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back to article Why US antitrust regulators should probe Google search

The word is that the US Department of Justice may sue Google over its proposed $700m acquisition of flight data outfit ITA Software. And we can only hope that the feds have far more than flight data on the brain. As it investigates whether Google could use its web search monopoly to erect a second monopoly in the flight search …

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Silver badge

And the guy who recently ran all this. . .

And the guy who recently ran all this, Eric Schmidt, is being considered for Secretary Of Commerce, in spite of ho9w he would seem to be Anti-Competitiveness And Market Position Abuse personified. (And this is to not even mention Google profiting from systematic copyright infringement by the hundreds of millions of dollars per year.)

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Go

and the DOJ that mandates IE

Remember that the US appellate courts did decide that commingling the code for IE and OS was in fact a violation of federal antitrust laws.

Yet, the US DOJ did not correct the illegal act. IE and the OS remain commingled. Not to mention the fact that the EU also approved Microsoft's illegal practices in that regard.

Perhaps the authorities should look more carefully at Google. But, they do not do their job when they have the chance. I guess they were just bought off or don't really care about consumers anyway.

And do not think that Apple lawyers are not looking at this lack of enforcement when they come up their media subscription policy. They know it is illegal. But, they just assume that laws will not be enforced against them. Or, at least, it is worth a try to just go ahead, violate the law and act dumb and stupid if you get caught.

The result is that consumers do get screwed. They have to continue to buy IE regardless of their needs and wants. And they have to pay much higher prices for media subscriptions or do not have access to such services at all (i.e. blocked by Apple the monopoly holder in iTunes).

Not to mention all of the companies Microsoft just paid off to leave the illegal practices in place (I.e. IBM, Novell, SUN, AOL, Caldera and others including Lindows).

How was the DOJ paid off to allow Microsoft to continue to force the purchase of IE? Money? Polictial support?

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Big Brother

typo?

Surely "...the DoJ must also ask whether the company could do much the same thing in who knows how many other markets." should read "...the DoJ must also ask how often the company has done the same thing in who knows how many other markets."

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Joke

Interesting game, the only winning move is not to play.

With Google pretty much owning all of web search that's worth having, and bullying or buying it's way into every search or media niche that looks profitable, I have to feel a little sorry for the "competition". Even if that's Microsoft.

The funny thing is, with their pathetic share of the market, they'd be better of QUITTING than competing. Without Bing and the cored out shell that was Yahoo's search and advertising empire, the EU and US would have to break Google up.

Then they could weigh in with a re-vamped Ad platform, and face a competitor that they might be able to unseat. Or just keep on doing what they do best, hemorrhaging money and market share while building a reputation as a failed third stringer who can't execute.

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untitled

Such an interesting case, I have absolutely no sympathy for either side - why should one search engine expect to get good listings in another one; but then again Google are hardly behaving like angels in any area of their business.

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Big Brother

Can we have ...

... and evil Google icon, please?

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Big Brother

I'm pretty sure

that you're already using the "Evil Google" icon. Here it is again, in fact!

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IT Angle

1 Significant Figure

CS has to cop to some of the blame for this,. If they wanted to append the "Science" part then they should act like it. A Google search is 1 significant figure accuracy on the horizontal, and a binary digit at that. This is not Google's fault, exactly, since the "Economic Man" (Economists) came up with the idea originally but had no math proofs to back it up, because, of course there aren't any.

If you've ever gone fishing, you know this: connectivity to the waterline is not sufficient, you catch the most fish putting your hook in the middle of the river.

Essentially, Google has made a fortune helping fishermen find river banks. Is it a problem that, having discovered a market for clueless fisherman, they want to keep their list of river bank locations a secret; a monopoly ? It all depends on whether you are a reasonably competent fisherman or a totally incompetent scientist ...

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WTF?

Google's advantage

The thing about Google's dominance is that it's ephemeral. The day there is something better, more reliable, faster, more current, we will use it and drop them like a hot rock. They know this, and spend immense resources continually making their services better.

This has been going on for some time, and their pool of knowledge in the field is vast. Their services are amazing. They have invested remarkable sums in building and got good value on nearly every buy.

Others like Bing and Yahoo face this high barrier to entry: they have to be as good as Google to gain viability in the long run. They cannot assume dominance and then shut down all opposition and progress and then halt their own efforts in preference to rent seeking. I'm sure to them this looks like unfair monopolistic behaviour - that Google is preventing their dream by engaging in continuous improvement; by being so good they cannot compete or even buy the market.

That is hard for them. But I'm OK with it.

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@Google's advantage

"The thing about Google's dominance is that it's ephemeral."

You could have said the same about MS' dominance of the desktop OS, but the reality is that:

(1) cost of entry is so high (how much to replicate even 1/10 of Google's world-wide hardware?) that unless you have the like's of MS cash/market, you can't begine to try.

(2) companies that get to the top usually do so by playing hard-ball, often beyond what is legal, let alone moral. Even when caught (like MS in the past) they have so much political and financial leverage that governments often do too little, too late.

Just read about MS' dirty tricks to 'break' DR-DOS and to prevent OEMs shipping blank or competitive OS machines to see how that worked in the past.

Now looking at what has been said here: that Google lied about their white/black lists and have appeared to deliberately sought to block/demote competitors (with the lists) and to buy up sites to become 'vertical', not to mention the on going case about a competitor's geolocation in Android, it seems that Google is becoming the new MS. Using similar practices as they become more money and lawyer-driven.

What they should have done with MS was to break it in to an OS-only company with fixed public OEM terms that do not penalise competition, and a separate company for Office, development tools, etc.

Maybe what is needed for Google is to break it in to a search-only business, and a separate one for advertisement, services, etc., so the terms of use are not always skewed to its own secondary money-making services.

Fat chance :(

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No need for anti-trust

The government has no right to break companies up just because other companies have a hard time competing.

If Google has broken other laws, prosecute them for that.

Non-government monopolies all tend to die a natural death. Firefox did not rise because the government cracked down on Microsoft; it succeeded because it was a better browser than IE.

Anti-trust laws put far too much power in corruptible hands, and are never applied consistently. The big winners are the lawyers.

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Flame

Start with the worse first

>> The thing about Google's dominance is that it's ephemeral.

>

> You could have said the same about MS' dominance of the desktop OS

No, you really couldn't. They own and control Win32 (and now .NET) and no other implementation can compete as they are chasing tail lights that are deliberately doing anything they can to shake anyone off.

This isn't like search. There isn't a massive world of things built on Google's search API locking us in. We could all change search engine tomorrow, we can't all change our OS tomorrow because most people use Win32 apps, Wine is amazing, but it can't really do this as it's an impossible task. If you move to Linux/BSD thinking you can continue to use all your Windows apps, you will find you are mistaken, and either go running back to Windows, or learn new cross platform apps.

What makes this much worse is they are allowed to do closed software on their own closed operating system. How the hell is anyone expected to fairly compete? With MS Office it's even worse as they have a doc spec too to use to try and stop competitors.

MS need at very least splitting into a operating system business and a software business. There should be regulation so you can do a OS and open software, or a closed software and a open OS, but both can't be closed.

It's amazing we have freed ourselves as much as we have, but this doesn't mean things aren't broken. I still every now and then, most recently with my wifes SATS marking, hit sites that only work with IE. Who knows how many Windows apps Wine can't run because of undocumented behaviour/bugs that Wine hasn't matched. It was many many years before ".doc" was blown open.

Now if Google use their monoply in search, which I wouldn't argue they don't have, to dominate another market, then there is a problem. But to my knowledge, they haven't done this yet. There isn't Google Halloween like documents with internal emails about how they can use their APIs and formats to lock people in.

A new peer-to-peer search could come from nowhere and overtake Google, or a IBM, or anyone with the money to do it traditionally. Anyway, the hardware need only grow as fast as the userbase. Google could lose their cash cow within a year or so. With MS it will be decades before we are free of their cash cows. Not saying Google don't have evil money men working there too, they do, but it's no MS. They will go down in the monopoly history books as a one of a kind.

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Big Brother

We are Google

All your searches belong to us.

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Headmaster

At least paraphrase it right:

All your searches are belong to us!

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Pint

The untitled title of the untitled article response message

Sir,

the problem with Google is not exactly that they favour their own services in search results, but that they have the ability to not show results linking to preceived(!) competitors. And "perceived" is meant to state that not only does Google not have competitors, it also can be arbitrary in that Google can make the choice of which company / website it doesn't like on its own. Case in point: FoundEm.

The problem for world at large, then, is that a virtually unbeatable marketing trendsetter cannot be trusted to behave fairly to all parties interested in reaching the same audience, because it has stakes for itself in reaching these audiences.

The only way out of this conondrum would be to find a not-for-profit organization that builds up and maintains a search engine to the same quality standard that is being displayed by Google. That would require massive private donations whereby entities that have vested business / political interests would not be allowed to donate (thereby missing quite a big chunk of available money).

Any for-profit organization building up a new and better search engine would seek to profit from it at some point in time. The only way to do that is by data-mining searches and connecting them to web behaviour from searchers so that, ultimately, targetted advertising becomes a possibility. And then the world at large ends up with Google II, which is no solution, as it will be the same "do no evil" Godfather that Google already is.

ITPassion would be willing to step into this market, provided, as a start, all ElReg readers donate £2 per month, so that:

a) a tier 1 CDN can be build up across the globe;

b) quality software (crawlers, indexers, crossreferencers, result rankers) can be created;

c) a database CDN can be setup and operated on the required scale;

d) public facing webservers can be setup to provide result showing capabilities.

ITPassion will guarantee, in return for the mentioned £2 / month from *every* ElReg reader, that this search engine will never ever track your IP address, online behaviour, or other useful bits that enable it to present targetted advertising. The only thing the search engine will track is click-through behaviour to favor search results that people clicked on, so that they get a crowd-pleasing factor in the rankings; all this withou knowing *who* clicked-through.

Open the email floodgates, I am more than happy to provide donation details to all interested parties.

Guus Leeuw

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Anonymous Coward

my thoughts

Well, im not going to pretend to know the ins and outs of all this but something i do is that i dont use google because its anti competative, i use it because it gives me better results, Bing frustrates me, i love google simple approch, what i dont like is the suggestions of what data google is harvesting from me, i dont like the approch they have, but in saying that, perhaps thats the reason why google works so well, i guess we cant have everything!

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Anonymous Coward

Data mining

With regards to search engines Microsoft will also be harvesting a lot of data about you as well, it is just that you will not hear about it and Microsoft fanboys will deny it.

You definitely won't hear anything about it in Cade Metz's articles because he appears to be very anti-google.

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Anonymous Coward

Why not break up the actually evil companies first?

Google has yet to prove it is actually evil, all the talk of action against it is based on the potential for them to do evil with a seeming monopoly, like so many other corporations have actually done for years with little to no punishment. I'd much rather have Bank of America broken up.

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Anonymous Coward

OMFG!!!

"But when you consider the Google web search monopoly – which controls an estimated 85 per cent of the market"

You mean to tell me that there are Google employees going around forcing (presumably at gun point) people to use their search engine ?

Which bit of "people will chose to use the service they find delivers the easiest, most convenient and best, service they can find" is it that all these idiots don't understand ?

If you don't want Google to have 85% share of the search engine market, then make something better than Google, and hey presto they won't have anymore.

If you can't be arsed to do that, but instead think the best idea is to try and control and cripple the service Google do provide to make your own crappy offering look better, then you need to STFU and stop trying to make life harder for the people who constitute that 85% market share.

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Anonymous Coward

@Dave Dowell

"If you can't be arsed to do that, but instead think the best idea is to try and control and cripple the service Google do provide to make your own crappy offering look better, then you need to STFU and stop trying to make life harder for the people who constitute that 85% market share."

Microsoft just won't listen though. It is them who are behind all of this. Not directly of course because they are just a bunch of spineless twats. They do this by proxy. They are a dirty company who are not happy until they lead in everything!!

People who think Microsoft have changed need to wake up and take a look at what they are doing. They are behind Google being attacked for their search engine, and also attacking Google's Android OS via proxy by suing those who use it.

All roads seem to lead to Microsoft!!

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Monopoly

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If you don't want Google to have 85% share of the search engine market, then make something better than Google, and hey presto they won't have anymore.

----

I'll build it if you fund it yeah? No, thought not.

Monopolies tend to snowball to a size where the cost of building a competing product and entering the market is, effectively, prohibitive. Even if someone DID come up with something better, Google could just buy them out and use/bury it.

Having a dominant market position though, isn't inherently wrong - if you unfairly leverage it to restrict competition in other services that's the problem. There was nothing really wrong with MS having a virtual monopoly on the OS ... until they started to leverage that position to push additional, unrelated software such as Internet Explorer or impose restrictive terms on OEMs.

Say that Google created it's own job search engine like Jobsite or Jobserve, or bought one out, they _could_ simply apply penalties to Jobsite and Jobserve so that they no longer appear in the first 10 pages of Google's results.

Even if "Google Jobs" was actually worse than both Jobsite and Jobserve it would appear right at the top of the listings on a search for "jobs" - many people would use it simply because of that.

They'd not be competing on merit - a bit like how the search for "video" on Google results in "Google video search" for the top result. The sheer weight of Google has actually affected the results of both Yahoo and Bing since both of them have Google video as the #1 result as well, despite having their own video searches.

Ditto on "maps" of course.

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Anonymous Coward

Objective?

Using whitelists and blacklists does not necessarily make a search engine non-objective. If the purpose is to give people making a search the results they are looking for (rather than pages clogged with price comparison sites) then the lists lead to a more objective search. It's still possible to include the phrase "price comparison" if that's what you really want!

None of which is to deny the real issues about Google's increasing power to control who finds what and the potential this has for stifling competition in other markets that Google chooses to dabble in.

But the really scary thought is that, maybe, like water supply or a universal postal service, general search just *is* a natural monopoly. In which case, perhaps, the provider of it shouldn't be involved in other markets?

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Anonymous Coward

Regulation is useless

The only way to break up Google (and it seriously needs breaking up before being turned into whatever politician's favorite toy) is to take information to areas where Google money printing machine doesn't plug in so well.

Now where have I seen something along these lines ummm, I remember they look like little squares, you can press on them with your finger or click on them and information that was not otherwise available to Google pops up. Anyone seen them?

Information wants to be free, not tracked and moneytized by Google.

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Go

lets try to break that monopoly...

YaCy is an FOSS p2p search engine written in Java(...), that allows decentral access. When I first heard of it I considered it a possibility for us to break Google's neck. Check it out: http://www.yacy.net/

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Faroo - p2p search

much as it upsets the powers that be I think p2p is the answer for many of these problems...

an open and transparent technology that shares load around the worlds idle computing power

Faroo is another similar solution to YaCy that's been around and improving over the last couple of years...

http://blog.offbeatmammal.com/post/2008/09/15/Is-Peer-to-Peer-the-platform-for-next-generation.aspx

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Joke

just did a search on Google for 'search engines'

and the first Google page listed is #45, Google Directory, really just Google's front page for dmoz.org .. Open Directory Project

not another Google page in the top 200 .. not good self promotion .. eh ?

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Google is bad, then what is Microsoft???

I can see the reason to regulate monopolies, but Microsoft had done more damage in the last 10 years than any company will ever do in the next century.

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PT

@What is Microsoft

Indeed. If the alternative to Google is Microsoft, then we are truly screwed. I just brought up a clean W7 system and wanted to install Firefox, which I typed into the Bing box on IE. It would appear that Bing has never heard of it.

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Duh

If they need to do this, then they Definitely need to do the ATT/T-mobile acquisition!

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Coffee/keyboard

I don't believe I just read this:

"Google argues that it can divulge only so much about the inner-workings of its search engine because if blackhats learn too much, they'll game the system."

That statement plainly describes what is known in the trade as "security through obscurity", which is a flaw pretty much everyone here knows all too well. And GOOGLE of all companies are falling for it? $DEITY help us! What happens when (not if) one of these "blackhats" gets a job at Google and gets into their system then?

Or is it just an excuse and the real reason is the quite understandable preservation of trade secrets? If so, why didn't Google just cite that as a reason instead of claiming security through obscurity, and in the process; a) making themselves look like amateur asshats to anyone that knows even the ABCs of computer security, and b) inviting every blackhat in the world to come and try for a job with them because they've just admitted their system is susceptible to gaming if you can just get at the information?

Something doesn't sit right here.

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Anonymous Coward

game!=hack

You seem to consider "game the system" to mean "hack". I think it means "manipulate search results." Of course this is preservation of trade secrets but it's not security through obscurity. It's business security by keeping your secrets secret.

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This is retarded...

GE was broken up due to its massive size and the fact that their volume prevented any competition in the then far more localized marketplace. They also had multiple divisions where profits and losses could be offset, so they had a major competitive advantage. I am not so sure if that concept applies today as much as it did 50 years ago. Today more so than ever organizations are competing on the global playing field rather than the national one. Not all countries have competition laws in place so if larger American owned organizations are forced to break up by splitting divisions apart it could dramatically affect their global competitiveness.

There is nothing to prevent IBM, Microsoft, or even a smaller startup to come up with a better search engine. The biggest hurdle is that they will face is coming up with a better search algorithm. Once the search is better people will change who they search with in droves. Google will soon become yesterdays news. Google realizes this better than most tech companies out there and it is for this reason alone they continually review their existing successes to ensure long-term growth and profitability.

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Headmaster

@L1feless

"""

They also had multiple divisions where profits and losses could be offset, so they had a major competitive advantage. I am not so sure if that concept applies today as much as it did 50 years ago.

"""

What, like say Google Search and pick one from Gmail, Google Docs, Orkut, Google Talk, Google Voice, Google Maps and so forth.

The massive profits from Google Search funded all of these divisions. Some aren't even profitable now, I'd speculate.

Having said that, that is the purpose of a company, to reinvest profit into a company to grow the company. I'm not sure they should be split up for that!

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Stop

Sour grapes?

This is what happens when a market gets breaks loose from under a monopoly. The would-be monopolists cry "foul" and start all sorts of diversions and tricks to bring the upstart back under control. Google isn't just a search engine, it directly threatens companies like Microsoft, not by competing with them but by making them irrelevant.

There's nothing stopping a Microsoft being as successful as a Google except that everything they do is tied to their other business units. It degrades the product and so the user experience so -- surprise -- users don't bother with it.

Google needs some serious competition. But I'd rather it was from people rising to meet them than trying to drag them down.

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Evil Google?

Sure. But what about the greater evils, Intel, MS, Apple, Rambus, RIAA, MPAA, Sony, etc

Compare with them, Google is nothing, at least, you have freedom to leave Google (it is perfect fine to use someone else to search, as long as it provides the result you are looking for).

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