back to article Why grill Google over web dominance? It has none

Google chairman Eric Schmidt was recently hauled before the US Senate to answer antitrust inquiries. After all, Google dominates the online search market, with 64.8 per cent of the market in August 2011, according to comScore (and much higher market share, according to Net MarketShare), and increasingly abuses that power to …

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Paris Hilton

Google doesn't control specialised searches. Yes, that's right. But they are the gateway to those specialised services, and unless you type the URL by hand (fine, in the case of Facebook or Wikipedia), or have a bookmark set up, you'll just click the top right search box in your browser and have Google's typically accurate suggestions flash up in front of you.

Unless you're using Bing, or Yahoo, or live in China (Baidu) - which represents a huge share of the search market in and of itself - Google is the creepy but useful gatekeeper to the web, and the first port of call to pretty much everyone in the western world.

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Stop

All those searches have to pay for themselves, you know

They don't make (much) money when you search for a search engine.

Furthermore, using specialized search engines implies that you are shopping, and context ads in those engines are much better at being effective (as opposed to context ads when you are searching for whatever) -- and context ads generate the most revenue -- precisely the revenue that Google is otherwise losing.

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Maybe

But I think this article is 2 years too early.

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Unhappy

Miss the point

As long as you have to "google" these service to find them, they are still in control, and can list these services below their own competing services.

That is really the crux of their market dominance, and I believe what the US govt is looking into.

It is high time that the Senate demand Google provide the actual math they used to make mapquest and other services that used to be #1 drop below theirs. Sure in the case of mapquest it is easy to say google maps is better, but there was a time when it WASNT and still came up number 1 above their competitor.

Google should be forced to be more open (at least with a regulatory body) about how they rank, and should be prevented from gaming the results of the now synonymous with public index that they run.

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Silver badge

The problem is that you need to be more nimble with your oversight and catch them in the act. Asking for the algorithm they used to f*ck someone's business over several years ago is pointless - they likely don't even have a record of what it used to be. The regulator needs to get on top of things and ask for the current one when they are inexplicably coming first in a search over a clearly more popular service.

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Gimp

Perhaps I'm just not one of them cool kids...

...But I use Google a lot. Every day, every time. Google Chrome is the second desktop application I open at the beginning of each day, right after the file manager; and it goes steadily downhill from there. Not only I'll google up (via Chrome's omnibar) pretty much whatever I want to know at the moment, quite often I don't even bother to lookup links in my bookmarks, prefering to search for the websites I want instead.

Perhaps Matt is right in that even as Google enjoys the peak of its power, the future has already started to slip through its tentacles – just like happened to Microsoft 15-odd years ago. However we're still a long way from it having "none" dominance over the web.

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its true

I don't bother with links. Its easier to type the name in my homepage google and click the top link. Google is the internet equivalent of my start bar.

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FAIL

Gah! Matt Assay just has no clue does he?! I don't understand why a respected publication like El Reg still has him writing columns.

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Meh

I like his columns, he makes a 'controversial' statement then tries to back it up with some arguments. Why not explain why you think he's wrong?

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Trollface

El Reg? Respected? What are you smoking and which playmobil did you buy it from?

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Holmes

Demonstrates Again the Inherent Stupidity of Democracy

The Senate is actually doing better than usual...Google is still growing even if its dominance is gone. TOTFFLMFAO

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WTF?

Eh????

You can't use Wikipedia if you are searching for FACTS... but it's ideal if you are searching for OPINIONS, verified or otherwise, right or wrong, sensible or looney-tunes...

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Silver badge

Actually

Wikipedia is pretty reliable on non-controversial topics, like physics, chemistry, mathematics, space science and so on. Where it falls over is on topics that are emotionally or politically charged, like climate change, religion, certain notable historical events and persons, evolution and creationism, and so forth. That's when its articles descend into the opinionated rants of whatever editor happens to have locked the article to themselves at a given time.

However, with such charged topics, it's often hard to find *any* authoritative source. The more politically charged the subject, the more fiercely its supporters and detractors argue and the worse the opinionated rants/actual facts ratio becomes. In that regard, the problem covers the entire Internet, not just Wikipedia.

While I would still not regard Wikipedia as an authoritative source by any means, it's a useful resource for quickly checking up mathematical equations and scientific facts (excluding political ones like climate science) as required, and you can always follow up the references if you aren't sure. In the latter regard, Wikipedia amounts to an effective fact-search engine, if nothing else.

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FAIL

Matt Assay and his google bashing is getting a bit old. Fair play to the register for labelling his posts as "open and shut" so they are easy to ignore.

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WTF?

fail indeed

Easy to ignore? Apparently not as you're in here commenting. You don't seem to have read the article, how about taking it one step further and not commenting either? Or read it and make a comment that has some relation to what's being said...

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Holmes

Dominate this...

Drop all your routes to google sites or kill all dns which points to the chocolate factory and see what happens to your web experience... Now how's that tiny market share looking?

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Happy

Hmmm...

You know, I effectively did that a number of years ago to see how I would find things. No Google, no FB etc - and you know what? - my web experience has not suffered one iota because of it. In fact the contrary, and as a bonus, I am more productive. 'Now how's the tiny market share looking?' Pretty good actually, thank you for asking :)

For me, the hardest part of the process was not any degraded web experience but rather to remember to forget to use G**gle by default. To me it was like giving up smoking - hard kicking the habit - but better for it afterwards.

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Happy

It's more enlightened this side of the starfish

2 down voters... What prey tell is it that you don't like about my post you naughty downvoters you?...That one can dispense with G**gle? That I don't feel the need to use social twaddlery? Please do tell!

'Mountain View Chocolate Box? Chocolate starfish more like :)

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Anonymous Coward

What a load of nonsense. Specialist search still needs to be reached and Google sits at the heart of most of those initial searches. Sure, you may then bookmark your favourite travel or property site thereafter, but most people don't even bother anymore, they just stick the name of the site straight into the google search bar every single time they visit. Google is no longer just about search its also integral navigation.

Besides, the bottom line is... the bottom line. There's no arguing that Google's % share of advertising shows the whole ad market, if nothing else, is heavily distorted by Google, and I don't see that getting better, if anything its getting worse.

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just a few minutes ago i wanted to look up the wikipedia entry on madeira. did I type in the url for wikipedia? no i did not! did i google the word wikipedia? no I did not! or even google for "wikipedia madeira"? still no! I just googled for madeira and scrolled down until i saw the wikipedia entry in the search results.

similar case in point if you want to search msdn. microsoft's search is a joke; anyone with any sense just does a google query and includes the word msdn. same for linked in, same for facebook...

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Thumb Up

Actually a very good article. I think a lot of people here are missing the point; you may use Google to find Amazon (lots of people I watch using the web do that rather than bookmark or type in an address to the address bar), but you use Amazon (or Orbitz etc.) to search for - and ultimately buy - a book, CD or whatever. When this happens, Google gets nothing (it actually pays for your use of it, albeit a fraction of a penny), whilst Amazon gets a healthy cut of the actual purchase.

This is Google's argument (and more importantly, it's fear); they simply become a pipe, rather than a destination. Like the mobile telcos fear of simply shifting low value data for Skype conversations, rather than high value point to point calls and texts. That's a slippery slope; who wants to be so reduced..?

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WTF?

Que?

Google is not dominant in search? WTF is this guy on?

Perhaps Reg will publish their search engine referral stats to back this up!

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Innit!

A few UK based sites I have tell wildly different stories.

One with c. 50k unique hits/month shows 96.4% of traffic coming by way of Google. Another, with higher traffic numbers and a more rapidly increasing traffic throughput, only shows about 58% of traffic arriving by way of Google. The latter site was, a few months ago, at 92% from Google. The difference in this case is that traffic from Baidu and Yandex has increased rapidly and, whilst the actual Google hits have not decreased in real numbers, their percentage share has decreased - due to the increase in Baidu and Yandex traffic.

My guess is that you can tell the story either way. But as for Google being dominant - it should be qualified that is only (generally) dominant in the western hemisphere and India :) Throw in all traffic from China, Russia and ex Soviet countries for example and you will probably get a much more accurate picture - showing that Google is not quite as dominant (on a global basis) as we many think.

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Headmaster

Call me naive...

... but I struggle to really see the problem. Google's rating their products above those of other service providers when you use the Google search engine... is this any different to what almost every shop on this planet does?

If I go into a Dick Smith store and ask for a TV, I expect that the Dick Smith brand TVs will be rated higher than the others that they're selling. If I go to Ford looking for a car, they're not going to recommend the Toyota sitting in the car yard across the street before taking me through their stock.

I just did a search for "maps" on Google and got:

1) Google Maps

2) Yahoo Maps

3) MapQuest Maps

4) Bing Maps

Can someone help me understand how Google presenting their own services above others is really that big an issue? The results haven't been dropped or even obscured in any meaningful way... if they had, I could understand the need for legal intervention.

In the illustrious words of Cartman: "What's the big fucking deal bitch?"

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Anonymous Coward

D'oh!

"Can someone help me understand how Google presenting their own services above others is really that big an issue?"

I did the same search on Bing and got:

1) www.maps.org

2) maps.google.com

3) maps.yahoo.com

...

9) www.bing.com/maps

Wow... Matt Asay's next artice could be: "It's official! Microsoft is more honest than Google".

As for your question.... All I can say is, thank feck you don't work for a regulator or monopolies commission.

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Facepalm

Glad that cleared it up.

So Microsoft rate their maps lower than others? Huh. That doesn't really sink my point though.

"As for your question.... All I can say is, thank feck you don't work for a regulator or monopolies commission."

You avoided giving me your opinion on why this is a big deal. If Google was listing Google Maps first with the rest of the list composed of various sites loosely (or not at all) related to maps, I could understand legal intervention being required; they're purposely obscuring results.

... but, from what I can see, they're not. They list their own first followed directly by the next major competitors. Samsung won't recommend an iPhone without first showing you the Galaxy S 2. Ford won't recommend a Toyota without first showing you the Falcon. This is business after all.

I mean, Jesus, if you don't like the first result, move your mouse pointer 60 pixels down and click the second link... or third... or whichever one you think more correctly applies to what you're looking for!

But, hey, I'm looking to be educated if someone can outline whether I'm missing the weight of this issue...

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Unhappy

exactly

Ford doesn't own 80% of the car dealerships in the country either.

Samsung doesn't own ANY of the cellphone stores, or Cellphone networks.

With only 3 (soon 4) major cell carriers in the states, if any one of them made their own phone, and locked other competitors out of the market, they would be investigated very quickly

Google wasn't just listing theirs, they were falsely listing theirs and more relevant, (even though back then they were not) its not just a matter of obscuring, ranking is also very important as well

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Happy

Your Naive

There.

And here is the problem: Many people will admit to the behavior of just clicking on the first link that comes up (See a couple of posts above).

The worst, (and easiest to prosecute, when proven) monopoly tactic is gain a dominance over a market, and then use that dominance to gain dominance over other markets. In the US this is very illegal, because it is a inherent weakness in the basic capitalism system, that needs this kind of government protection to keep one rich King from gathering and hording all the wealth and means of production.

Google was the dominant search engine, or more realistically the Index for the Web. When they decided to make Google Maps and compete with MapQuest, they used an unfair advantage of owning the index and gaming it to their advantage.

Here's an example if you can follow: Say its 1980 (pre internet searches) and everyone is still using the Yellowpages to find all their businesses and services. What if the phone company (that owns and prints the Yellowpages) decides to buy a automotive repair shop, and starts placing its Ads as the First and biggest ad at the front of the Automotive repair listings. (See just like links, lots of people tend to just call the first person listed in the book, that's why the yellowpages charge the most for the big ads (like $10,000 back then for half page ad) and they gave seniority..whoever ran the largest ad for the longest was in the front of the listings. But the Phone company wouldn't have to pay that ad money, they could just add in their services in front for free. They could even go so far as to "loose" or make typos on their stiffest competitors. Then the phone company buys up the other failing repair shops, and expands its dominance. It would not take long before the Phone company now has a monopoly on automotive repair, if they were to repeat this tactic it would not be too long before the phone company owned every business in town, and everyone worked for them. Sure its a free country, someone could start a new phone company, or just print a new yellow pages, but the time it would take and the barrier for entry (not having everyone phone info for one) would make this unrealistic before the damage was actually done.

The fear here is that by owning the index and ad market, Google can use this dominance to keep opening up new business (cell phones, Internet Browsers, Social Media sites for example) and use their advantage of owning the index to make their business appear to be the most popular, when in fact they are not. Advertisers like this model because they only have one place to place their ads and pay money too, even if they have to pay a lot, its proven more effective that having competition, without the advertisers going to new competing search engines, those new search engines don't have an easy revenue stream to compete and actually buy thousands of servers and hosting data centers to park them in.

I think the worse tactic is Google is able to search through everyone's search results, (and the email of anyone using Gmail) and use this data to their advantage as well. They know what is popular and what people are wanting to buy and how much they will pay for it, before anyone else can. It would be like above example I gave, but pretend that the phone company could also listen in on everyone's phone calls.

Its really high time that government takes the same protection of our phone calls and letters and applies them to our searches and internet behavior... this should be private because it can be abused in a very bad way (barring a legal warrant of course to catch actual criminals)

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Thumb Up

Thanks for taking the time to reply Rob.

While I still have the view that "It's their search engine, they can do what they want... if I start to dislike the service, I'll use a different engine", I can now see the problem with allowing them to prioritise their own listings.

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WTF?

Searching Facebook?

I'm genuinely curious how you could possibly have searched Facebook and Orbitz "extensively", whilst only performing a single Google search.

Facebook searches people, right (or am I missing some new killer use for it?) How many people do you need to search for in the course of a day? If it's more than one, you must surely have a pretty unwieldy friends list?

As for Orbitz, I'm not familiar with it, but I understand it's some kind of travel search. Does even the most seasoned traveller need to arrange more than one journey per day?

Google, by contrast, searches the entire web. Whenever I need to know something, I turn to Google, and 99% of the time the first few links contain exactly what I'm looking for.

So I'm genuinely puzzled how you could possibly find so little use for searching the whole web, as opposed to just searching for people or travel options. Perhaps you could enlighten me?

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