back to article It's crazy but it's true: Apple rejected Bing for wrong answers about Annie Lennox

Bad search results for the query "Annie Lennox first band" were among the reasons Apple rejected an approach from Microsoft to use the Bing search engine as the default in its Safari browser – and also discarded the idea of a joint venture to make Bing better or even the chance to buy the search engine outright. Those claims …

  1. Forget It
    Coat

    If you're on Safari

    then you are a Tourist, no?

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: If you're on Safari

      First you navigate - Netscape Navigator

      then you explore - Internet Explorer

      then you conquer - Konqueror

      then you go on a safari - Safari

      1. m4r35n357 Bronze badge

        Re: If you're on Safari

        Then you become The Loneliest Man in the World

        My coat was stolen :(

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: If you're on Safari

          Saw them at The Great Hall Exeter Uni.

          So good to be back home again.

          Here comes the rain again - Finding my crash helmet padding totally soaked through due to rain, after the gig, not so good.

  2. Sceptic Tank Silver badge
    Devil

    Sounds like Google (Meta / Microsoft / Amazon / ...), alright

    Some of them want to use use

    Some of them want to abuse you

    I'm not sure who would trust Google for anything after the altered reality that Gemini has been coughing out.

    Anyway, DuckDuckGo: sounds like the cure is as bad as the disease.

    1. NoneSuch Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Sounds like Google (Meta / Microsoft / Amazon / ...), alright

      Bing / Edge

      Safari

      Chrome

      DuckDuckGo

      All slurp user data at some level despite privacy assurances.

      search.brave.com seems to be the only user friendly, non-intrusive search engine. It has become my default since the revelations about DuckDuckGo came out. Not to mention the search results from all of the aforementioned search engines are much less appropriate than they used to be. Google has really lost the plot with their search result accuracy and blindly ignores a wide swath of information, for reasons unknown.

      1. CountCadaver Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like Google (Meta / Microsoft / Amazon / ...), alright

        Google is enshittification personified recently, like even using quotes (which up till recently worked) now doesnt stop random utterly unrelated crap appearing and utter crap at that

  3. DS999 Silver badge

    If Google loses, it does not win

    If they aren't allowed to pay Apple to be Safari's default search engine then Apple will either go with someone else (giving them a huge funding/usage boost) or do their own search engine (they've been crawling the web for over a decade, they presumably have a search engine internally that's "ready to go" if needed, and apparently it is used for some stuff like certain Siri queries)

    Neither outcome would be something Google would call a "win". They would view it as a very big loss to have that much traffic - especially traffic from customers with a higher than average disposable income - taken away from Google Search. Whatever they're paying Apple, they are obviously making a lot more than that in revenue so it will cost them real money even ignoring the competitive impact.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: If Google loses, it does not win

      They might not actually lose that much. After all, Bing is the default search engine on Windows, and pretty much everyone changes it to Google.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: If Google loses, it does not win

        That's why I think Apple will just enable their own search engine which they've had cooking for over a decade. It might have growing pains, just like Apple Maps did, but nowadays almost everyone on iPhone uses Apple Maps and I think the situation would be the same with Apple Search assuming they made the necessary investments.

        That would hurt Apple since it would be impossible to replace the lost Google revenue without turning Apple Search into the advertising monster Google Search is which they wouldn't want to do.

        1. Anonymous Cowerd

          I wouldn’t be too sure about that

          “nowadays almost everyone on iPhone uses Apple Maps”

          All the iPhone users I know use Google maps.

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: I wouldn’t be too sure about that

            colleague is an idevice user and exclusively uses Waze

    2. Dinanziame Silver badge

      Re: If Google loses, it does not win

      I think Google is popular enough that most Apple customers want to use Google, and would complain not having it as the default. I assume they would complain even more if it is clear that Apple switched to Bing in order to receive billions from Microsoft.

      Unless Apple goes with creating their own search engine (not entirely impossible, they did just that for Apple Maps), I assume the default search engine will remain Google, and Apple will just get billions less.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: If Google loses, it does not win

        I think Google is popular enough that most Apple customers want to use Google, and would complain not having it as the default.

        Would they?

        So many searches on Google come up with either weird short AI-derived paragraphs, that don't quite match the search query you made - or a mix of "other people searched for" or AI-generated paragraphs for other vaguely similar search queries - that most people might not notice the difference. Particularly as even when you junk all that, the next thing you come to is probably a comparison website, or Amazon link, rather than a link to the thing you were looking for.

        I'd say Google are ripe for comptetition. Which could be Bing or Apple or whoever.

        To be fair, Google earned the top spot, and they don't seem to be noticeably worse than the other search engines I've been experimenting with recently. They all seem to be getting worse.

        Though it's about time someone asked Google just exactly how Chrome got onto all those PCs. Its market share wasn't achieved honestly.

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Megaphone

          Re: If Google loses, it does not win

          by being approximately 1,000,000 times better than Internet Exploder ...

          1. Grogan Silver badge

            Re: If Google loses, it does not win

            No, it was foistware. They didn't come by that honestly.

            Firstly, it was bundled with a lot of freeware and users had to opt out to not install it.

            Secondly, when people went to Google or their services, they were prompted to install Google Chrome, which would make the internet faster.

      2. cookieMonster Silver badge

        Re: If Google loses, it does not win

        A lot of apple users complained when they dropped:

        3.5 floppy disk

        CD/CVD

        Ethernet plugs

        PowerPC support

        Etc

        Etc

        The list is long. Apple have no problem with dropping stuff they decide no longer fits their needs, customers included.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: If Google loses, it does not win

      I just want a search engine that does NOT include SIlly Valley BIAS in the results, whether in the order they are presented, or any additional filtering applied

      The fear is that GEMINI will become "the norm:, and NO amount of DuckDuckGo search tracking mitigation will help you.

      Elon has floated the idea of his OWN search engine, with an unbiased "free speech" focus. We shall see.

      Thinking of Gemini, it is as if Google tried to teach the AI how to *FEEL* instead of using LOGIC. The result is a search engine that *FEELS* its results are correct, but when you remove the beer goggles, you find out just how COYOTE UGLY those results really are. "Artificial Stupidity" is the predictable result.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: If Google loses, it does not win

        Elon has floated many things. Fortunately, most of them get flushed pretty quickly.

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Jealousy

    > Bad search results for the query "Annie Lennox first band"

    Do you can make Bing cross by asking about other singers.

    1. John Robson Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Jealousy

      The top result for this search in the goo monster is now this article...

    2. ryokeken

      bing cross search results? brialliant!

      ill say it again

      bing cross search results? brialliant!

  5. wolfetone Silver badge

    Whyyyyy, whyyyyyyy whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy whhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

    Why?

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Devil

      I can only assume that is a link to Annie Lennox singing "Delilah".

      Please remove the tracking cookie (&pp=$TRACKING_ID) from your U-Bend links in future. Otherwise Google knows exactly who posted what where, and who clicked on it.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Please accept my apologies for that, I wasn't aware of it.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Happy

        "U-Bend links"

        heh - good one

  6. gnasher729 Silver badge

    Just tried, it now answers with a link to a Wikipedia article. “Moderate success with The Tourists”, not a direct answer.

    Siri shows three answers as text, and The Tourists are visible on my screen twice (and Eurythmics are not). Well, would be bad if Siri couldn’t answer this.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "willing to sell Bing, which you wouldn't do if it was a strategic asset."

    Ooh, burn. So, Borkzilla wanted to one-up Google, found out the hard way that it's not so easy, and is now stuck with something it can't kill because it integrated the damn thing into every part of its OS.

    Sounds like schadenfreude to me . . .

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: "willing to sell Bing, which you wouldn't do if it was a strategic asset."

      > and is now stuck with something it can't kill because it integrated the damn thing into every part of its OS.

      And now is attempting to put the CoPilot lipstick on the pig…

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: "willing to sell Bing, which you wouldn't do if it was a strategic asset."

        And now is attempting to put the CoPilot lipstick on the pig…

        but will they manage to get it on the end that goes "Oink" ?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bing and Google have effectively been a duopoly for some time

      M$ pushed hard to improve Bing's search results and succeeded quite a while ago. What that didn't improve was market share, but due to user inertia and due the parasitic circle jerk that SEO and the pagerank score had on driving traffic.

      So as the other competitors fell, M$ has followed the standard duopoly playbook line by line. They have actually made their search results worse in step with Google doing the same, and for the same reasons, in that bad results yield more searches and offer up eyeballs for more paid placement. They like Google reward instead of punish the ranking of low quality results like reaction videos, ehow articles, and content farm garbage.

      Because by following in Google's shadow, mirroring their moves, and staying just a little cheaper, they can still skim a decent chunk of money off the bottom of the search market. Never as much as Google, but a nice tidy sum. Keep in mind this isn't likely some sinister plot. A duopoly requires little coordination, or even effort. One simply follows laziness and greed in that order. (putting too much ambition into "greed' will either draw the ire of your bigger companion in the duopoly, or risk waking up the regulators from their torpor.)

  8. Julian 8 Silver badge

    The thrust of the filing is that Google invested a lot to make its search service excellent,

    Now that is funny, but also a damn lie.

    Better than Bing etal, but still crap if you want to filter out words, etc, or tell it to ignore specific sites as they seem to appear at the top of the list for no good reason at all (reddit, quora)

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: The thrust of the filing is that Google invested a lot to make its search service excellent,

      Google also has a habit of giving you the opposite of a search query. If that is a more common request.

      So How do I remove {item}? will give you, as well as the vast swathe of results telling where you can buy the bloody thing, a long set of (you Tube mostly) explanations of how to install one.But not how to get rid of the one you have.

  9. m4r35n357 Bronze badge

    While I'm in the mood for conditional expressions . . .

    The Tourists > Annie Lennox

    "Luminous Basement" and "Reality Effect" are both sublime hard-core pop, and as for "Blind Among the Flowers" . . .

    1. Laura Kerr

      Re: While I'm in the mood for conditional expressions . . .

      "as for "Blind Among the Flowers" . . ."

      Nothing means nothing to me.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: While I'm in the mood for conditional expressions . . .

        Ohhh I'd forgotten that one.

  10. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Sums up the whole problem really

    The very fact that there are such discrepancies between the results of different 'search engines' demonstrates that they're not primarily searching for relevance to your request, they're filtering for commercial advantage. Yet again, the purpose is not to serve the user, it's to rake in dosh.

    I remember with much sadness the Infoseeek engine in the early '90s. It accepted Boolean search strings and delivered anything that contained matching content. In those day you could actually refine your search progressively by adding qualifying terms. Today, the more terms you add to your search the greater the proportion of irrelevant twaddle the engine delivers to you. And no specific engine stands out as significantly better or worse -- they're all primarily commercial promo vehicles.

    1. 0laf
      Big Brother

      Re: Sums up the whole problem really

      Google has removed, obsfucated or just ignores most of the basic functions you used to be able to use to get better results.

      Clearly it's not to improve search for the end user but to prevent any avoidance of its list of paid for links.

      But then the old rule applies, "if the service is free, you are the product". I'm not sure there even is a way to pay for search now to avoid this.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: Sums up the whole problem really

        Except, you are the customer.

        Or more accurately, you are their customers' customer. And if I no longer trust Google to give me the right search results, it means I no longer respond to their ads, which means their customers don't get my money, which means that Google doesn't get their money.

        I've tried using Google to search for things I want to buy recently, and the results were so useless that I had to go elsewhere to find it.

      2. Lurko

        Re: Sums up the whole problem really

        "I'm not sure there even is a way to pay for search now to avoid this."

        In practical terms no. The software, processing, storage, and infrastructure to create an effective search engine able to serve the general public is beyond the reach of any but the richest pockets, and when you look at DDG it appears to be a search aggregation engine rather than a true search engine.

        Privacy-focused email outfit Proton crunched the numbers earlier this month and concluded that for Google, the average search user was worth about $47 a year worldwide, with big regional variations for obvious reasons. In the US it could be as high as $390, with some clear caveats so probably a fair bit lower, I'd guess a figure around $270? If we assume that the UK is worth 20% less perhaps $215, then that's £14.20 every month for search services. How many people would pay that, and does that sum multiplied by the number of paying users give a result that would support the necessary scale?

        The evidence is pretty clear - most people expect the internet to be free, and those who differ (and will pay) are too small a group to be worth serving on a paying basis. All of which means Google have won, the best you can do if you don't like that is ad-blockers and locked down browsers, and they only go so far.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Only hopeless if you insist on recreating a new Google

          Most of the huge expense is in terms of trying to scour literally the entire public internet, then digest both the content and traffic to correlate activity, create profiles of web surfers, then build the paid placement, ad auction, and other spyware and profiteering infrastructure.

          A search engine that limited it's scope to content in the language the searcher could read, paired with a more ruthless site reputation system, would reduce the cost of crawling and summarizing content to a manageable level for many interest domains. Indexes like this already exist, and most support the kind of advanced search features that USED to be part of Google. It's not hard to implement a paid search layer on top of something like this to offset computationally expensive searches. And a free tier could probably be funded by charging a modest fee to sites that wanted to participate in the listings, a fee that would likely be a fraction of what most sites are spending on SEO in it's various forms, or worse, in adwords spend on OTHER sites hoping to lure traffic and eyes that the operators hope will also be monetized by selling more ad impressions back to Google.

          None of that will ever unseat Google, regulators would have to do that. But I frankly just need functional search, Google be damned.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Sums up the whole problem really

      Google used to allow that. They got rid of it. It was the first clear signal of the enshitification to come.

  11. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Hm.

    So "Annie Lennox first band" on Google says "the Tourists" unequivocally.

    However "Annie Lennox first band" on Bing says: "Annie Lennox's first band was The Catch, which later evolved into The Tourists. She met Dave Stewart in 1975 and they first played together in 1976 in The Catch. After releasing one single as The Catch in 1977, the band evolved into The Tourists, where Lennox was the lead singer from 1977 to 1980."

    Is this correct? It's apparently from Encyclopaedia Britannica, which I'd trust. If so, I'd rate Bing a bit closer to the mark. but that's today's results, not the results from "back when" and I think Bing still sucks as a search engine.

    So the trial is because Google "flouted competition laws to build its dominance of the US search market"

    I think that's bullshit. I have no argument that Google is top dog in the US search market, and they did it simply by building a better search engine than Bing, Yahoo, Altavista, and everybody else.

    My beef with Google is that they've let that technical achievement rot in favor of manipulating the results as they see fit, and as they're paid. They've removed features such as boolean search, search operators, and they even had a feature for a while of "don't return results from this site" which is also gone. They have indeed abused their position as top search engine.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Hm.

      If what you're saying is accurate, "The Catch" is and are "The Tourists", so "The Tourists" is a correct answer. Same members? Same legal identity, if any?

      However, if the original story is correctly stating that Bing and its user both treated (annie lennox first band) as a question, I object. It isn't a question.

      I don't know, but it's conceivable that the first band that Annie Lennox enjoyed listening to is Glen Miller.

      There even may be more than one person named Annie Lennox, but probably not more than one allowed performing in commercial music. Another Annie Lennox may write about personal taste in music, however.

      Regardless, if Bing presented as its own statement of fact "The first and/or only band that Annie Lennox was a member of is The Eurhythmics", that is inaccurate and unfortunate.

      If they presented a link to a separate popular web site and a line from it making that assertion, that is inaccurate and unfortunate but not Bing's fault.

      However, if Bing has a habit of offering inaccurate information from Web sites, more so than Google, that probably is a deficiency. Any Web search engine almost certainly should offer results in a reasonable order, and not alphabetical which just isn't very useful in this context. I'm somewhat uneasy about letting Google or Bing or internet users as a whole make decisions about "What is truth?" And so I do prefer to be offered a variety of results from one search query, and for them to be contradictory. Then I can make a decision about which claims I prefer.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge
    3. JoeCool Bronze badge

      Re: Hm.

      " they did it simply by building a better search engine than Bing, Yahoo, Altavista, and everybody else."

      Microsoft said the same things about Windows. Then the court cases showed the restrictive contracts, product tie-ins, and other anti-competitive actions.

      I think it's bullshit to imagine that a monopoly doesn't engage in monopolistic behaviours. To not do so would be to not "maximise shareholder value".

    4. CountCadaver Silver badge

      Re: Hm.

      That's what happens when the MBAs and beancounters take over ...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      More importantly

      The results you pull now are not the results that were pulled at the time.

      Big surprise if it came up in a high profile meeting, that the returned info was "improved". We had an overblocking issue with Apples content filter, and while it took a while to get sorted out, it now seems the female artist in question was added to a permanent "Safe list" on Apples side. I suspect that someone like Ballmer had a meltdown after that Apple meeting and probably made their displeasure known to the search team.

      As to your beef with Google's search being enshitified, I agree. The bastards don't even really respect restricting the search results to a specific site. Then there are crap holes like Pinterest that SEO bomb the results on image search and hide the source links, while hosting the same material from dozens of domains to prevent users excluding their results.

      -pinterest = almost all Pinterest results

  12. Wally Dug
    Big Brother

    Right By Your Side

    So, Apple, Google is Right By Your Side and It Only Wants to Be With You whereas Microsoft/Bing is simply Waiting In Vain?

    Icon because of the obvious ;-)

  13. MJI Silver badge

    All search engines, now appear to be crap.

    So much junk served up when you are looking for something.

    I put lots of terms to my own web site and it is something like page 10 on google.

    May as well use DDG, as not raelly any worse.

    I don't go to the German tin plate toy train search engine much, as I do 4mm scale British.

    1. doublerot13

      Re: All search engines, now appear to be crap.

      True eh.... Google is barely usable now with all its Sponsored (read: Ads) listings. Don't know how they took something so good and made it into something so lame.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: All search engines, now appear to be crap.

        Don't know how they took something so good and made it into something so lame.

        Follow the money...

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: All search engines, now appear to be crap.

          Somewhere along the lines they and pretty much all the large companies, moved from "make a lot of money" to "squeeze out every possible penny you can".

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: All search engines, now appear to be crap.

        With practice - and on a PC browser - you can swipe past the "Sponsored" results. But sometimes there are a lot. They maybe have to be there to pay for the thing. We assume that users who are less aware than we are, are deceived by these. Indeed, if they weren't, then who would pay Google for being listed in sponsored results? But by sweeping them away, you are devaluing the sponsorship model. By now I don't know if I think that is good or bad.

        Or I suppose you could click on the links to Amazon and ... whatever there is besides Amazon, but then you do not buy anything. Hah! But their competitors probably already do that.

        A separate problem is non-sponsored results - at least they appear to be not sponsored - which nevertheless occupy pages of search with apparent commercial product that you do not want to know about, but that is using the words of the thing that you want to know about,

  14. Tron Silver badge

    Yes, but Google isn't getting better, it's getting worse.

    We need innovation in the search sector. We could have distributed, persistent and crowd-sourced search facilities, but we don't even have basic contextualisation options. We get a couple of screens of results, mostly commercial and pop culture junk, much of which ignores half of our search terms. It's pathetic.

    You don't actually have to throw a lot of cash at making a better search engine (or a better, distributed social media network). It's not hugely expensive, like installing anti-terrorist bollards in York (£3.5m). Seriously, why? Have you ever met a terrorist with a burning desire to target York? Doing innovative tech is actually quite cheap, and doesn't need to involve all the fake AI BS that we see every day now.

    I guess GAFA is just lawyer-led now, and nobody there really gives a toss any more.

    Oh, and I still have my 7" single of 'I Only Want To Be With You' by The Tourists.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yes, but Google isn't getting better, it's getting worse.

      "You don't actually have to throw a lot of cash at making a better search engine (or a better, distributed social media network). It's not hugely expensive, "

      Perhaps not. But writing a search algo is only part of creating a search engine, and I'm pleased you've stepped up to the plate for the whole kaboodle. As a start on your Sisyphean labours, you can estimate what the total amount of indexable data is this year or last year. That's going to be huger than a hugish huge thing. Then you can calculate the processing power you'll need to index the current catalogue (and where you'll find that grunt), how much you'll pay to do that, and how much storage and processing you'll need to hold the index. Then you can work out what the rate of increase in indexable data is, how much processing and additional storage you'll need every day. After that you need to think about search query processing, load management and response times - that'll be a pricey penny as you'll be duplicating your index many times and dealing with billions of searches in near real time.....And then you need to come up with some ideas for how you'll pay for this.

      So maybe it is in fact mind numbingly expensive to come up with a clean sheet search engine as good as Google is now? The original Google that usurped Alta Vista, Lycos and the rest might have been cheap, but that would cut no mustard now. Mind you, talking of cheap, Page & Brin reportedly would have sold the early Google for $750k, but a chap called George Bell of competing search business Excite said nope. Imagine being him in the intervening 20 odd years.

  15. carl0s

    I agree Google is crap now. Still much much much less crap than Bing, but it's still crap. Top results are all paywall sites like medium.com, and if I see "is <searchterm> worth it?" much more I might just explode. Such generic use of the term "Worth it" just bugs the crap out of me.

    Bring back altavista.digital.com

  16. John H Woods Silver badge

    We're old ...

    Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) came out in 1983, nearer to the end of WWII than to the present day.

  17. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    So, let me get this straight. Apple refused to use Bing in 2015 because it was shit. They met up with Microsoft in 2018, and hadn't really changed anything, but came to Apple with a list of stuff they were planning to do? Apple walked away because Bing is still shit.

  18. glennsills

    Well yeah, but Annie Lennox! How can you not get that right?

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