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back to article El Reg drills into Google's search biz offer to Europe

Google's formal offer of concessions to European Commission competition officials - over allegations that the ad giant had abused its dominance of the search market in the EU - have finally been made public. As we reported on Thursday, rivals now have one month to scrutinise Google's proposals and then tell antitrust chief …

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Anonymous Coward

This is akin to

CocaCola being forced to stock no-name rubbish cola in all it's vending machines.

Nobody wants those colas because they taste like crap.

The EU are creating a uneven playing field where rubbish products like Bing are allowed to compete with the big boys.

Google got where they are today by making the best products that people WANT to use, and now they are being dealt low-blows by Microsoft and the EU lettting it happen?

Please EU, don't mess with Google's awesome pagerank system, it works perfectly fine as it is. You are risking messing up the internet by doing so.

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Bronze badge

Re: This is akin to

Sergey, is that you?

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FAIL

Re: This is akin to

wow... you completely miss the point of this don't you?

Google search DOES work well, but the complaint is that they favour their own content too much... Does the fact that this stifles competition completely evade you?

Do a search for something Google does, such as mapping, and it's own results are completely dominant at the top of the page, so dominant that you wil barely bother to look at other options.

This is not good.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is akin to

Your analogy doesn't work - To make it work CocaCola would need to control 90% of the vending machine market and then use heavy tactics to prevent fair competition, such as if you have a vender from us, you can't have one from someone else. Also, putting drinks into their vending machines from other companies and passing them off as their own.

Even that analogy doesn't really work, but it's a damn site closer than yours.

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Re: This is akin to

"To make it work CocaCola would need to control 90% of the vending machine market:"

But in a particular shop they do. If a shop has a Coke branded fridge then they specify that the shop is not allowed a Pepsi branded fridge and only Coke products are allowed in the fridge and they do deals to persuade the shop to to have their fridge instead of a Pepsi fridge. Many of the drinks in a Coke fridge are not branded Coca Cola but they are Coke products. Coke provide the fridge free of charge and maintain it. If you go into a particular shop and want a cold drink then you have no choice other than a Coke product.

Of course, you could go to another shop, if you don't like it, but your local shop sells stuff you like, at good prices, is environmentally aware, sells fair trade items, gives you coupons for stuff, has free parking and that nice young man once carried your stuff to the car. Given this, and the fact that some Coke products are OK, then you live with it instead of having the inconvenience of driving further, paying to park and going to a shop that sells your favourite Koker Kola but doesn't have that nice fairtrade tea you like.

I think that the analogy is good. Forcing Coke to allow Pepsi and Koker Kola in their fridge might be better for the consumer - but then again, Coke might decide it's not worth supplying a free fridge and it won't give the shopkeeper discount for Coke, so the thirsty punter might have to pay more for his/her drink or might find that there are no cold drinks at all.

BTW - Pepsi have the same arrangements with outlets, and I'm sure others do. The local newsagent was reported for having Pepsi in his Coke fridge and Coke came and took it away.

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Megaphone

Re: This is akin to

The point is, if I search for the term "Maps", I EXPECT Google Maps to be at the top of the list, simply because it DESERVES to be at the top of the list, because it's the best product.

Today (before the EU recommendations are even implemented), a search for maps gives me the following results.

Google Maps (UK)

Bing Maps

Google Maps (Global)

OpenStreetMap

TFL

The AA

Wikipedia Maps

Now that seems like a perfectly rational set of search results based on POPULARITY (which is what PageRank uses).

Are you saying that just because Google made a great search engine, AND a great mapping solution that Google Maps should be artificially moved down the search results, so clueless idiots will use the rubbish Bing Maps? That's of course what Microsoft want, and that's what the EU are proposing.

If I take an area where Google doesn't have leadership, but does have a product, say picture hosting (Picasa), and search for "Picture hosting", guess what? Google doesn't even appear in the results... The results look like this:

PostImage

Photobucket

Imageshack

TinyPic

FlickR

ImgUR

So in short, Microsoft's case here is total and utter horsecrap that gives underdogs with inferior products an artificial bunk up....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is akin to

the man has a point - type in "ebook store" and Google Play Books comes 7th after Amazon, WHS and Waterstones etc.

Google doesn't seem to be boosting it's own stuff to the top of the list to any great or unreasonable extent. As has been said, type in "picture hosting" and Picasa is nowhere to be seen on Page 1 of the results.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is akin to

"Google doesn't seem to be boosting its own stuff"

I'd like to point out that you have no view of history. I would not be surprised that the results got less focused on Google when this who dog & pony show started, just to avoid providing more evidence for the monopoly charges.

What is missed here is in principle leveraging and cross-subsidising. If Google was still only a search engine there may have been some grumbles, but Google gained its prominence exactly because it did a far better job than the competition. However, the moment Google also started products in other areas, it started to act exactly the same as Microsoft, cross subsidising products in one market by the revenue of another to prop it up against competition, and as it owns the advertising engine (I would call that certainly a monopoly) it naturally ranked those own products higher.

The difference is that MS products you pay with money, whereas Google products are paid by allowing a gross invasion and partially simply illegal invasion of your privacy (at least under EU law).

As I said before, the similarities between MS and Google are striking, all the way to willingly breaking the law with enthusiasm until they get caught and then trying to lobby/buy their way out of it. I can't blame them for it - after all, in the US they more or less tend to get away with it.

Personally, I am dead against this "settle but not admit liability" BS. This is what allows any organisation to continue as is. If they get caught, sure, settlement discussions are OK but they would not talk about settlement if there wasn't something under the carpet. I would rather see that at a certain cut-off point (maybe $1M turnover) this "not admitting liability" option was simply scrapped. At that point they can jolly well afford lawyers, so breaking the law is then certainly no longer "ich habe es nicht gewusst".

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What is the point

What is the point of having free and open competition if the best one is not allowed to win?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What is the point

It's not free and open if the largest company uses their status as the largest company to eliminate competition from others.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What is the point

They're required by law to out compete their competitors, in order to return the best value they can to their shareholders.

It's not free and open, because the socialists amongst us can't understand that free and open means not being able to bend the system to make things how "they" think things should be, instead of how things are.

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Re: What is the point

Google merely promotes themselves. Do you know what companies like Apple or EA do? They buy their potential competition or sue them. Nobody cares about that. I dislike Google, their privacy intrusions and their increasingly shitty services, but I'm with them on this one.

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Meh

Re: What is the point

It's not really a matter of winning or losing though is it?

At least one would hope it was about promoting competition that would end up giving customers (consumers) the best product.

Google has the best search engine - fine. They've "won", because they currently hold a huge majority of online searches.

The problem comes when they begin using that search engine to give their own other products an edge over competitors. This means that the product they're peddling might not be the best, yet it'll still out compete the others, because it has an advantage (Google's superior search engine).

That's what we need to find a way to balance. Some would argue that Google should be free to display any search results they like - it's their search engine. And to large degree I concur.

However because Google control such a huge share of internet searches them displaying any search results they like does create anti-competitive circumstances.

I am interested in a few things when I search the web. I want an answer to my question, but I also have an interest in the company that provides the best answer to that question to be allowed to outcompete it's competition.

If Google simply funnels people to their own services, then those services can survive on a bare minimum, without having to actually compete, because their competition has no chance of gaining a customer base.

Let me attempt an analogy (which is surely bound to fail).

I have a company that has gained a huge market share in the competitive business of city-planning. I have proven myself good at creating flowing streets and easy to understand traffic situations.

Recently I have started a store selling cheese. There's already quite a few shops similar to mine, so competition is rather fierce. However instead of trying to compete with the other shops on an equal footing, I simply replan the city slightly, so as to maximise the traffic going to my shop, whilst making it harder and more bothersome to get to the other shops. The cheese is pretty much the same, but the knowledge of the staff, the quality control and other things are better in my competitions stores (or at least it might be), however that doesn't matter because now it's a lot simpler to simply drive to my shop, than take the extra detour to get to the other shops.

Other than city-planning obviously not being an open market venture (at least not to the degree it is in the analogy) I reckon you can see my point? You could argue that because they've gained a majority of the city-planning business (totally a legit thing), they get to plan the city however they like. And again, I would agree to some extent. And again it is clear that there's a real opportunity to create anti-competitive circumstances.

Re-reading what I've written, I think I'll just stop now, because this response and spun out of control, and now there's cheese everywhere. Please do tear down my analogy, I wager it isn't that good at all.

End note: I do not like Google. (The only services of their I use is translation, because that's simply the best I've found for that job (anyone have alternatives?)). This post is probably skewed because of this.

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FAIL

Re: What is the point

Are you saying that Google search ISN'T the best search, and Google Maps aren't the best maps?

They are at the top of the search results because they are the best services, used my the most people, and therefore DESERVE to be at the top of he search results.

I have already demonstrated 2 examples (and someone else provided a 3rd), where Google clearly AREN'T promoting their services above others.

This quite clearly shows the case Microsoft brought to the EU is a crock of shit. The Google services that deserve to be at the top are at the top, those where other offerings are more, they are at the top.

Are you happy that the EU will be forcing Google to promote inferior products and demote their own better services down the search results, just because Microsoft said so?

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Bronze badge

Re: What is the point

I admit my phrasing was too hasty. Allow me to rephrase a paragraph:

"The problem comes IF they begin using that search engine to give their own other products an edge over competitors. [...]"

I guess that's what the entire thing is about no? Whether the EU determines that Google has indeed used it's search dominance anti-competitively? It's also about whether they used their search dominance back when those services were perhaps not the most used services.

I wont presume to know one way or the other, and thankfully that's not my job. So I apologize for my post indicating otherwise.

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Label links as adverts

In the printed media you see normal editorial mixed with clearly distinguishable adverts then grey areas of pages that are designed to look like editorial but have 'ADVERTISEMENT' at the top, advertorial (think of the I-Sky items in Private Eye), self/cross promotions without making it clear that say Richard Desmond owns the TV channel being praised, and of course churned press releases.

On Google there is no way to tell whether 'advice for...' is showing because search metrics bring it up or yet another cut-n-paste general advice site has paid for it. For example consider the horror of exposing how many places in the ranking a link has been bumped-up by paying for it. Oh no! It would scare the horses. Too true it would... But then it would be a great service to the public to be able to judge value/relevance separate from the scale of the *hidden* size of the advertising budget.

PS I block ads as a matter of course so I'm only referring to the main-listing of Google.

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Anonymous Coward

Bing? ... No Bling!

Its amusing to see Microsoft on the back foot, claiming hey Google 'fight fair bitch' after all the years MS clearly abused its market position. The most recent example being the EU fine for 'accidentally' removing the EU required install-a-competing-browser option.

MS have to be asking themselves how ever did we kill off our own bread-and-butter IE browser share of the market? IE dominated on over 90% of computers for years... Yet MS let it die to the point that Google now has a 95% share of the search market in Europe... How did that happen? Wow I would kicking myself if I was an MS exec.

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Anonymous Coward

Any Google professionals who read the Reg...?

Still waiting for a Google pro who reads the Reg to answer my question below. But it seems there are no Google Reg-reading workers or everyone is muzzled at the Church of the Chocolate Factory... :-

Question:

I have a question regarding Google Analytics + Ad Tracking.... When you click on a website that uses Google Analytics....The resulting tracking info is fed back into Google's Ad business....TRUE or FALSE...?

Not the Answer:

Saying I don't care because I use NoScript / AdBlock is not an answer. If you delve into the Hulu case below it is strongly inferred that cookies can be recreated across browsers, even after using blocking tools. So exactly how effective is NoScript / AdBlock against companies that revive deleted 'zombie' cookies using Flash & ETAGS (cached sessions) as reported regarding the Hulu site here....? :-

http://www.adotas.com/2011/08/hulu-caught-respawning-cookies-as-etags-enter-tracking-fray/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Any Google professionals who read the Reg...?

I reckon they're not going to tell you any details about their inner workings so you could block it..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Any Google professionals who read the Reg...?

I hope that isn't true, at least in the EU anyway. I would hope EU law offers a way to opt out of Google tracking entirely. Of course, if they are using anything as sophisticated as the HULU scenario then its clearly designed to be deliberately misleading.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, sure, let Google choose the supervisor..

Elsewhere in Google's 13 March submission to Almunia's office, the company states that it would like to appoint the "monitoring trustee" who would be required to closely inspect the ad giant to ensure it sticks to its commitments with the commission.

Google has proposed putting forward a list of suitable candidates for the role. That trustee, Google says, would be independent from the company but paid by the ad giant to carry out the work.

Yeah, right. Reminds me a bit of the banking ombudsman and the Press Complaints committee.

Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES WHATSOEVER should Google itself be allowed to choose who monitors it. As a matter of fact, I would treat their proposed list as a blacklist, as this is most likely containing people Google didn't find threatening, either because they're friendly to Google, easy to blindside or open to encouragement to change interpretation of their actions. I'd be much happier with a Google paid fund, but a commission appointed supervisor because that also creates political problems for the EU if this person is found not to do his or her job.

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