Bing’s dwindling enthusiasm for developers

Three years ago I launched my “Real Live Search” experiment to much fanfare and press. When developing the prototype, the choice between Google’s and Bing’s Search APIs was almost a no-brainer – Bing was faster, more modern and better documented.

Now year later, the search and maps API ecosystem has become a lot more restrictive. What was once free is now not, and quite pricey I might add. With an obvious opportunity to embrace the web developer ecosystem, it’s puzzling why Bing seems to be joining Google in shooing away developers.

Earlier today I received a phone call from a company Microsoft contracted to manage the licensing for Bing Maps informing me that I need to sign up for a licensing agreement to continue using Bing Maps in my Windows Phone Speedo Plus app (which is now free, go use the map while you can).

Apparently the reason my app doesn’t qualify for the free mobile license is because my app “tracks” user’s locations. Although she seemed just as confused as I was clarifying what that means, there was no hesitance when it came to asking me to start paying them money.

The timing of this, just weeks after Bing announced a huge change to their search API strategy and deprecation of the Answers API last year has led me to realize just how desperate they have become to restrict developer access.

Besides the fact that in my own experience Bing’s results are still as not relevant or helpful as Google’s and the Bing Maps coverage is woefully bad, charging developers a minimum $40/month for any access to search APIs is extremely prohibitive. I certainly wouldn’t have launched or even attempted the Real Live Search idea with that in mind. At least Google has a limited free tier.

For a company that has a reputation for embracing and supporting developers like no other, the changes Bing has and will be rolling out for its developer program is pretty much a slap to the face. And for what? Just a few bucks here and there from hobbyist developers?

Even elsewhere at Microsoft, Windows Live has recently made great strides to opening more access to their services and platform to third-party developers. Bing however seems to have lost the plot.

23 insightful thoughts

  1. I really wanted Bing to do well, but I am no longer waiting. They constantly go up during keynotes and show us how useful Bing could be, all the new technology coming to us within “months”…. but here we are years later and still waiting for even a mention of updates.

    Meanwhile Google is steamrolling along with all sorts of new additions to their search and Bing’s only answer to that is to now charge for search API. Brilliant.

    1. I just did a query on Qi Lu + news. Results = none. Then I looked on MS for recent speeches. Last one for him is dated October 2010.

      Bing’s enhancements are as elusive as their President.

  2. Very sad. And I agree with Ted, Bing’s pace of innovation is ridiculous both generally, and particularly for a distant #3 trying to compete against Google.

  3. Let’s also not forget how slow Bing is at even indexing websites to begin with.

    I created a new website a few days ago… I submitted a sitemap to both Bing and Google at the same time (through their webmaster tools). Google immediately fetched the sitemap and told me how many links were there (not that I needed to know, but it meant they actually fetched it). The two days later, there were about 250 pages in their index (out of 3,503). It’s now the third day. Guess how many Google has indexed? 3,493. Yeah, there are just 10 pages Google hasn’t indexed yet.

    Why don’t you now take a guess at how many Bing has indexed in the same time? None! In fact, it’s less than none, because the sitemap is still ‘Pending.’

    While I like Bing, and I will continue to use them as my default search engine for the foreseeable future, but this is absolutely ridiculous. How exactly can you provide relevant search results if you aren’t indexing as quickly and as much as possible — regardless of how new or old the site is.

  4. I had the same call yesterday (although I didn’t answer and got an email instead). The thing is, I can’t find anything related to “tracking” the user’s location being a restriction there. In fact I’m struggling to find good information on this.

    I guess it’s time to try and integrate Google Maps with WP7 *shudders*.

  5. I also have had the emails and spoke to someone from GreyMatter yesterday.

    I too have a WP7 app (Aussie Toilets) that uses Bing maps, but I wasn’t questioned about ‘tracking’ (not that I record the users location – just use the Bing Maps control). Once the guy heard that, he was fine that I met the ‘mobile’ requirements.

    -david

  6. Just spoke to them on the phone. The “tracking” seems to be more related to asset tracking, not tracking of the current user’s location/speed/etc. The example they used was that if I’m using it to pinpoint other peoples or other device locations that’s what would be covered under “tracking”. Sounds like the 2nd bulletpoint in the Restrictions section from http://www.microsoft.com/maps/product/mobileterms.html.

    Sounds like your app actually should have qualified for a free license.

  7. I started receiving notices for my WP7 transit app too.

    Sorry, but I don’t generate enough revenue to warrant a license, so I’ve removed the app from Marketplace. nice one Bing.

  8. Question – since there appears to be several people with experience using maps on WP. I am developing a trivia game that uses Bing Maps control to display questions/answers on map. User can also freely explore the map once the correct answer is given (no user and aset tracking etc…). While I don’t expect much (any) real revenue I still planned to release the paid version too. Will I be required to pay for such Bing Maps Control usage?

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