Microsoft and Google Look at the World Differently

I didn’t think I would have to write this same kind of observation twice within a year. But today, on D-Day, I notice yet again a striking difference between Google and Microsoft.  And in this case, one can almost read the evidence as a snub from Google to the United States, to the nations who united in sacrifice during World War II, and to President Obama on a day of his personal leadership in commemorating international war and peace.

I made a similar observation on Columbus Day, when Microsoft chose to honor Christopher Columbus and his explorations’ significance to American history and the world, while Google chose to honor – wait for it – Paddington Bear’s “birthday.” (See my post from then here.)

Today is of course D-Day, the 65th anniversary of a day in which over 2,000 American soldiers lost their lives, leading the way in the greatest military operation in the history of the world, as the initial landing to liberate Europe and the beginning of the end of the Nazi empire.

Google and Microsoft are two great American companies, which operate globally. Each has a public face to the world through signature online properties – their search engines. In Google’s case, that page at Google.com is their ne plus ultra public face, since they are at core a mighty search engine.

Take a look at the two pages today. Microsoft’s Bing search-engine uses its home page to commemorate D-Day, with a dramatic photograph of Normandy Beach today, and mouse-over popups providing historical highlights and links to more information on the battle’s signficance to World War II and to world history.

Bing D-Day

Google uses its home page to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the invention of the computer game Tetris.

Google Tetris

The mouse-over popup on the cutesy Google logo reads, “Celebrating 25 years of the Tetris effect – courtesy of Tetris LLC.”  (I suppose one could read that as, predictably, a coporate ad, right there on Google’s home page.)

Just as I noted on Columbus Day, this doesn’t appear to be a localization issue, or an issue of appealing to a global audience – both Microsoft and Google know my location, and in fact each is serving up a page targeted for me in the United States.

Don’t get me wrong: Tetris was an amusing and absorbing game. As a young guy I spent hours dropping the bars and shapes to fit into the rising pile below.

But at certain moments in life, you put aside childish things. Unless you’re trying to make some other kind of statement.

Note: I am a Microsoft employee. But this is not a Microsoft corporate blog, it’s my personal blog – and I’ve been known to tweak Microsoft here frequently as well.  This is my personal observation space.

I have to admit I am puzzled – and personally appalled – by the decision-making over at the Googleplex, and the statement they choose to send to the world.

President Obama is leading our delegation himself at Normandy Beach today, for the international event with other world leaders remembering a moment of global importance.  Self-evidently Eric Schmidt and the Google gang weren’t on board with that, and by their way of thinking saw something more significant to mark. 

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55 Responses

  1. Almost two million people of my own nationality died fighting the Nazis in Word War Two, yet I don’t feel slighted by Google in the least. Perhaps they simply like to focus on fun, leaving those of us with wounds produced by wars and conquests the choice to manage how and when we remember.

    • I understand (and appreciate) your comments, Bru. Google has done other commemorations in the past, of the Holocaust, etc, so I don’t doubt their sincerity. Just their judgment sometimes. But that’s just my two-cents opinion :)

  2. Apologies for the typo, it should read “World War Two” not “Word War Two.”

  3. Lewis,
    As you know my technology interests lie far away from this debate. But I was a bit shocked this morning to see Tetris on Google. (I could barely read it too). I thought of all the people before us who laid down their lives for all of us to have the freedoms to have this very kind of debate. I wonder how those souls would look down at this? Probably shake their heads and shrug, since so many others are actually making remembering this day, and the Vets a part of their lives. But, I see this as another sign that Google is perhaps pushing the line on what is business versus humanity.

    Alan W. Silberberg
    CEO, You2Gov
    http://www.you2gov.org

    • Thanks, Alan, I really appreciate the comments. I can’t get inside their corporate heads, aside from observing that they obviously plan ahead quite a bit for their use of that supremely valuable global online real estate (their home page).

  4. Interesting, thought-provoking post – I think your title is more appropriate than the actual post. Yes, the two companies clearly think DIFFERENTLY about their focus on this historic day. Does that make Google wrong and Microsoft right? What if you view each separately, vice comparing them to one another? Without the comparison to Microsoft, I don’t think people would classify Google’s tribute to Tetris as a “snub” to U.S. veterans.

    I tend to agree with Bru’s comment above. Google and Microsoft just choose to focus on different things – I don’t think either is right or wrong, just different. Similarly, just because some people choose to fly the American flag in their front yard and I don’t doesn’t make me less of an American than that person.

    I think Microsoft’s philosophy here is great, and I respect and applaud their choices to honor America in these ways. It even made me check out Bing today to read through some of the historic facts and watch the videos. But, this doesn’t make me think any less of Google – it just makes me think a little more of Microsoft.

    Good post Lewis!

  5. BTW, 60 years ago was 1949. I think you meant 65.

  6. Interesting point but does your argument mean that they’re obligated to commemorate EVERY historical event? Or is it just because it’s a round number anniversary of a major event that makes it more important?

    By the way, you say that “Today is of course D-Day, the 60th anniversary….” By my math, that would put D-Day in 1949??

    • Thanks for reading. I would never presume to say what they should or shouldn’t commemorate; I just noticed a difference. I do note that they’ve marked many historical anniversaries, so there’s an element of choice and priorities involved; they’d be welcome to explain how they choose.

    • Rich, No they don’t have to nor is it possible to commemorate every ‘special’ day. If they had just left the normal google logo up, that would be one thing, but I think they hold a certain responsibility that if they are going to ‘commemorate’ something like they did today, that they look at what today is, and decide wether it should be one of the most important days in our history as americans, or some stupid video game

  7. I see your blog being used to promote a new MS service ‘bing’ through a marketing technique that can be called shady at best. I am a veteran of the US armed forces and do not see Google’s selection as an offense to me or my brothers and sisters who have served over the years. I am glad you posted the little quote that you work for MS, as it quickly cleared up for me the underlying agenda of this sad attempt at corporate self promotion. Which I will add is WAY more offensive than Google highlighting the 25 year anniversary of the game Tetris. I would also like to place here a link to a list of 225 other international events that could have been highlighted on the bing site that Google or MS did not highlight. http://www.historyorb.com/day/june/6

    In the US, we honor and remember our veterans through holidays every year for their service and sacrifice, and some of us are reminded every day of those lost in more recent wars. Your blog post is sad, and reflects that maybe you should reevaluate your own life priorities. Is this really the best topic you could come up with to write about?

  8. Lewis,

    I’ve been around a long while and I guess I’m getting cynical but I recon this could simply be interpreted as a good business decision from MSFT. If interpreted to be more symbolic then it could represent the different demographic targets of each company…..

    • Hey, you’re no older than I :) Nor more cynical. As I said, I don’t claim to understand Google’s particular motives, nor the Bing team’s. I just pointed out the difference, and that one might possibly perceive a bit of a pattern, though everyone’s welcome to draw their own conclusions.

  9. I personally find it ridiculous that google is honoring Tetris on the monumental day for not just the US but the World really. Tetris?? WTF, who cares.. Now I do differ a bit on your Columbus day thing. While Columbus was an inovative explorer and all, first thing is that contrary to popular belief, he didn’t ‘discover’ America. Our name itself is evidence of that. Amerigo Vespuci did was here before him, and probably the Vikings before him. Beyond that his treatment of the Native americans was deplorable at best. I look at columbus day as just another day, but this day, should be recognized, especially by those who have the power to do so like Google. It is important for people that weren’t there or born (like me at the ripe age of 33) to remember this day, and the fact that our lives would be very different if things had gone differently and more importantly the expense of life that was given to make our lives what they are today

    • Slim, thanks for those comments (I agree of course on the Columbus history – I referred to the commemoration of his “explorations” and I think the Day now serves as a proxy celebration of discovery in toto).

    • FYI Amerigo Vespuci sailed to South America in 1499, seven yrs after Columbus….he landed at what is now Brazil and claimed it as a Portuguese colony

  10. Well, consider that this is Google. These are the same people who happily help the Communist government of China oppress their people by suppressing information about democracy, among other things.

    Google is the worst example of capitalism. They have already shown with their actions that their interest is not in liberty or human rights, it is in money and power.

  11. […] On June 6th 2009 Bing had a photo of a Normandy beach. […]

  12. HURR DURR
    DURR HURR
    DERP DERP

    cry me a fucking river.

  13. “Wah wah wah! I’m complaining! Listen to me complain about nothing!” <- You

  14. popurls.com // popular today…

    story has entered the popular today section on popurls.com…

  15. While it is important to look back on history, I don’t feel this is a big issue.

    As for Columbus Day, I’m not sure what you were referring to, but I feel like it is disgraceful that a man that promoted slavery and genocide after “discovering” America is celebrated by this nation.

  16. One more reason prefer Google over Microsoft.

  17. While I agree that Microsoft and Google look at the world differently, calling it a snub is a bit strange. Calling it a snub and then getting your math wrong, a bit obstinate. Google and Microsoft are obviously different. Its really something thats obvious to anyone and I don’t really see why it warrants an article. Its like saying hey look everyone apples and oranges are different. This article to me seems to being trying to confuse and rile peoples emotions without contributing any useful insight.

  18. “The mouse-over popup on the cutesy Google logo reads, “Celebrating 25 years of the Tetris effect – courtesy of Tetris LLC.” (I suppose one could read that as, predictably, a coporate ad, right there on Google’s home page.)”

    And one could read the Bing links at the bottom of the page in relation to Normandy as being a way to capitalise off of D-Day.
    Which is worse? Google ‘snubbing’ D-Day or MS exploiting it? It’s fun to play this game.

    Besides which Google Australia employs one of the original three Tetris coders so it is also a reflection on a personal level.

  19. D-Day was a very significant milestone of WWII. It was, however, not “the beginning of the end of the Nazi empire” and I highly doubt it was “the greatest military operation in the history of the world.”

    Many Americans I met tend to think that the US single-handedly defeated Germany and without D-Day Europe would still live under Nazi oppression. But that war was won or lost (depending on what side you’re on) in the East, not the West. In summer 1944, when the US finally came around to get involved, after ignoring Stalin’s pleas to open a Western front for years, the Soviets were already standing in Poland and had mostly pushed German forces out of Russia. Some of the bigger battles at the Eastern Front alone cost each more casualties on both sides than the entire war effort on the West front combined.

    The beginning of the end for the Nazi regime came with the battles of Stalingrad (1942), Moscow (1941), Kursk (1943, the biggest tank battle in history) to which anything that ever happened in the West including D-Day utterly pales in comparison.

    As a German, when we talk about WW II, the East front has much more mind share, to the point it is almost implied you’re talking about the Eastern campaign unless you specifically say your talking about the West front.

    D-Day accelerated the end of the war and so probably saved many, many lives. Germany was working on the A-bomb at the time and who knows what had happened if the war had dragged on a few months longer. For that, it’s an important event and valuable contribution of the US. But it’s not what defeated the Nazi regime by itself.

  20. you pointed out the difference – now google gets a gold star

  21. Much ado about absolutely nothing.

  22. Lewis -why didn’t you change your blog’s logo to honor our veterans sacrifice? Hmm?

    • Lance – I would have, but there wasn’t enough ad money in it. I have corporate sponsorship from Pi Inc. to the tune of 3.14 (etc) million per year.

      Thanks for reading!

  23. I had a Canadian ask me why Microsoft only changed the Bing home page for the US since Canada and the UK were also participants in D-Day and the ceremony that was hosted by the French. While checking out the front pages for other countries, I discovered that Microsoft only changed the United States (English) page. The United States (Spanish) page retained the same picture of two whales that was shown on the other country pages. While I understand having the pages in different languages for the US, I do wonder at the decision that split the US pages.

    • I saw that exchange you had yesterday; while I don’t know about the specifics, I took it a bit differently – as you can tell from some of these comments (and the comments on Digg are even more interesting, with a big international/Euro component), many non-US people seem to resent the mentioning of D-Day at all. Possibly the Bing folks felt they should not beat all the drums, even though to my mind the international aspect of the anti-Nazi coalition (the “United Nations”) was salient. Dunno, if I hear why I’ll let you know.

  24. Selective history…

    So, liberals ensure we remember things like slavery, segregation, Kennedy’s assassination. But, if it’s something like bringing down a group of evil doer’s that killed what maybe 10 Million innocents in death camps, “well, you’ve got to learn to move on”

  25. Stop spamming Twitter.

    kthxbai

  26. Oh, and get over it.

    D-Day was 60 years ago. Time to move on.

  27. The fact that you fucking _work_ for Microsoft doesn’t exactly make you neutral in this either.

    I’m done ranting.

    • Um, I never claimed to be neutral. That’s the point of blogs. And comments.

      (I deleted your first one only because of the language; I’ll leave this one because you certainly mean the emphasis, don’t you?)

      Anyway, thanks for reading.

  28. “Microsoft and Google Look at the World Differently”

    Uh, only to people with limited brain function or employees of Microsoft. You’ve already admitted you’re a MS employee, and I’ll take the leap that posters like “Shawn C” are of the other category.

    It is entirely reasonable to assume Ballmer and Co. sat around a table and devised a way to make money off of the D Day anniversary, yet your opinion is that MS somehow is just honoring veterans, while Google snubs America and the defenders of liberty. Newsflash – they’re both rapacious business entities trying to gain as much market share as they can.

    Your bias against Google is amusing – “Oh the horrors of not honoring Columbus! This is a pattern, I am forced to point it out to all! ”

    Allow me to surmise that there is some sort of incentive inside the walls of Redmond for employees to get out the MS message via blogs such as this stream of diarrhea.

    • Ah, if only there were such an incentive :) No, aside from my corporate masters respecting my free speech – keep reading & you can easily find where I’ve complimented Google, Apple, etc., and where I’ve faulted Microsoft.

      Anyway, since you bear such strong emotions against rapacious business entities in the technology sphere, I encourage you to remain untainted and turn off that beast of an electronic computer. Hail the pencil!

      (Oh no! Even the lowly pencil is complicit in the Big-Timber conspiracy! Maybe quills?…. or at least only *fallen* quills, so as not to disturb the downy goose?)

      • Where did I indicate that I am “against” business entities. Again, your powers of deduction seem faulty.

        To assist, I was pointing out that neither MS nor Google is more or less honorific than the other, and your basic premise that Google somehow snubs America is patently ridiculous.

  29. Why didn’t you reply to Steven up there? He made valid points which I agree with. I for one am offended by your post since it’s claiming too much credit for this event. America is built by immigrants, it’s full of us, and many of us don’t share your sentiment. We feel that many historical events of WW2 are important, and much more dramatic than D-Day. Only a few occasions in WW2 invloved US. However, we don’t want google to become a war tribute page, where it has to post a reference to each of these events every day, therefore I’d rather see tetris anniversary.

  30. “…a snub…to President Obama on a day of his personal leadership…?” Give me a freaking break.

    If Pepsi were to make special D-Day cans, I suppose that would mean Coke was unpatriotic and unappreciative of the sacrifice of veterans.

    Does anyone really think for a second that market share was never discussed or considered when this decision was made by the Microsoft team, including consideration of where NOT to show the D-Day commemoration (i.e. the U.S.-Spanish page noted above, or elsewhere in the world for that matter)? If this is all about patriotism and how MS sees the world, why not show the Normandy picture to everyone, everywhere?

    I guess any publicity is good publicity, and baiting the sensible by writing this kind of garbage still succeeds in raising the awareness of MS’s product. By the way, for all I know, Bing might be a great page that raises the bar for search engines, but I won’t find out anytime soon, because after reading this BS, I think I will wait a little longer before I try it.

  31. just found this site: http://www.bigoog.com

    nice site to search 3 engines. I already put it as my home.

  32. Lewis,

    Great post, and thanks for sharing this observation. It is important in fact, because a lot of people are apparantly pretty motivated to tell you its not (always a clue you’re on to something!) As I read some of the negative responses, I’m amazed as the vitriol and hate some of them have for even bringing this up.
    (Yeah, I’m looking at you Edam, LAnce, Finally, chirs, qq, and the lot…)

    Methinks they doth protest too much.

  33. […] Microsoft and Google Look at the World Differently I didn’t think I would have to write this same kind of observation twice within a year. But today, on D-Day, I […] […]

  34. Thanks for the great post Lewis. Seemingly the US public relations for Bing is spot on – they further won the battle yesterday in showing a US flag on Flag Day.

    I know it’s a little thing, but what seems like a Google slip-up is made worse by Bing’s well-timed images.

    I’m still mainly a Google user, but this sort of disparity should seemingly push light searchers to try out Bing. I know that I’ll be comparing results in the next few weeks to see if I can get good use with (for me) better content.

  35. Just for your own culture, in French we say “nec plus ultra” and not “ne plus ultra”.

  36. Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and
    screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

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