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back to article Report: Google offers to 'brand' search results in Euro antitrust probe

Google is continuing to try to convince the European Commission not to proceed in taking formal action against the company's alleged "abuse of dominance" in the search market – by reportedly offering to brand its web search results. According to the Financial Times, which cites sources familiar with Google's package of …

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one solution

Would be for google to reject all queries from EU governments for a week.

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I really don't get this.

Two points:

1/ Why shouldn't Google push it's own services higher up the results than a competitors? End users are under no compulsion to click on those results, they have the freedom of choice to ignore them .

2/ Don't Bing put Microsoft services higher up their search results than anyone else's? In what way is this different?

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A further two points (although mine are rediculous)

1: Why should google be punished for advertising its own tech when you have magazines in stores saying. "We vote XXX product as the best thing ever" followed by tiny print 17 pages later of "this magazine is sponsored by XXX product" surely that's far worse (and still pretty common, especially womens mags)

2: Haven't Apple locked out every other possible market from the iPhone via the app store? Certainly that is also far more anti-competition than google displaying free search results.

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Anonymous Coward

Google have established themselves as a search monopoly, they must now live with the consequences of that which includes playing nicely with others.

Where Apple/Microsoft/etc have monopolies they also have to face them.

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Anonymous Coward

The Apple example is silly.

When you buy a Sky box, SmartTV etc, you also don't get to choose who your content providers are - you buy the whole package. Not to mention that the iPhone actually enables a lot more functionality than those by way of web applications that anyone can create.

However if you had a particular brand of TV with 90%+ of the market and which would by itself dictate the channel preferences you can be sure the regulators would get involved. Such is the case for Google.

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@Metavisor

>>Google have established themselves as a search monopoly, they must now live with the consequences of that which includes playing nicely with others.

I disagree, Just because Google is the most popular search engine does not make it a monopoly. Nobody is forced to use Google. For the vast majority of normal desktop users (ie those who buy Windows PCs) the default search engine is Bing unless they make a conscious decision to change it.

If people use Google as their search engine, it is a personal choice, and there are plenty of alternatives. In the same way, if they use Google, they have the freedom to ignore any search result presented to them.

If Google was actively blocking competitors products and services from appearing in their search results then there would be a case to answer, but they don't.

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@Alister

Do a search for a map on Google which is still the most used search engine, you get a google map slap bang at the top of the page and most people won't look any further than that.

That has the effect of locking other mapping services out of the primary channel for their services and that is an abuse of a (near) monopoly situation, exactly in the same way that Microsoft did with IE.

Now MS have to offer a choice of browsers and Google should have to do the same, if you look for a map you should get an option of "these mapping services are available", not *USE OURS!"

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@Alister

I think the test (for falling under this sort of regulation) is significant market power which I think it is clear that Google has in search. Once this power is established there are limits on the use of that market power to promote other services. This is what MS got caught on for 10 figure fines from the EC and the browser ballot on Windows is a result of this.

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Re: @Alister

"Do a search for a map on Google which is still the most used search engine, you get a google map slap bang at the top of the page and most people won't look any further than that."

<clicky> "map of saitama" <clicky>

Yup. And why not? I am looking for a map of a place, not a headache. Google had me at an actual working map in two clicks.

Now let's try Bing. Bing has maps. So... "map of saitama". A lot of links, none of them bing. "map of saitama bing maps" and up came a link at the top, to the Bing Maps entry point. I then had to type "saitama" again before I got to see a map...and yuck, it's all shades of blue. The traffic report doesn't seem to do anything, and the walking guy "Streetside" tells me there's nothing around. The "Bird's Eye view" is pretty cool, including the ability to wrap around, but Google's basic boring overhead imagery blows you away with the quality of imagery of the Sakura Ward Office (to the north) that lets you see people in the car park. And one can StreetView right by it (I love Japan's funky electrics).

Yahoo. Second link result was Yahoo Travel with the most ridiculous map I've ever seen. It looked like one of those cheap printed maps that, you know, "Little Chef covers the country" and you get a plain map with only the important stuff marked. I went back to Yahoo! and looked around. Under "More" is an entry called "OMG!" but no mention of any mapping tools.

"Now MS have to offer a choice of browsers and Google should have to do the same, if you look for a map you should get an option of "these mapping services are available", not *USE OURS!""

You aren't even coming close to making a valid comparison. Microsoft supplied an OPERATING SYSTEM that contained its own browser possibly to the detriment of other browsers, for theirs was built in and newbies probably won't look any further than that. Google is, frankly, just another search site. There is nobody forcing anyone to "Google stuff". For the terminally lazy, it is actually less effort to type a short URL like "bing.com" instead of a long one like "google.com". Actually, with Firefox, if you type just "bing" in the URL bar, it'll bounce that off Google who will send you directly to Bing (so, here Google is happily sending you to a competitor because that is what you asked for). Likewise, Google are promoting their map, and with good reason - the others I found were shit.

Following some of the other results on both sites, I looked at Diddlefinger (look up addresses and stuff). Powered by Google. I looked at Collin's Maps. Powered by Google. I didn't bother looking any further because this has pretty much made the point.

That being - you ARE NOT FORCED to use Google, other similar sites exist. However if you have a good product that answers the question the user asked, why not promote it?

Or, to look at it another way - why when you walk into a NatWest, does it talk about rates and APR and such for NatWest loans? Surely the EU should step in and require NatWest to cease promoting its own services and instead offer equal wall space to LloydsTSB loans, or Nationwide loans. Or HSBC. Or... It is a ridiculous argument because alternatives feel aggrieved that people are using Google instead of their less impressive offerings. Maybe they should spend less effort whining and more effort making a product people would want to use.

[Sorry, this post took way longer that it should have as I've been "walking around" Sakura City. Because on Google Maps I can.]

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@heyrick - Re: @Alister

" if you have a good product that answers the question the user asked, why not promote it?"

Because if you can put your product at the top of the search rankings it doesn't matter if it's a "good product" or not.

Why do you think some people are always trying to game their way up to the top of the google rankings? Answer: Because if you can get the first position (or be in the top three) you're *much* more likely to get someone clicking on your result. Of course if you get caught gaming the results, you'll get knocked down the rankings...

... unless, of course, you're Google...

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"abuse of dominance"?

Is this actually a crime?

Doing a quick bit of investigation (using Google obviosuly) and I see that the world and their dog have all recently being updating their laws (or actually created in some cases).

Someone smell money?

They need to be very careful they dont set some unwanted precidents in any rulings that will give people the ability to do some nasty stuff going forward.

It would be funny to sue Apple for not stocking your phones in their Apple stores for example, especially when they all look the same, or maybe forcing Cisco to list the dodgy Chinease knock off rebrands in their shiny sales magazines. After all, they dominate the switch market and its an abuse of that dominance for them to not give consumers a full picture of all the options availiable from all manufacturers.

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Boffin

Re: "abuse of dominance"?

It's not a crime in the UK as such, but abuse of dominance in a market is prohibited by law in the EU, UK, US and pretty much every other developed country and has been for well over a decade. Developing countries have also been getting in on the act, having woken up to the damage that a monopolist can do. The gigantic level of fine (up to 10% of turnover in the EU) for doing it has also been in place for years.

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"if it was found to have violated competition rules"

...and that's still the most important phrase in the affair.

What the commissioner wants comes 2nd to what the law says, Google clearly don't believe they have a problem with the *law* given the piss taking nature of their offer. Google seem very good at working right on the limit of what law allows (even if their downstream partners keep getting themselves into trouble), presumably they pay the lawyers *before* doing anything.

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Where Google went wrong...

Branding their different types of search as different 'products' or 'services. If they were all just features of their search engine, then there would be less of an argument against them - as they would only have one product 'search'.

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