Microsoft's Bing goes ad-free for all U.S. schools

Ends pilot project, drops knocks against Google

Microsoft yesterday opened its ad-free Bing search engine option to all U.S. K-12 schools, both public and private, after running a pilot program since August.

Formerly called "Bing for Schools" but now labeled "Bing in the Classroom," the option offers schools a no-ads search engine with pre-set filters that block adult content.

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Last year, Microsoft tested the program with a several schools and school districts, including those in Atlanta, Detroit and Los Angeles.

As part of the pilot, parents could also earn credits by searching with Bing, accumulating points that could then to donated to a specific school, say, the one their children attend. Those points can be cashed in for a Surface tablet, formerly named "Surface RT" and the precursor to the Surface 2. Microsoft is continuing the point accumulation and donation components in the full-scale program.

Other than dropping ads from search results, Bing in the Classroom filters all Bing searches from within a participating school at the "Strict" setting in the engine's SafeSearch preferences, blocking adult text, images and videos, according to the project's terms of service. All users in the school are also treated has having opted-out of personalized ads, meaning that Microsoft will not log the data into individualized advertising profiles for use in outside-school browsing sessions.

Although Microsoft used the pilot launch last year to take shots at rival Google -- part of its then-running "Scroogled" attack ad campaign -- the Redmond, Wash. developer didn't even mention Google yesterday in its news release or online materials.

Reports have suggested that Microsoft has suspended the Scroogled concept, although its website remains online. The campaign's creator, Microsoft executive Mark Penn, formerly a political and media strategist and advisor to both President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, was reassigned earlier this year to the post of chief strategy officer, a job whose responsibilities include data analysis.

Bing Apps, such as those that are pre-installed on Windows 8.1, including Bing News and Bing Weather, are not covered by the program, and so may display ads if run, Microsoft said.

Schools interested in participating in Bing in the Classroom can register on Microsoft's website. Schools must be using a static, rather than a dynamic, IP address.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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This story, "Microsoft's Bing goes ad-free for all U.S. schools" was originally published by Computerworld.

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