Michael Horowitz
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[Formatted for Printing] From the personal web site of  Michael Horowitz

Banned by Bing

Created:  April 26, 2021
Updated: April 27, 2021 (see update at end)

Years ago, my JavaTester.org website racked up well over 20 million page views. Back when Java was widely employed, it served a useful purpose. My next most popular website has been RouterSecurity.org. From when it went live, late in 2015, till now, there have been over 6 million page views. The last couple months it has averaged around 6,000 page views per day.

Yet, it has been banned by Bing.

On a technical level, the website is as harmless as harmless gets. There are no ads, no tracking, no cookies, no malware, nothing. It is as vanilla as vanilla gets. And, every word on the site was written by me, so there there can't be any copyright issues.

I just learned about the de-listing recently, when someone emailed me to say that it did not show up in the search results at DuckDuckGo. It turns out, most of the search results the Duck uses come from Bing. And, it turns out, that both Yahoo and AOL also use Bing for their search results. On Google, RouterSecurity.org is the top hit when searching for "router security". It is also the top result at Yandex, Baidu and Startpage. There are no shades of gray here, either the site is number 1 or its nowhere to be found.

I did some digging through old webserver logs looking for referrers. While I could not tell when the ban started, I did see some referrals from cn.bing.com. So, whatever it was about the site that Bing considered bad, illegal or offensive, clearly did not apply in China.

In typical Microsoft fashion, its easy for anyone to request a website be removed from the search results. However, they fail to notify the site of the removal and there is no such thing as an appeal. Microsoft has lots of experience with monopolistic behavior.

It may seem like I am an angry guy complaining, but no. There is nothing for sale at RouterSecurity.org. If the popularity decreases because the site is banned from some search engines, I do not lose any money. Likewise, there are no ads, so I do not make more money if the site gets more popular. Neither do I have to pay more for the site as the page views increase. This matters to you, more than it does to me.

Those of us that used Windows for years learned not to trust Microsoft. Exchange users too, know of what I speak. Now, people searching with DuckDuckGo, Bing, Yahoo and AOL can learn the same lesson.

SEARCH ENGINE CHOICES

One simple solution is to use Startpage which bills itself as "The world's most private search engine". Startpage gets its search results from Google, thus it offers the best of both worlds. Quoting from the Startpage home page:

You can't beat Google when it comes to online search. So we’re paying them to use their brilliant search results in order to remove all trackers and logs. The result: The world’s best and most private search engine. Only now you can search without ads following you around, recommending products you’ve already bought. And no more data mining by companies with dubious intentions. We want you to dance like nobody’s watching and search like nobody’s watching.

My two preferred browsers are Brave and Firefox. Anyone using Brave on Windows can easily convert to Startpage. As shown below, it is one of the available default search engines.

Brave browser Search Engine Choices
 Brave browser Search Engine Choices 

Surprisingly, Firefox version 88 (on Windows) offers only two Search Engines, Google and DuckDuckGo. Firefox users will just have to bookmark Startpage.com.

Firefox v88 Search Engine Choices
 Firefox version 88 Search Engine Choices 

I find the Search Engine choices available in Chrome version 90 (on Windows) very interesting. As shown below, the alternates include Bing, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo, all of which use Bing. I was not familiar with the last option, Ecosia, but it turns out they too get their search results from Bing. Beats me why Google does not offer an alternate search engine, such as Startpage, where the results are based on Google.

Chrome v90 Search Engine Choices
 Chrome version 90 Search Engine Choices 

Interesting thing about Ecosia. According to their Help system:

Ecosia's search results and search ads are powered by Microsoft Bing. We use Bing's search technology, enhanced with Ecosia's own algorithms ... Bing is the second largest search engine in the US, after Google.

The Ecosia algorithms are doing something right, my RouterSecurity.org was the first result today when I searched for "router security".

You may have noticed above that the Brave browser offers the Qwant Search Engine as an option. Qwant too, is part of the Bing collective and RouterSecurity.org does not appear in the results when searching for "router security" But, they take suggestions. I requested that RouterSecurity.org be added. We'll see.

If you like using Google but don't want to be tracked, a simple solution is not to be logged in to Google when doing a search. You can tell if you are signed in by checking the upper right corner of the screen (see screen shots). A single letter in a circle means you are signed in, a blue "Sign in" button means you are not. You might also query Google.com while in private browsing mode.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Maybe you don't care about routers or their security. Most people do not. Maybe you think the advice I offer on the site is poor. Fine. But, now you know that when you search on Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, Qwant and AOL, the results you see are not as complete as they could/should be.

UPDATE April 27, 2021

Three things happened just after this blog went live.

The first is that someone sent me a link, showing that sites disappearing fom Bing has been an ongoing thing: Bing Removing Many Sites For no Reason (November 2020). Yet another reason that Startpage is the better Search Engine choice.

The second is that RouterSecurity.org re-appeared on Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo and AOL. I learned that the site had disappeared about a week before publishing this. In that time, I had submitted feedback, multiple times, to both Bing and DuckDuckGo. I had no expectation for this feedback which is why I didn't even mentioned it. But, it must have worked. Go figure.

Finally, I realized that my search through old webserver logs was flawed. I do not know when the ban occurred.

 

 

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 michael--at--michaelhorowitz.com   Last Updated: April 27, 2021 4PM UTC  
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