Tag Archives: bing

Google, Bing: time to junk these parasitic download sites

“Users of today’s PCs live on a precipice. One false click and the adware and malware invades,” I remarked in a recent comment on Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 launch.

The remark was prompted by a recent call from a friend. His PC was playing up. He was getting all sort of security warnings and being prompted to download more and more apps supposedly to fix problems. It all started, he said, when he went to Google to install iTunes.

After the clean-up, I wondered what had happened. I went to Google and typed in iTunes.


The top hit is Apple, which perhaps to prevent this kind of problem has actually paid for an ad on its own brand name. However my friend, understandably, went for the link that said iTunes Free Download (actually I am not sure if this was the exact link he clicked, but it was one like it).

Note how the ads are distinguished from the organic hits only by a small yellow indicator.

Microsoft’s Bing, incidentally, is even worse; I presume because Apple has not paid for an ad:


Using a secure virtual machine, I investigated what happens if you click one of these links (I advise you NOT to try this on your normal PC). I clicked the Google one, which took me to SOFTNOW.


I hit the big Download button.


It is downloading a setup from drive-files-b.com which claims to be iTunes, but it is not, as we will see.

The file passes Microsoft’s security scan and runs. The setup is signed by Perion Network Ltd.


Now here comes iTunes – or does it?


I clicked to see the Terms of Service. These are from Perion, not Apple, and explain that I am going to get an alternative search service for my browser plus other utilities, on an opt-out basis.


However I doubt my friend clicked to see these. Probably he hit Next.


Apparently I have “elected to download Search Protect”. There are more terms to agree. The Skip and Skip All buttons are in grey; in fact, the Skip button looks disabled though perhaps it is not.


Now here comes a thing called Wajam which is going to recommend stuff to me.


And another horror called WebSteroids with more terms of use:


I am going to get “display ads (banner ads), text ads, in-text ads, interstitial ads, pop up ads, pop under ads, or other types of ads. Users may see additional ads when using their internet browser or other software”.


Now “iTunes” seems to be downloading.


Once it downloads, I get an Install Now button. Apparently all those Next buttons I clicked did not install iTunes after all.


This last button, of course, downloads the real setup from Apple and runs it. Unfortunately it is the wrong version.


Who is to blame for all this? Well, the warning signs may be obvious to those of us in the trade, but frankly it is not that unreasonable to go to your trusted search engine, type in iTunes, and click the download link.

The blame is with Google (and Bing) for taking money from these advertisers whose aim is to get to you download their intrusive ad-laden extras.

Apple iTunes is free software and you can get it from Apple here.

Note that Google is experimenting with removing the address bar altogether, so you can only navigate the web by searching Google (which is what people do anyway). This would make users even more dependent on the search providers to do the right thing, which as you can see from the above, is not something you can count on.

In Windows 8: the perfect Metro news app for obsessives

I have been playing with the Metro apps in Windows 8 Release Preview. It is only a small thing, but I am impressed with the ease with which you can customise the Bing News app to add your own special interests. See the video below for a quick demonstration.

You will also see that I struggled to find out how to remove a custom section. This seems to be the way with Windows 8 in Metro: easy when you know how, but you have to figure it out.

Microsoft financials: Office and server dominate as Windows falters

Microsoft has released its quarterly figures for January-March 2011. My at-a-glance summary is below.

Quarter ending June 30th 2011 vs quarter ending June 30th 2010, $millions

Segment Revenue Change Profit Change
Client (Windows + Live) 4740 -41 2943 -123
Server and Tools 4643 +494 1774 +214
Online 662 +94 -728 -40
Business (Office) 5777 +402 3618 +399
Entertainment and devices 1485 +341 32 +204

Business as usual? More or less, but there are a few points to note.

The figure that jumps out is the stunning performance of Office, which includes SharePoint and Exchange. Why is everyone buying Office 2010, when a document like the one I am typing now could be done just as well in Word 2.0 from 1991, or more plausibly the free OpenOffice?

The answer is the Microsoft has successfully transitioned many of its customers to using Office with SharePoint and Exchange, making it harder to stick with old versions and selling CALs (Client Access Licences) as well as the Office suite itself. This is highly profitable, though the aspect that puzzles me is that Office 365, which is cloud-hosted SharePoint and Exchange, is more cost-effective for the customer since it includes server software, CALs and in some cases the Office client for a commodity-priced subscription.

In other words, I find it hard to see how Microsoft can remain equally profitable if a significant proportion of its customers switch to Office 365. The company may be depending on its ability to upsell those customers to further online services; or perhaps it has not fully thought this through and has set Office 365 pricing at what it needs to be in order to compete with Google.

Fortunately for Microsoft, there is enough doubt concerning the safety of cloud services to sustain continued strong sales of on-premise solutions.

Second notable thing: Windows is in decline. The reason: it is losing market share to Apple and to Google Android. Netbook sales are down 41% according to the release, and I would guess that those sales have mostly gone to Apple iPad and Android tablets rather than to Windows notebooks.

Will Windows 8 reverse the decline? Speculation of course, but it will not repeat the success of Windows 7. In fact, my guess is that Windows 8 will be a hard sell to enterprises which have finally been persuaded to migrate from Windows XP. They are settling down for another five years of stability. Windows 7 was a consolidation release, just the sort of thing enterprises like. Windows 8 will be a revolution release, with most of the interest focused on what it can do in mobile and tablets. If it does succeed, it will do so slowly; there will be no rush to upgrade from 7 other than from the usual early adopters. It may improve sales in the consumer market, but neither Mac nor iPad nor Android is going away.

That leads on to mobile, the figures for which are buried under a pile of Xbox consoles. A good quarter for Xbox, though note how poor the margins are compared to those for Office or Windows.

Finally, the online money drain continues. Note that this is Bing and online advertising, not Azure or Office 365. Microsoft must feel that it the strategic value of these online services is worth the cost, particularly since they tie into mobile and the ecosystem which Nokia is depending on for a reversal of its fortunes. Given that the company has money to burn, there may actually be some sense in that; though for a segment to make such large and consistent losses over a long period has to be a concern.

Google+, Bing social search, and internet monopolies

The big new thing in social media right now is Google+, the search giant’s latest attempt to grab a slice of the social internet from Facebook and Twitter.  I have been trying it for a few days and like everyone else have enjoyed playing with circles, the ability to categorise contacts into groups and choose who you sharing with. I like that it addresses a core issue, the fact that we want to share different things with different people, but dislike the added complexity. In practice, if I have a personal message I am likely to use email or some other form of direct messaging, whereas what I post on a social networking site I will likely address to everyone.

Still, Google+ is a decent effort, and irrespective of how it compares in detail to its rivals, I think it may take off simply because Google has other properties, specifically Google search and Google Android, which will point you to it.

The value of social networks to a search company was highlighted this week, not by Google but by Microsoft at its Worldwide Partner Conference. The opening keynote was short on big news, but did include a demo of new features in Bing, that other search engine.

Stefan Weitz Director of Influentials, showed how Bing can interact with Facebook so that you search results are annotated with the preferences of your friends. Here, Weitz has searched for “Mango” and Bing shows a section of results marked as Liked by your Facebook friends:


He then searches for Hawaii hotels for kids and sees this:


Once again, he sees two of his own contacts who have Liked a specific web site. He can go to the site with more confidence, or even click the name to interact directly with his contact and find out more.

This is powerful stuff, though the examples are contrived, and this is only going to work if you and your contacts do many of the same searches with the same search engine. The Microsoft/Facebook alliance has an advantage over Google in that Facebook has a bigger and more mature social graph; but Google has the advantage of a far larger search share, especially outside the USA. On this site, for example, here are the figures for July:

  • Google 90%
  • Bing 3.7%
  • Yahoo! 3.4%

You can figure out how much that leaves for “Other”.

Another Bing move also merits reflection. Weitz went on to demonstrate how Bing wants to you to do the transaction as well as the search on its portal. It is actually fine for Bing to do this with its small market share; but I am not sure that I like the implications for search in general.

This hints at my central concern, which is monopoly. One reason I like Twitter is that I have no sense that Twitter wants to take over my digital life. I know Google does; it wants my searches, my email, my documents, my music, my location, and now my friends.

I know Facebook wants a big slice of it too; it wants me to live inside its walled garden.

These thoughts chime for me with another incident from the last few days. I posted something  for sale on eBay, the dominant online auction site, and found that it has notched up its terms and conditions with me further in its own favour by insisting that I set up automatic payment of its fees before it would allow me to post the item. It also happens that PayPal, owned by eBay, has recently sent me a notice advising that it is restricting the number of sales that can be funded by credit card, I presume because it dislikes the consumer protection gained by buying by credit card.

The connection here is that eBay and PayPal only have the liberty to make these unilateral changes in their terms because of lack of competition. Yes, there are other online markets; but if you actually want to sell stuff, there is little real-world choice. Well, there is Amazon; and there is another organisation which, for all its many merits, is constantly extending its reach.

It is curious in a way, that when the web first appeared it seemed to be a great opportunity for the little guys – because on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog – but what we are now seeing is that winner-takes-all applies to a degree which goes beyond anything in the bricks and mortar world.

Microsoft’s new President of Server and Tools–Satya Nadella, from Bing division

Microsoft has appointed a new President of Server and Tools to replace Bob Muglia. He is Satya Nadella, 43, and has been leading the Online Services Division, the bit in charge of Bing, MSN and adCenter. Before that, Nadella led Microsoft Business Solutions, focused on the Dynamics CRM application.


It is a big role, and no doubt it is significant that Nadella has a cloud-oriented background within Microsoft. In his first memo in the new role, Nadella says:

I like to have my head in the clouds and feet on the ground (something I learned from Qi).

I track Microsoft financials in a small way, and have observed that while Muglia’s Server and Tools has turned in stellar figures for several years, the Online Services Division by contrast has delivered large losses.

Then again, competing with Google in search is not easy, and Bing is perhaps doing as well as can be expected.

CEO Steve Ballmer has also announced that Amitabh Srivastava, the well-regarded senior vice president in the Server and Tools Business is leaving Microsoft.

Puzzling moves, which suggest to me significant strategy disagreements between Ballmer and the old Server and Tools leadership.

Google favours big brands over diversity

Google has made a change to its search algorithm that means most of the results shown for a search may now come from a single domain. Previously, it would only show a couple of results from one domain, on the assumption that users would prefer to select from a diversity of results.

The example chosen by searchengineland is a good one. Search for Apple iPod and you get a page that is mostly links to Apple’s site.


If you search for the single word ipod you get more diversity – odd, since only Apple manufacture the ipod so you could argue that the searches are the same. Some people use ipod as a generic name for MP3 player, but that doesn’t seem to be reflected; all the results still relate to Apple’s device.


Personally I’d rather see diversity. I don’t see the need for this change, since the site summary with deep links works well when a particular domain closely matches the search term. You can see an example of this in the top result for the ipod search above. Note that it even has a link for “More results from apple.com”. What is the value of suppressing the results from other domains?

The overall impact is that big brands benefit, while smaller businesses and new entrants to markets suffer. It also makes independent comment that bit harder to find.

While to most of us changes like these are only of passing interest, to some they make the difference between a flourishing business and a dead one. Google has too much power.

Incidentally, I generally find Google significantly better than Bing, now its major competitor. However in this case Bing impresses, with categories such as reviews, prices, accessories, manuals and so on; and in the case of the Apple ipod search, a better balance between the official site and independents.