Microsoft Takes on Google with Ad-Free ‘Bing in the Classroom’

Microsoft has announced a new ad-free Bing Search for use in schools, according to The Huffington Post via the Associated Press.  The service allows school administrators to enable the no-ads restriction when students search using Bing.

A test run was put in place to see if the absence of ads would be a positive impact on students’  learning and development.  The pilot program, launched earlier this year, evolved into this offering for all U.S. public and private schools for kindergarten through 12th grades. Microsoft sees this option as a safer online presence for students — and a shot in the arm for the Bing search engine, which has lagged behind Google, the market leader.

When a school signs up for the free Bing in the Classroom program, not only will there be no ads, but there will also be a strict filter to keep out adult sites and content.

The company is also giving schools free first-generation Surface tablets when communities sign up for and use ad-based Bing to accrue “points”.  Microsoft says that 60 people who make 30 searches a day for a month can earn the Surface for the school of their choice with no cap on the number earned.

Matt Wallaert, a Microsoft employee who created the “Bing in the Classroom” program, said the company hopes that some of the program’s goodwill leads to more Bing usage.

“We absolutely are an ad-supported business, but we think that schools are not the time and place for that,” he said. “Obviously we hope that parents will hear that message and want to use Bing at home.”

Some classroom teachers have already stated that the removal of the ads has helped their students become more focused and attentive.  That, along with the removal of the inappropriate content, has made a difference in students’ level of attention, reports Ananth Baliga of  UPI.com.

Google counters that it has offered an ad-free search and email program to schools since 2007 in the form of its Google Apps for Education package. But Google Apps and Google Play are not comparable to the Bing in the Classroom program, says Tom Warren writing for The Verge.  Neither of these programs include ad-free search.  Also, any filter provided by Google can be easily bypassed if administrators have not configured them in the correct manner.

John Ribeiro of PCWorld suggests that Microsoft’s strategy may be paying off.  The new program has grown to include 4.5 million kids, but Microsoft sites have 18.6% of the share of search in the U.S. to Google’s 67.5%.

Microsoft, which, according to Taylor Soper of GeekWire, has long criticized Google for their privacy practices, has created this project to be “a way for Microsoft to move students away from using Google and instead search the web with Bing”.