On the theme of “What if they had a search engine and nobody came?”
If MS integrate their new search engine with the next version of Windows, the already narrow search engine market will become even more restricted.
Google currently dominates web searching, and for a simple reason: it’s very good. Google offers good results, is simple to use, and also has a good attitude to web developers and users. Despite Google’s popularity, if another company produces something better, the challenger can compete - users aren’t tied to using one search site, and can easily switch to another.
However, if most users are running Windows, and Windows pushes them towards Microsoft’s search engine, this relatively level playing field may become rather tilted. Integration can easily go much further than just setting a default search page in Internet Explorer. MS will probably integrate on an OS service level, not just via the web browser, using similar technology to Google’s web services API. ‘Service’ level integration is very worrying - it could have a damaging impact on the development of the ‘Semantic Web’.
Maciej Ceglowski of IdleWords is encouraging sites to boycott Microsoft’s future search engine by blocking access to its indexing software now: if it can’t gather information, it can’t work well. At the very least the boycott will publicise the issue.
I’m not sure about this strategy: I think it’s worthwhile as a campaign, but it could set a dangerous precedent - what if selectively blocking search engines to make a point gets out of hand? What if people decide to only allow their favourite search engines to index their sites? They’ve got every right to, but it might cause more damage. That, however, is two ‘what-ifs’ against a ‘probably’: I’ll wait and see - if MS go ahead and integrate at a services level, I’ll definitely be editing my robots.txt file.