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back to article Google will dodge EU MONSTER FINES by 'promoting' rival search services

Complainants in the lengthy EU Google case might characterise the Brussels' antitrust chief's decision to reach a settlement deal with the ad giant as caving in to a company whose dominance in search, they claim, stifles competition in the 28-member state bloc. But, for Joaquin Almunia, the battle is now drawing to a close after …

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zb

Deja vu

Reminds me of when Microsoft propped up Apple to avoid accusations of a monopoly. I guess keeping a weak competitor's pulse beating will be enough of a fig leaf for the powers that be. Unless, of course, that competitor revives and outperforms its saviour.

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Big Brother

Ye Gods!

Who agreed this?

Dave Hartnett?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ye Gods!

Well, under the new developments in EU democracy the current Commissioners are soon all retiring/taking up VERY well earned appointments elsewhere. There will briefly be the opportunity for EU citizens to vote for new MEPs who then themselves will be able to vote on the Councils proposal for head of Council - replacing Van Rumpole, head of Commission - replacing comrade Barroso & then the new Commissioners.

Shortly after this, the EU merger treaty with the NSA will happen, and this sort of scandal where good ol' US companies are accused of being evil will never happen again.

So, Yes!, I guess it's nearly as transparent as HMRC management!

"trebles all round"

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Why?

I get Microsoft v Apple, Intel v AMD, and AT&T v (the world of the 80's?), but not this. Who is forced to use Google? only the advertisers? It seems to me Google is being punished for being too effective/efficient/good.

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Re: Why?

@Bill Neal: Quite simple really - it's about abuse of monopoly. Seriously, the entire SEO industry is built around how a single company perceives websites - not a good place to be. People can only make a choice if they're aware it's there - remember how Microsoft got a chewing for bundling IE? It wasn't that the choices weren't there, but that by providing something that did the job on the back of their other services, Microsoft effectively blinded the vast majority to the existence of competition.

Now it's the same story for Google - if you can name me one website that tweaks its contents in order to improve its Duck Duck Go ranking, I'll be impressed. The truth is that Google currently have far more power to influence than Microsoft ever had at the height of the browser wars - they practically own the market for online awareness. Regardless of how evil or not you believe Google to be, it's too much power for a single entity to wield.

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Re: Why?

I agree 100%. I was going to ask that question on here but you beat me to it.

If the EU really want to enforce this kind of antitrust thing, why don't they look at stopping things like MS "forcing" PC manufacturers to install Windows on every machine they sell? Surely this is much more anti-competitive than Google's behaviour, not to mention the browser controversy.

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Re: Why? - tweaks its contents in order to improve its Duck Duck Go ranking,

Surely, any site tweaking for Yahoo Bing will achieve that !

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

"it's about abuse of monopoly"

Monopoly: Google are not a monopoly. They are very popular - the most popular by far, but they are not a monopoly.

Abuse: The complaint is not about SEO or how high you can get up the search ranking. Show me one company that has not tried to use black/grey-hat SEO or is not a meta search site that feels that for a particular search terms they have been unfairly treated by Google.

SEO: The optimisation is done for a particular search engine which will always be the most popular. Same as anything. You are trying to inflate your ranking and by doing it on one search engine you might harm your chances on another, but that is a given fact that would happen across anywhere and any industry. There is no exclusive clause with Google that you can only appear in their results or that you must optimise your site to be listed or that you must only optimise for them. People will write apps/games for the most popular platforms it's common sense.

"..name me one website that tweaks its contents in order to improve its Duck Duck Go ranking"

All non-optimised sites will still appear in another search-engine and should have better results as they are not optimised. SEO kills decent results, not helps the search engine. It is better for other search engines that they aren't optimised for as it becomes a never ending game of algorithms changes.

Microsoft/IE: This was very different. PC makers were forced by exclusivity agreements to bundle windows and although Windows was not a monopoly, they had a massive market share and it was very difficult to use any other O/S due to availability and software that was available for it. Once a PC was bought and you had software for it it was very difficult to change to a different OS, especially for non-tech users. IE was then forced into the OS so it could not be removed. A search engine has almost no barrier to changing to a different one (for every other search if desired). There is also almost no requirements of any other software that you must use Google as your engine of choice on a daily basis.

In reality Google become the de-facto search for most people because it was so much better than the competition and has remained so. Similar for Maps, You Tube etc. There's plenty of Google tools that aren't great and so do not reach the top of any search engine.

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Re: Why?

> Monopoly: Google are not a monopoly. They are very popular - the most popular by far, but they are not a monopoly.

94%.

Google have 94% of the online search market. What are your criteria for a monopoly if 94% does not cover it?

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Anonymous Coward

IE was then forced into the OS so it could not be removed

Sounds like Chrome OS to me... the OS is a browser right?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

"What are your criteria for a monopoly if 94% does not cover it?"

It doesn't matter what my criteria is, a monopoly is clearly defined. If a company is very popular, even if 100% of users use it does not make it a monopoly. If a company sells a commodity and is the only one who can produce that commodity then they are a monopoly (for instance if they buy all the other outfits or are handed a monopoly by the government).

See here for a fuller definition: Monopoly

They can still be anti-competitive, profiteering not in consumer interest etc however a Monopoly is a different kettle of fish all together.

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Linux

Re: Why?

A monopoly exists if there are no competitors. Google has competitors, like Bing, yahoo, DuckDuckGo and so forth. People *choose* to use Google search not because they are forced to, but, simply because it works. Therefore, I feel Google should be able to promote whichever services they wish. In just the same way as Amazon do not need to promote Ebuyer, Misco, etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: IE was then forced into the OS so it could not be removed

"Sounds like Chrome OS to me... the OS is a browser right?"

Exactly. If Chrome OS gains a big enough market share that it over-shadows Windows and most productivity and general use apps require Chrome OS then they would probably be required to give a choice of browser, search engine, mapping tool etc or bundle alternatives.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

Monopoly: The exclusive possession or control of the supply of or trade in a commodity or service.

Google do not have the exclusive rights to all of those searches, any person who uses google at any point can up and go somewhere else. IE was a monopoly, you had no choice but to use IE on your windows machine, 100% of windows machines had IE, and you had to use IE for certain actions (updates, downloading another browser etc), whether you wanted it or not. AT&T were a monopoly, they controlled pretty much the entire US telecoms.

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Boffin

To the pedantic hair-splitters:

"In the UK a firm is said to have monopoly power if it has more than 25% of the market share. For example, Tesco @30% market share or Google 90% of search engine traffic."

http://www.economicshelp.org/microessays/markets/monopoly/

http://www.blacksacademy.net/content/3328.html

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Re: Why?

monopoly noun (monopolies) 1 the right to be, or the fact of being, the only supplier of a specified commodity or service.

Source: http://www.chambers.co.uk/search.php?query=monopoly&title=21st

I'm guessing 'monopoly' would mean 100%, eh?

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@AC and @dogged Re: Why?

Google isn't a monopoly because they haven't been judged to be a monopoly.

Once being judged a monopoly Google will have to change how they do business.

Its weird... but that's how it works...

Google is defacto a monopoly all but in name.

The EU commission could declare them a monopoly but Google would then fight it.

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@Wilseus... Re: Why?

"If the EU really want to enforce this kind of antitrust thing, why don't they look at stopping things like MS "forcing" PC manufacturers to install Windows on every machine they sell? "

They did.

The problem is that Microsoft discounted the cost of the OS to a point that it was cheaper for the manufacturer to pay the Microsoft tax on all machines than to actually install it.

Dell tried to sell machines w Linux preloaded. They still do in the enterprise server market, but not to the home buyer. (How many home buyers want Linux?) Those pc buyers who want a different OS are the ones who can install it.

Depending on the manufacturing process. It could be cheaper to install windows than it is not to install it.

Again the point is that the US declared Microsoft a monopoly and that forced some legal changes on how they could operate.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: To the pedantic hair-splitters:

@Graham Marsden

Having a monopoly power does not make you a monopoly. In EU law it looks at Dominant powers rather than a Monopoly Power as few firms are a monopoly, or even a duopoly or oligopoly - (the first part of your link states: "A pure Monopoly is defined as a single seller of a product. i.e. 100% of market share.")

But this mainly relates to the sale of goods where they are in a position to restrict supply and gain more profit.

The real issue with Google having a large percentage of the market is not to consumers at all but to suppliers. The companies that advertise their products on Google could be made to pay a higher price than a truly competitive market where they could pay a lower price for advertising with another search engine.

However costs to advertisers is not being debated here and there are issues with Google using grey-area tactics their advertises to maximise revenue.

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Re: Why?

I agree though Microsoft have done far more harm with internet explorer than Google. We still have to optimise for crappy old IE versions and even those as recent as version 9 are woefully behind internet standards.

Google have an awful lot of power and influence but honestly I'd pick a Google monopoly over a Microsoft one any day. Google may want to harvest my data and shove ads down my throat but at least they provide me with very good services for a low low price in exchange.

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Re: @Wilseus... Why?

"Depending on the manufacturing process. It could be cheaper to install windows than it is not to install it."

I'm not convinced about that (blank hard drive vs an imaged drive) but it certainly could be more expensive to install a free OS than windows and given the amount of shovelware that comes with most new PCs I imagine that the cost of Windows ends up pretty negligible.

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Re: Why?

"Quite simple really - it's about abuse of monopoly. Seriously, the entire SEO industry is built around how a single company perceives websites - not a good place to be."

They don't have to use it. I can remember the years BG, when Alta Vista briefly ruled the search roost, before that Lycos. The current lack of competition (which affects the poor darlings of the advertising industry far more than it does users) exists not because of barriers to entry, because users are fickle (so are advertisers), but because the wannabe search engines, in particular Yahoo and Bing simply don't do it well enough, or in a manner that users want. Look at how, out of the pack, Windows 8 and IE default to the garish MSN/Bing home page, full of flatulent glittery rubbish that looks like a Geocities page from 1995, all full of movement and "news" that I don't give a shit about - four screen fulls of this ordure, desperately trying to appeal to anybody. Yahoo is even worse - vast flash banner adverts, crap like horoscopes, rubbish trending on twatter, etc etc, and even the UK Yahoo page is full of irrelevant small town US news. No wonder nobody uses Yahoo.

Google won't be around for ever. And even if nobody comes up with anything better, Google will probably engineer their own downfall anyway by over-reaching user privacy. And even then it won't be Yahoo or Bing that supplant Google.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why?

Google are already moving themselves towards the death of their brand with privacy violations..

Google+ sounded great, but then there was the real name thing....

ChromeCast sounded great, until you couldn't stream your own content...

Google search was great, until they started linking it with your email account...

Gmail was great, until they linked it in with Google+

Google Chat on android was great, until they changed it to Google hangouts... (seriously I used that daily to phone home until they changed it and messed up integration into my phones contacts!)

Google had the chance to grab 90% of my online activities, but with their neglect for privacy I am looking for alternatives that work as well for most of what they offer, the only thing I will keep using is adwords, since they have the search advertising market wrapped up...

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Re: Why?

Why? It's the result of relentless lobbying campaigns from Microsoft and its proxy minions like FairSearch and ICOMP. See here for more details:

https://falkvinge.net/2012/03/02/how-microsoft-pays-big-money-to-smear-google-audaciously/

It's similar to the way Microsoft took over and discredited the entire ISO process in order to ram through its bloated OOXML. Unfortunately, the EU commission isn't clever enough to see that it's M$ pulling all the strings in the background.

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@AC Re: Why? "Google + Privacy"

Which other online source are you going to where privacy is respected? Microsoft? Fat chance: they're as bad - if not worse - than the chocolate factory. Yahoo is just outright incompetent. For virtually all of Google's tools the competition is either just as privacy invasive, incompetent or - far more often - both.

Additionally, you can defang 99.9% of Google's privacy creepyness with Google Dashboard. Is Google creepy and evil? Yes. Are the alternatives less crap? Nope.

The possible exemption *might* be Duckduckgo, but I am willing to bet MS has put a bunch of money into figuring out how to de-anonymise searches sent their way through that thing.

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@James Cook... Re: @Wilseus... Why?

It depends on the manufacturing process... as you build the PC, you have to put the drives in and if that's automated, pulling them from a single source is faster than having to pull it from a secondary source.

Also you would have to stock two different supply bins. One with OS X the other with OS Y.

The other reason...

Adware.

You can't sell adware on Linux and no OS boxes.

Think of all of those 'games' and try and buy products that came preloaded. ;-)

They make money off of that...

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@ Trevor_Pott

"Which other online source are you going to where privacy is respected? Microsoft? Fat chance: they're as bad - if not worse - than the chocolate factory. "

Care to enlarge upon that, or will you admit that it's bullshit?

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Re: @ Trevor_Pott

@AC Oh, I do very much care to enlarge upon that. When I do, it will be in the form of a nice multi-page feature. Gathering banners takes time, but the long story short is that they violate your privacy in pretty much the exact same ways as Google, with only a very few exceptions...and they have completely new ways of invading your privacy that Google doesn't even use yet.

They aren't like for like on every single privacy invasion, but wingus is just as guilty as dingus on this.

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Re: @ Trevor_Pott

I suggest that you do a bit more research.

I can say its a fact that you really don't know what you're talking about.

Google owns search and until people who run websites wake up... google will always have a distinct advantage over Microsoft and others.

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Re: @ Trevor_Pott

Where did I say Google didn't have the advantage? Hmm?

I said "Microsoft is just as guilty of invading your privacy as Google." That presumes you use Microsoft, of course, but they try every dirty, underhanded tactic that Google does...and then some.

They're just not remotely as successful as Google.

So to sit there and decry Google for privacy violations and screaming "use the alternative" is a bullshit response. The alternative will violate your privacy just as badly. The difference is that if you go Microsoft you won't get a product and/or service that is as useful as Google's in exchange for your privacy.

So the market currently looks like this:

Google: creepy evil panopticon that provides products and services that people want to use in exchange for monitoring every aspect of their entire lives. Insinuated everywhere into everything. Virtually impossible to avoid.

Microsoft: wannabe-creepy but very definitely evil corporate that provides products which for the most part are second rate, outright ass or just plain not what people want. They make you pay for their stuff (well most of it) and the rest is a loss leader...but they monitor you through all of it. (Though they are vaguely less creepy about their monitoring the higher the amount of money you spend. But only vaguely less creepy.)

They used to be everywhere and now aren't. They are desperately trying to get themselves into the ultra-creepy paniopticon presence, but nobody actually wants their web shit so they don't quite have the reach to be nearly so perasive as Google. Should they get Google's reach there's zero reason to think that they won't be just as creepy as Google, and every reason to think the products and services won't be as good as Google's, but you'll have to pay for them and Microsoft will spy on you.

Yahoo: when it works, it still sucks. Even less effective at being creepy and pervasive than Microsoft. Still trying though.

Everyone else: Well, here you can find a mixed bag, from creepy to not creepy, from sucky to awesome. Sadly, you don't get a search engine that even pretends to be worth a bend damn. There are several non-Google analytics companies that are moving up the creepy-o-meter that don't offery end-users anything and make website owners pay. May e-mail providers scan e-mail for ads, many don't.

So yeah, I don't know where in that I said "Google don't have an advantage." Of course they do. That doesn't make the competition less creepy, evil or willing/desiring to invade your privacy.

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Re: @ Trevor_Pott

Again,

Microsoft is not as evil or as capable as Google.

If you actually believed that... then you really don't realize the significance of Google's efforts and breadth of infiltration.

Microsoft is less evil because they are openly corporate and thus their motivations are known.

Google? They claim to not be evil and to do no evil. Yet, time and time again... they do evil.

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Free adverts wanted !

"But an unnamed complainant in the case told The Register that serious niggles remained because competitors were still required to pay Google for inclusion in some of Google's results."

Seems a solution to auction off 3 lots of ads. That other problem of Google being the best and staying so through gravity of users is a whole different issue. Microsoft once had gravity, Amazon maybe does and likely so does Facebook.

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Promote rivals?

Does that mean they get to run ads like:

"Bing - it's not as crap as it seems at first if you force yourself to use it"

Or would they get complaints/fines for lying?

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I don't get it

Search Google for the black death, get a description

search Bing, Would you like to buy the black death.

It like if i made a car that ran off logs and did 3 miles to the tree, should ford dealers be forced to sell it ?

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Stop

Re: I don't get it

I tried it.

Bing:

1: Wikipedia on Black Death,

2: IMDB for Black Death (2010),

3: eyewitnesstohistory.com on the Black Death,

Google:

1: Wikipedia on Black Death,

2: eyewitnesstohistory.com on the Black Death,

3: historylearningsite.co.uk on the Black Death,

I don't know about you, but to me those are pretty similar results, hell the Bing results even throw in a movie... Probably not historically accurate of course, but that's not really Bings fault.

I couldn't even find any link to buy the Black Death on the first two pages (and then I stopped checking, cause honestly I'd probably just end up spilling it on myself).

So yeah, Bing is totally horrible if by Bing you mean that abstract entity you've created that is just a compilation of everything you can think of that could be wrong with a search engine.

If you mean the search engine made by microsoft, then it's really not all that bad.

I personally use a variety of search engines, because I prefer to get some varied results and surprises instead of just whatever "fits me". If I want quick answers I go wikipedia, and if it requires a little more solid reasoning I check the sources, or I go to already known websites.

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Re: I don't get it

Just tested this myself got slightly different results, BBC black death was 4th on google rather than 2nd, 2nd place went to Science News about DNA or something. The one thing I did notice though.

Bing has changed a lot since I last used it, but I wouldn't say it was an improvement. I'd say it was a cloning of google from a few years back. I mean if you swapped the logo I'd think it was google.

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Genius - there are no rivals

Just the failures

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Thats Genius

There are no rivals, just Yahoo and Bing

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Re: Thats Genius

Except these days Yahoo is Bing.

So this means you now only have to search Google to use both. Nice boost for Google there.

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Anonymous Coward

There is one thing positive...

Google has removed the restriction on exclusivity.

So if you want your site to serve ads, you can now do so w Google, Bing, Yahoo! and whomever.

You can now force Google to compete on price.

Of course if you were smart, you'd rip out the google analytics and do your own analytics for your web site. That's their secret back door to your site.

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Re: There is one thing positive...

Fantastic opportunity isn't it though?

Now rival search engines and *shudder* vertical search sites can advertise on Google Search for... Search! ("Yo Dawg...")

So it's pretty much like if I went to Tesco to buy some banana's, and on the fruit isle in front of the banana's there's a banner that says - would you like to go to Asda and Sainsbury's for Banana's? Well, no, or I would have gone to Asda or Sainsbury's.*

The Department of Redundancy Department would like a word...

*Yes - I think the browser selection screen is like this (I switched to Firefox years before this came into being - the market spoke). OTOH I would like to see real competition between pre-installed OS - this does need to be enforced.

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@Keep Refrigerated... Re: There is one thing positive...

"Now rival search engines and *shudder* vertical search sites can advertise on Google Search for... Search! ("Yo Dawg...")"

No, the key is that any site can use multiple ad suppliers on their site not just sign up with Google.

So you can use either Google or Yahoo! whichever pays more...

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Anonymous Coward

But an unnamed complainant in the case

Not hard to guess who that might be then.....

It's a sad day, when Microsoft can lobby the EU, with as a shill complainant, and the EU will force Google to make it's search results as shit as Bing...

Microsoft are truly evil, rather than being innovative and making a better search that can compete with Google on even terms, they chose the option of crying to the EU and making Google downgrade their search.

I never use Microsoft products anyway, but this ensures that rather than not promoting them to friends and family, I will be actively discouraging them from using Microsoft for anything..

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In other news...

Tesco must show Currys' prices for TVs on their web page now.

Walmart must show BestBuy's prices on their web page.

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Paris Hilton

Ah so

Ah so that's why MoS made Bing!

Kinda wondered why for all these years.

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Happy

story tl;dr but based on the headline alone..

The other day I googled something and the top result was another results page from ask or something.

If I wanted that I'd go there not google. Because, before all this shit at least, google has the best results.

Make good product -> Get punished ??

I mean, I deliberately use Bing just to level the playing field a bit (and it's not that bad, really..) but sometimes the competition is struggling just because they suck.

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