Google threatened to leave the Australian market if the local government pulls through with a law that would require search engines to pay publishers for linking to news articles. The threat hasn't gone down well, and in a turn of events that shouldn't surprise anyone, smaller competitors are ready to step in should Google pull through with its decision if the law is passed. Microsoft is ready to agree and work with the Australian government going forward, just like DuckDuckGo.

Australia's communications minister, Paul Fletcher, shared statistics with The Guardian showing that Google dominates the country's search market with a share of about 93%, making the threat a significant problem for Australians relying on the search engine. But the minister stressed that other players like Microsoft and DuckDuckGo were willing to work with the government's planned link fees in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC):

Microsoft, a giant American corporation, an information technology powerhouse, is very significantly interested in the market opportunity in Australia, should Google choose to withdraw its presence in search in Australia. [...] The Microsoft CEO reached out to the prime minister and proposed a meeting, accompanied by senior executives, I was able to join that meeting, and we had a very informative discussion about Microsoft’s interest in the Australian market. At the moment they have a small market share in search, but they’re interested in expanding that, they’re interested in developing the presence of Bing here.

Google's stance on the issue remains clear: The company sees the ability to link freely between websites as a fundamental principle of the open web and doesn't want to budge to the code that would change these rules. Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously replied that the government wouldn't respond to threats, and that corporations like Google weren't in the place to enforce rules in the country.

It's starting to look more and more like Australia will pull through with the proposed law. That would set a precedence for other governments, and it remains to be seen whether Google can really afford to leave more and more markets if similar linking laws would make the rounds worldwide. It sure feels like the internet is becoming more and more defined and confined by national borders, which is a shame.

Image: Jon Tyson on Unsplash