that are present there. It wasn’t that they spent a year working on it — if anything, the remarkable thing there is that they were able to produce something in such a short period of time. It wasn’t even that they’ve partnered with others to be able to deliver results outside of the content found within Facebook. The surprise for me was that one of the partners involved is Microsoft and if the search engine does not find what it is looking for within Facebook, it uses Bing to identify what is found on the rest of the Web.

It was not that long ago that Microsoft was a swear word among other technology giants. It was viewed as the monopolistic giant using predatory practices to curb innovation; it was bent on ruining competition; and it was keeping the market from advancing. Microsoft was in court on a regular basis fighting such accusations and trying to fight both its competitors and the justice department while other companies shunned them.

What changed isn’t that Microsoft stopped being viewed as a bully: instead, it has just come to be viewed as a lesser bully thanks to the explosive growth of Google. As Google has expanded its products and threatened to take markets that others once dominated, it has gone from being everyone’s favorite Web poster child to now being seen as an enemy. The list of those who feel threatened by Google is formidable: Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and many others appear there. And since an enemy of my enemy is my friend, it is suddenly OK to team up with Microsoft to combat Google. Not surprisingly, now that Google is so large, it is being accused of some of the same things that Microsoft once stood accused of (and IBM filled that void before them).

Strangely, while Graph is currently available in a limited beta, Microsoft has announced that Bing will return far more results that are in Facebook than it previously did. What that means is that while Facebook wants you to stay within Facebook as much as possible, Microsoft is hedging its bets by allowing you to find more Facebook entries when doing a search outside of Facebook. While this locating of content is good for both companies, it certainly seems to favor Microsoft a bit more than Facebook. When choosing enemies to partner with, you always want to make sure you pick the right one.

Columns from the Falls School of Business at Anderson University appear Tuesdays in The Herald Bulletin. This week’s columnist, Emmett Dulaney, teaches marketing and entrepreneurship.

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