Google has confirmed that the US Federal Trade Commission has opened an antitrust investigation into its search and advertising practices, and although the company says it respects "the FTC's process", it continues to insist that those search and ad practices will stand up to scrutiny. With an SEC filing, the company said it …
Okay, let's put this into the context of supermarkets ... Tesco offers a wide range of "answers" or products from a wide range of providers, including a large range of own brand ones. Because Tesco has become so big and dominant, we now want them offer items from the Sainsbury's range - that doesn't seem too-onerous, except that we want Tesco to put the Sainsbury products in prominent positions and pass all proceeds from selling those items back to Sainsbury's - not even taking a cut for overhead costs!
Makes great sense to me!
That is all
I assume you were down-voted by people who didn't understand you were being sarcastic.
I think the idea that a company should not be allowed to bundle one of its own products with another of its own products is ridiculous. Collusions between different companies is another matter (e.g. Microsoft and its "channel partners" excluding non-Windows systems), but nobody would think to criticise Apple for bundling Mac OS X with a Mac, would they?
So Google promotes its own services over others' ... on its own site.
The words mountain and molehill come to mind.
Or maybe that should be Vole-hill, since it's crystal clear who's really behind this latest Screw Google campaign.
Not even close. Google have been using human nature and apathy to build a monopoly on information, converting that to ad impressions, thus income. Bit more sneaky than Tesco selling decent bread, isn't it?
Tesco's strategy is to spam everywhere with stores, even if those stores don't make a particularly huge amount of money. Why?
Because once a Tesco is there, it becomes much more difficult for anybody else to get a start-up going. Why bother shopping anywhere else, when there's a Tesco just around the corner?
Tesco have started selling decent bread? Shit
Their "advertising team" in NYC are offering better SEO results by advertising with Google... Seems like a lot to answer to me.
"Collusions between different companies is another matter (e.g. Microsoft and its "channel partners" excluding non-Windows systems), but nobody would think to criticise Apple for bundling Mac OS X with a Mac, would they?"
If Apple were to have a 90% share of the desktop market and abused this share to gain advantage in a completely different market, then rest assured people will decry the "bundling" of OS X all over the internet. OS X is of course bundled in the same way that Nintendo "bundle" the Wii OS or Microsoft "bundle" the XBox OS, but that is entirely besides your rather moot and entirely trite point.
The issue here is that Google dominate the search market place. Were the share even slightly more balanced then it wouldn't be an issue. Really, competition law isn't really hard to understand.
another good example
Can someone explain to me why Microsoft can't bundle their free microsoft security essentials antivirus which is by the way an excellent product with windows? Or why they don't have silverlight pre-installed with windows? Cause other companies complained. So that's why Google having gained a dominant position may abuse it and needs to be checked. I am not saying I have a proof they do but can't see their search engine algorithms fully.
Lets make sure google behave fairly. Also, if microsoft has to provide that broswer question, then why not apple. I bet 90% of macs are using safari!!??
Willie Sutton provided the perfect answer..
.. when asked why he robbed banks, he replied "because that's where the money is".
It's as simple as that. The moment you become famous and/or rich, people will stop nothing at trying to grab a piece of the action. After all, it's far less effort than doing something interesting yourself.
However, on the other hand you always have to ask how a company can be so successful. If Google is clean the investigation won't find anything. If they DO find something they deserve the same force of law all other companies are subjected to.
Nothing to see here, please move along..
"Willie Sutton provided the perfect answer.."
Also, the FTC's concerns are "unclear"? That's not a problem, that's by design. Cop comes in uninvited, rifles through your porn collection... his concerns are "unclear" but they may become clearer in the next minute.
Victim of success
It's true - Google is a victim of its own success. For the vast majority, Google has become the gatekeeper of the Internet. Internet users only see what appears in a Google search. If a site isn't near the top of a Google search, it doesn't exist (figuratively speaking). And this is true because Google has been successful, to the point where there is no genuine competition.
This, in itself, is not a bad thing. But that degree of success comes at a price. Google's business is selling advertising, and its *real* customers aren't the search users. The real customers are businesses that want to sell something, that are paying Google for visibility.
And here's the crux of the problem - Google can destroy those businesses if it starts to compete with them. The complaints have already started, and hence the FTC response. Ultimately, I suspect that Google will have to confine itself to search or split up.
The rules change
Once you win the "game" and become an effective monopoly, the rules change and it becomes illegal to exploit that monopoly power in many different ways. There are laws stipulating this, quite clearly and it should be noted (as was forgotten by MS counsels) a monopoly is by definition bad for the market, so claiming "we are good for the consumer" doesn't have too many legal legs.
As Ralph notes, Google have become a victim of their own success and become an effective monopoly in "internet search" and can effectively use this power to promote other products they may offer by eliminating competitors from search results - something that they provably can and have done. IMHO, Google are a nefarious company, despite their motto, and their wings should be clipped sooner rather than later on the anti-competitive aspect. Googles trampling of privacy is another issue that needs to be pursued and effectively prosecuted.
Commentards on websites like this seem to think size is the factor, it's not. Apple is not a monopoly, or anywhere near a monopoly in any of the markets in which it operates. It is extremely profitable though, because Apple is good at what it does. So far, they are a long way from a monopoly.
the funny thing
The funny thing is that other than its search and maybe maps/free email, it hasn't had another successful product.
Google Apps? Android? (ok, that was an acquisition, but still...)
True for Android and it's eco system but that isn't really linked into their search engine / advertising business.
Android isn't linked to Google's search / advertising business? Really?
Which rock are you living under?
Do you believe Google develops Android out of the goodness of their hearts, since they don't otherwise profit from handset or app sales?
It seems that rational comments that attempt to educate receive lots of thumbs down. I have noticed this trend on my posts.
Casual empiricism suggests that it is "Apple" hatred that is the driver for this behaviour - my post here suggests, IMHO correctly, that Apple is not a monopoly or anywhere near one, while Google is very likely to be deemed to actually be one - legally - some time in the near future. "Google" hatred also seems popular, IMHO somewhat more understandably, so these days and this also accounts for a fair share of downvotes for essentially neutral, factual posts.
Difference between Google and Microsoft
If I don't like Google, I can firewall every single one of their services and carry on using the rest of the Internet without a worry. As soon as you delete Windows from whatever computer you have, you've just fucked yourself for trying to get the vast majority of everyone's applications working on your computer.
Most people use Google amongst other search engines because it's good, and any concerns you might have about Schmidt and his "Creepy Line" need to also be levelled at Microsoft, Apple, and especially any kind of vertical search provider. Oh and probably Tesco too.
@steve 48: The downvotes without a reply just mean they have no argument.
I don't understand why you bring Sainsbury in to this argument. It stands pretty well on Tesco alone.
However, Tesco don't push their brands 'over' their competior brands - which in this case are Heinz, McVities, Birds Eye, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble etc. - NOT Sainsbury, Asda or Morrison.
A good example is the washing products aisle. The product getting the most exposure is that of either Unilver or P&G. Tesco's own brand stuff gets about the same space as Ecover.
That seems to apply in all the supermarkets even Lidl.
How much profit each supermarket makes is based on how mch stiff they actually sell - regardless of the brand.
The argument about Google is (as I see it - so I may well be wrong) is that G is pushing its own retail outlet over all others.
Using the supermarket analogy again. I'm looking for tinned beans. I go into Tesco and I can find six or seven brands of beans - including Tesco's own. I go into Sainsbury and I find the same brands except that Tesco's have been replaced by Sainsbury's own brand - and so on at Asda & Morrison.
If I go to Google and look for tinned beans - I only get Google Beans pushed at me and the other brands are pushed down the results.
Transfer that to the travel market, where the income an agent makes is purely the commission they get on sales from Airlines and hotels and you should be able to see the problem.
Hope that makes sense.
"However, Tesco don't push their brands 'over' their competior brands"
Been to a Tesco lately? Have a look at the positioning of the products on the shelves.
You could buy Red Bull at £1-something for a 250ml can. Or, directly above it, a litre bottle of Tesco Kx for a quid. It's the same all over the store.
Ah - but's that's pricing.
Tesco's own brand products are always cheaper. The fact that you can see the two products adjacent to each other is clear evidence that Tesco is NOT pushing their brand over Red Bull.
Out of curiosity, how many cans of own brand were there compared to RB?
If Tesco ONLY sold own brand and NOT RB (or any other overpriced soft drink) then you would have a valid point.
I went into Tesco this evening to check this out
Red Bull - in all its varieties - about 6 foot of shelf space spread over 2 shelves
Tesco Own-brand bull - about 2 feet of shelf space - BELOW the Red Bull
Another Brand (can't remember its name) - about 2 feet of space on one of the same shelves as RB.
In my eyes Tesco are pushing Red Bull OVER their own-brand product.
Judging by the prices they probably make about 50p a can on the OB but probably £1 a can on RB (Wholesale price of RB to a typical corner shop is 90p - to Tesco it's probably 80p or even lower).
If you were Tesco - which would you push?
"At Google, we’ve always focused...
"... on getting as much information about the user first"
There, fixed it for you.
So Angry with Google for this!
I mean, moving Foundem down in the results? I want those useless feckers to not show up at all!
Same goes for Experts Exchange (though at least you can bypass the CSS/JS that hides the answer), Brothersoft and all those other sites that appear to contain what you are looking for but instead just contain another search for the item.
To be fair to Foundem, they do seem to present slightly more relevant content than the others. But what I actually want is a link to the item itself, not to a search page showing the item and 100 other things.
Maybe they could use the supermarket idea for results
One slight difference between the supermarket version by Ivan Headache and Google results is that most readers view the results only one way, ie: top to bottom. With a supermarket, you can view the results / products from two different directions, ie: depending which end of the isle you come from.
With this in mind, perhaps Google needs to change the layout of it's results, so instead of scrolling downwards they maybe go sideways with say 3 results per line and on an average 1024768 screen, maybe 3 lines per screen.
That way more of the "products" get seen including of course their own, but no one can complain that the other products are hidden.
Not sure if this would work mind you from a UI point of view, but if it does how do you trademark an idea at the US patent office before Google reads this? :)
You see, I can't say that I do not think that Google are deserving of an anti-trust investigation. That isn't to say that I support it, merely that you can't argue against it outright. Google has definitely abused its position, but whether or not that's worth investigating is another matter. The very concept of link aggregators cum search indexes cum advertising networks being considered a large and influential enough of a market to be worth taking anti-trust action against blows my mind, but I guess the dullards at the DoJ enjoy wading neck-deep into this sort of bullshit.
All that said, the real question isn't whether or not Google are *worth* being investigated, it's whether or not Google are *worth* being investigated while companies like AT&T are given the very same government's golden seal of approval. It is impossible to separate those two facts from one another, therein lies my conundrum: how can I possibly support an anti-trust investigation of Google that will most likely explicitly center on their abuses of advertising market dominance and ignore all of the legitimate issues like abuse of privacy, all the while the DoJ conveniently fails to launch anti-trust action against truly market damaging anti-competitive price-fixing anti-consumer behemoths like AT&T?
It's bad enough that this investigation will wind up a joke, just like Microsoft's. Even worse, it won't seek to rectify any of the real ills of Google. The fact that I couldn't give a shit whether or not Google manipulates its search index, or whether or not Google fucks over advertisers, is only compounded by the fact that I do very muchly give a shit that a company that has the potential to have an overwhelmingly negative impact on my life as a consumer was all ready broken up once, reformed less than twenty years later and is now in an even more powerful position to abuse than it has ever held before.
That said, what the douchebag dumbfuckers at Google do to other search engines on the internet and the useless keyword whoring advertisers doesn't mean a good god damn thing to me because it's all happening in some shitfuck virtual reality that doesn't have any bearing whatsoever on real life and there are literally dozens of competitors are gunning to take Google down but when the largest telecommunications company IN THE GOD DAMNED WORLD abuses its vertically integrated market dominance it definitely has a real impact on my life, my wallet and the lives and wallets of many tens of millions of people.
To wit, Google are cunts, AT&T are bigger cunts and the United States Department of Justice are the biggest cunts of them all. This whole thing is a fucking joke. You want to take down Google? Fine, be my guest, but do it for the right reasons, and the second you're done you go after AT&T, who are only one of the scores of evil American empires that need to be kneecapped, next. Of course, this entire post was written knowing that Google aren't being investigated because they're worthy of an anti-trust investigation, they're being investigated because they pissed off people that are collectively far wealthier and more influential than they are and with far better lobbyists.
while we are on about
While we are on about Supermarkets, take a look at asda...
They have a policy where they will sell stuff at a lower price than the other main supermarkets. if they cant, they will refund the difference plus 10%
On closer inspection, you will find that if asda can't sell it cheaper, then they wont sell it at all. Its off the shelves.
I've had plenty of vouchers off the asda price guarantee site. I'm happy that they honour their promise. However, it only applies to the total of the (comparable) shop, not each item, which means some items in your basket can be more expensive and they can still stand by it being 10% cheaper if the cheaper items are cheap enough..
What I also like is the £2 vouchers they give you if they make a mistake on your bill, even if you usually have to ask for them...
Now Sainsburys' "we check our prices against Tesco" labels that they put on the shelf edge to make out they are the same price (do they think we think Tesco is cheap?) ... they seem to get annoyed when I correct them with the actual Tesco prices...
Foundem? Who was looking?
I suspect more people have heard of Foundem because of their bleating about Google than had ever heard of them before. If people wanted to find their site, they could search for it.
If Foundem wanted to be better known in the first place, they could *PAY* for advertising like other people do. Not demand that Google artificially push them further up the search page than any sane person would say they belong
We know who's behind this
And we know what they want. Pagerank. They want access to Google's secret sauce. You can count on the FTC demanding access to this shortly in the interest of "guaranteeing fairness". Google's competitors can't make their search results relevant enough to draw eyeballs, so they're trying this end around. It's transparent.
They shouldn't get what they want. The proof that Google's results are fair is that if they weren't, we wouldn't Google. Alternatives are just a click away. We don't want rehashed vertical search. If we did, we would use that - and we don't.
PageRank is a technology that's over 50 years old
... and it has long since been invalidated. (in the late 50's / early 60's, they called it "citation indexing")
And regarding vertical search engines: Check out the #1 result when you search for "hotels" on Google.
( Just FYI )
Without even looking
I bet it's www.hotels.com. Probably one of the most guessable domains on the planet.
They are a travel search engine specifically oriented to the accommodation market.
For real? I tell you what, when I google for the word "maps," it's because I'm being lazy and want a quick link to Google Maps. Honestly, I don't care about any other vendor. Why? Because Google has provided the services I need with an ease that defies other companies. I'm not a Google fanboy; if someone can create such a well integrated set of tools, with more usability and functionality, I'll start using their suite. As it is, I can google an interest of mine, read a few pages, and then click one button to see a fucking map of places related to that near my home. In one click, I can instantly see anything related to my search interest, from news to videos, from reviews to maps showing me stores I can buy it at, and directions on how to get there.
I can use their services easily from my N900, I can receive an email from someone containing Microsoft Word documents, and view them instantly, edit, save, and send them back on a platform that cannot install Microsoft Word. Everything I need is there, and it does what I want.
As far as some of Google's other ventures, such as Chrome or Droid, I'm not as interested. Those don't work for me the way their web services do. I don't use Chrome, and I don't own a Droid product. I can't stand them.
But how does my experience with Google represent a fair business practice? It's simple free market principles. Google provides a free product on the market with X capabilities. Competitors also provide a free product on the market with J capabilities. I use a few of these products, I find them sorely lacking from what I require, and I select the product that provides me with a consistently good experience. I use Google. I play with some of the features in Google Labs, and I find my experience rewarding. I continue to use Google. Someone creates an "OMG GOOGLE KILLER" so I try it out and find that it doesn't have anywhere near the functionality of Google, so I continue to use Google some more.
At the end of the day, this story is played out by millions and millions of people, who fairly and democratically decide via free market that Google provides them with the best solution to their immediate needs.
Well said, Vin. I wish I could give you several positive marks for that comment, because it is true in every way. Every time a new search engine makes the headlines, I give it a try, and then find it doesn't do what it promises, let alone what Google already does. That doesn't mean that I trust Google entirely - I have a number of Google-frustrating addons to my Firefox setup (I won't use Chrome because I don't trust it) because I don't like that their customers are organisations that want information on me - but from where I sit, Google Search and Mail provide exactly what I want, and no-one else does - that is why I use them, and no other.
We all know who is behinde this D'oh!
Just remains to be seen if the Evil One has donated to enough US Senators and Congressmen.
They do seem to be very generous with the various State Attorney Generals.
Ahem. SEC? The real criminals are over there! (Points to Wall Street.)
Don't get me wrong - if Google are doing monopolistic things, then they should be investigated and trust busted.
HOWEVER, it does not escape my attention that we are slowly climbing out of a global recession, due to overvalued toxic assets flowing the system. And aren't there a couple of dodgy firms that took those same dodgy assets, sliced and diced them, sold them to their customers, and bet that the value of these assets would go DOWN? Goldman Sach comes to mind. Aforesaid behavior should be criminal in any decent financial system.
Yet isn't it funny that there has been very little jail time for the pricks that did it? If Google had some smarts and balls, they would point out to the SEC that their priorities should lie elsewhere at this time.
Moodys, S&P and Fitch
Blame the ratings agencies. They sold their integrity by failing to perform the due diligence that was once their raison detre. Banks are the same, and will always be the same. That is why we regulate them. Independent and thorough ratings agencies are an essential part of the markets.
Sadly, the GFC showed clearly, that we can no longer rely on ratings agencies.
OTOH, the GFC showed that we can rely on banks to behave in exactly the same way every time.
GS is no different from BT, Citi or any of the others. They live from gaming the system, and I helped GS develop systems to help GS do it. A bit like weapons builders, we did not consider the potentially evil effects of our systems - nor should we have IMHO.
Long discussion for another day. Read "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine" by Michael Lewis. But first read his "Liar's Poker" which incidentally covers my period on The Street. You will be wiser for having read these books, and more cogniscent that this time wasn't any different than any other previous time. And for the hard core people who really, really are interested in this stuff, read "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly" for some scholarly coverage
(Dislosure, I previously worked at GS)
Ok lets be honest......
Most people use Google because Google gives the best results for their requirements. My girlfriend was very late to the internet (in the last 3 years), she loves Google because it does what she wants. I have shown her Bing and others but she always goes back to Google.
Back in the day (well the early days of the internet, pre Goggle), we (me and my friends) all used altavista. It was good, it did what we wanted. It was usurped by Google, why? Because of lots of reasons but mainy because (right or wrong) we all preceived Google as better.
This whole investigation sounds like sour grapes to me. Want to beat Google? Then offer us, the users, a better service..........
Thats not really what's being discussed here
Did Altavista ever change their search rankings so that when you searched for computers the ones made by Digital appeared first? No, they didn't.
The problem of trying to beat Google now is that one big metric they use is which link users actually click: eg say 10000 people click on the 8th link matching some keywords, while the first 7 links weren't that good. That 8th link eventually gets promoted up and it becomes more relevant.
You need a massive user base to derive metrics like that and no one else but Google has that kind of share.
Plus we have to remember Google pays in money and kind quite a few developer and manufacturers to use them as the default search engine of choice. Mozilla and Android being prime examples of both. Now we even have the Google +1 buttons tracking users all around the web.
Trying to compete with that is the same as trying to get users to download (with 56k modems) alternative browsers when Internet Explorer came bundled with Windows. See how offering better services worked out for that, IE still has twice the market share of any alternative.
You can only beat that by changing the game (which incidentally is what Google's trying to do to Windows with the Chromebook )
So, Metavisor ...
...what you are saying is that Google is successful because it has a lot of users, which makes it successful because it has a lot of users ... and so on, ad infinitum. If that is the case, what is your problem - it is doing what its users want, and so we keep going back. That is the definition of a good company (unlike, say, the AT&T example above). The only people complaining about Google in this context (note that I am deliberately not looking at its privacy stance, since that is not part of this investigation) are other companies that can't compete because they can't do what Google does to the same level of satisfaction to the user. They want Google to give them a free pass into the market without bringing anything new to the table, to the detriment of the users.
I have nothing but contempt for the whiners in this situation. Give me something better than Google, and I'll use it - otherwise, go and find something else to do. Let's face it, if they had anything genuinely new and useful, Google or Microsoft would have bought them long before they could complain about not being high enough in the search rankings (which should perhaps legitimately raise the interest of the anti-trust bodies, but never does).
Anti competitive behaviour and monopolies
The fact that Google is successful and has a monopoly in the search arena isn't the problem. The problem is that they are then using that position to leverage their own new products to the detriment of other companies (e.g. BT back in the 80's was going to roll out cable television across the country and use their position as the only telephone operator in town to promote their services, thus destroying the fledgling bskyb (before it was bskyb) and the other cable operators that were just starting to come into being.
This is what google has been doing with it's maps, financial services, news, and other new services, and this is what people are complaining about. After all, people are lazy, and will go for the easiest good enough solution.
Replying to Mr Intractable Potsherd
The problem isn't that Google has established an intractable monopoly on search, it's that - as DragonLord says - it's using this position to effectively exclude players in all their other markets.
People are lazy and will take whatever Google gives them first. Google even makes it even easier to do so with their "I'm feeling lucky button" and soon the highest ranked hit will even be pre-fetched in Chrome. Search for finance and there is Google Finance already pre-fetched for you, so it appears faster than anything else.
A monopoly on search without fair rankings is a very dangerous thing to have.
Plugging Google's own products is bad enough already, but this also sets a precedent. What if they move into other areas such as public opinion, politics or commercial ties? Do I trust Google to keep their word on this?
Ideally these rankings should be public, or at least available to regulators so *someone* other than Google can check up on what's going on.
And if their products are so good then let then naturally rise to the top of their rankings.
Except for the 'friends' and 'girlfriend' parts.
Were you on the net prior to altavista? Back in those days, searching meant logging into chatrooms and asking for links....after querying listservers for mailing lists to search for chat rooms...
Well before Altavista there was Yahoo.
Before that there was Gopher with Archie and Veronica.
Search has been here for while, I never had to resort to chatrooms for search (although lintilla.df.lth.se was very educational :-)
Failure to communicate
You clearly have not understood the issue at hand. Try reading the article and understanding this issue.
Out of business
Let us suppose that ABC-Mapping is in the online mapping business.
Further suppose that ABC-Mapping is the pre-eminent supplier on the web.
ABC-Mapping gets top billing on Google because it has the best pagerank.
Google decides to enter online mapping business
Google puts their product #1 in the list
Punters googling try it out, because hey - it's #1
It turns out to be an OK product and some percentage of users decide to change to it.
Users who have never used online mapping choose google because hey, it's #1
I am out of business lickety split, as the total user base grows and market share drifts to Google's product and ABC-Mapping disappears from the Google search results and ABC-Mapping advertising revenue drops like a stone.
This is why Google is in a position of unassailable power when they decide to enter a market. They don't have to buy their way in (in my example above they could buy me and build on my hard won user base, product etc.), they can start from scratch and remove the competitors from view. Google can do this because they have an effective monopoly on what the western world effectively "sees" as the contents of the internet.
I suspect Google's time in the sun will be fleeting though, because the Chinese will eventually consume/steal/acquire everything, including search.
Who is behind the investigation
Microsoft has been advocating regulatory action against Google for several years. In 2007, Microsoft chief legal counsel Brad Smith urged the Senate antitrust subcommittee to reject Google's proposed merger with DoubleClick. In 2008, he urged the same subcommittee to disallow Google's proposed deal to partner with Yahoo ..
In 2010, Microsoft joined with a number of travel and Internet companies to form FairSearch.Org, a coalition of companies opposed to Google's acquisition of ITA Software and its dominance in search ..
"The result of Google's anti-competitive practices is to curb innovation and investment in new technologies by other companies,"
"These anti-competitive practices include scraping and using other companies' content without their permission, deceptive display of search results, manipulation of search results to favor Google's products, and the acquisition of competitive threats to Google’s dominance."
"scraping and using other companies' content", anyone seen Bing recently ?