back to article WHAT did GOOGLE do SO WRONG to get a slapping from the EU?

Google made the internet a bit more crappy and considerably less diverse, breaking its own vows along the way. That’s what the EU’s competition division declared earlier today, in a formal Statement of Objections. So what’s their beef? If you’ve a long memory, you’ll find uncanny parallels with Microsoft’s behaviour in the …

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Very interesting read

Thanks, for a decent, thorough explanation of the issue.

Every time a large company is accused of abusing its monopoly, particularly by the EU, the comments section here and elsewhere seems to fill up with the most mindless drivel, in equal parts small minded UKIP talking points ("who are they to tell us what to do") and misunderstanding the issues ("Nobody's stopping you using Bing.") An explanation like this article provides is extemely useful in understanding what's actually at issue.

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Who uses Google Shopping?

Google's shopping search results have always been hopeless. Too many rubbish eBay items, wrong items or unavailable items from old web pages. On a level playing field, they wouldn't be able to compete at all because they're so laughably bad at "doing" shopping. Hence the Foundem story - if true - is entirely believable.

Google jumped the shark a long time ago, notably when they tried to take on Farcebook in a market where mediocrity, poor usability and privacy concerns are all clearly trumped by critical mass. Not a very intelligent move. The basic search engine is still good, though, and Android is sufferable, so it's not all a disaster.

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Re: Who uses Google Shopping?

>The basic search engine is still good

Though I strongly dislike using Google for many reasons but especially due to them actively sabotaging anyone using their service with tor (captcha hell 4 joo) using their competitors to find out how to fix fairly obscure FreeBSD issues quickly showed me why they lead. DuckDuckGo is great as long your needs are rarely esoteric.

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Re: Who uses Google Shopping?

Shopping results are ads. Period. Whether they're hopeless or brilliant is beside the point.

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Re: Who uses Google Shopping?

I prefer Startpage to DDG, it uses google, but strips identifiable information out first. you can also view most resulting sites through a built-in proxy.

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And one other thing (I could rant endlessly but I'm busy)

"Your choice as a seller of dog food or soap powder wanting to attract a digital audience is to go to Google or Microsoft's Bing"

Yes... in order to buy advertising... What do you think is better for me as a seller of new dog food, have 2 or 3 big advertising agencies to go to in order to cover a wide demographic of billions of people.... or have to go to hundreds each covering a tiny fraction?

And even if I don't want to buy advertising you never heard of Twitter? or Facebook? or Pinterest? or "Insert latest social trend here" of effing Mumsnet?

How can Google be said to control billions of desktops when the people involved can all switch search engines tomorrow if they wanted to.

How can Analytics be said to have no competitors when anyone could write one tomorrow, or how about using Piwik or KISSmetrics or Clicky or Woopra or Open Web Analytics or FoxMetrics or ClickTale or Mint or GoingUp! or Crazy Egg or Mouseflow or Chartbeat or GoSquared or Moz Analytics or etc or etc or etc.

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"How can Google be said to control billions of desktops when the people involved can all switch search engines tomorrow if they wanted to."

I think you're missing the point. The billions of desktops don't know how or don't desire to switch engines tomorrow, that's the problem! I know someone who, instead of putting in company name and adding a .com to the end will fire up Google and put in company name in there, every single time. She doesn't know anything, because Google is the defacto and default search engine, hell, Google IS the internet. Therefore Google can promote ANYTHING and she will simply lap it up without querying it. This is potentially DANGEROUS.

What hope is there for others when Google has such a wide reach they can influence people at will to the total detriment of other companies?

"How can Analytics be said to have no competitors when anyone could write one tomorrow, or how about using Piwik or KISSmetrics or Clicky or Woopra or Open Web Analytics or FoxMetrics or ClickTale or Mint or GoingUp! or Crazy Egg or Mouseflow or Chartbeat or GoSquared or Moz Analytics or etc or etc or etc."

Have you actually tried to write a competitor site and then tried to actually get it promoted? When Google is the one controlling the views of billions of desktop, how do you think your company, who is a direct competitor, is actually going to fare regarding promotion when Google controls the view and, unchecked, will also stop you from being noticed at all?

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LDS
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"How can Google be said to control billions of desktops when the people involved can all switch search engines tomorrow if they wanted to."

That was true for Microsoft Windows, Internet Explorer and Media Player as well. There were alternatives, and MS never forbid anyone to install a different browser or player - or even an office suite, there were Lotus SmartSuite and WordPerfect one, plus StarOffice which would have become OpenOffice later. You could use OS/2, if you didn't like Windows, or even some of the first releases of Linux, Solaris, and other Unixes.

The real problem was that most people had real little choice anyway, because MS effectively abused its monopoly and killed competition ensuring it was too expensive and with uncertain revenues trying to compete with it because it could give away the browser and the media player for free, while retaining a competitive advantage in applications because it did control the APIs.

Exactly what Google did now.

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"...mindless drivel ... misunderstanding the issues ("Nobody's stopping you using Bing.")"

"How can Google be said to control billions of desktops when the people involved can all switch search engines tomorrow if they wanted to."

And there it is, only 2 comments later.

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Unhappy

"I know someone who, instead of putting in company name and adding a .com to the end will fire up Google and put in company name in there, every single time."

I think we all know people like that. Amongst the people I know it's not always Google, though it is for most of them.

I witnessed a particularly good example the other day. I read out a (short) domain name to someone and he typed it in. I assumed he was typing it into the address bar - but when I looked up, he had a page of Google results on screen. It's a sad indictment of the way average users think about the internet.

"She doesn't know anything, because Google is the defacto and default search engine, hell, Google IS the internet. Therefore Google can promote ANYTHING and she will simply lap it up without querying it. This is potentially DANGEROUS."

Quite.

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"I think you're missing the point. The billions of desktops don't know how or <u>don't desire to switch engines</u> tomorrow, that's the problem!"

No, that's not a problem. That's google doing search well enough that it's not worth the time test every piddly competitor. Here's the reality, 94% of my searches put what i'm looking for on the first page, another 4% I have to dig deeper, and the last 1% gives me nothing useful. I only marginally care about that 4%, and only REALLY care about the 1%. The problem is, the competitors don't do them noticeably better.

So, tell me, WHY should I go out of my way to use something that isn't better?

"Have you actually tried to write a competitor site and then tried to actually get it promoted? When Google is the one controlling the views of billions of desktop, how do you think your company, who is a direct competitor, is actually going to fare regarding promotion when Google controls the view and, unchecked, will also stop you from being noticed at all?"

Even when you AREN'T a competitor to Google this is a problem. The already established site is who Google's going to rank higher simply because it's more likely that's what people are looking for. What do you purpose, have Google list in reverse order of relevancy?

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Anonymous Coward

> So, tell me, WHY should I go out of my way to use something that isn't better?

Did you actually read the article at all? Been good at something is not a monopoly. Being good at something and then using that as leverage to force people to to use something which you are not so good at is abusive.

If they are good at search, fine, but they are not allowed to use that "good at search" to also force Google+, Maps, Google Shopping, analytics, etc, etc, or whatever other "beta software" they have invented down your throat - that stifles competition. Doubly so in Google's case because they subsidize all of the peripheral stuff on the back of a huge ad network, which makes it almost impossible to compete against on a commercial footing.

The general risk is that you end up in a situtation where users can't use something better because it doesn't exist, but it should have existed in a well functioning market. Mega corps are nearly always "bad".

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AndyS, so what, it is a true statement. The fact that a lot of people can't be bothered to change what they have been doing for years in no way changes that fact. Just as people complain about adds in the search results because they don't use AB+.

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Mushroom

Rescuing the morons from themselves...

> I think you're missing the point. The billions of desktops don't know how or don't desire to switch engines tomorrow, that's the problem!

That's simply not Google's problem.

There's simply no technical or structural barrier keeping customers in place. The fact that most people are apparently too stupid (your own observation) to choose Pepsi over Coke is not a problem that should be solved by the government punishing the victor. If they are doing something like dumping, or even like what the article said (hiding competitors), that's something more along the lines of classic anti-trust.

The fact that most people buy Cambells, Ford, and McDonalds is not an anti-trust issue.

Search is a commodity. It's not a platform that requires buy-in from 3rd parties. So conflating Google and Microsoft is grossly misleading.

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> The billions of desktops don't know how or don't desire to switch engines tomorrow, that's the problem!

Type "Search engine" into Google and it lists heir competitors. Wiki is top of the list then DuckDuckGo, Bing is 4th. They don't _desire_ to change because Google does a good enough job without being annoying and they don't care about your dogma.

> I know someone who, instead of putting in company name and adding a .com to the end will fire up Google and put in company name in there, every single time.

Not all company web sites are company.com. They may be .co.uk, or any of the many other .co or .com or even newer top levels. They may even not be 'company' but some combination. Google works this out and saves trying several arbitrary combinations which fail.

> Have you actually tried to write a competitor site and then tried to actually get it promoted?

Type "Search engine" into Google. Do they block competitors ?

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No.

Microsoft abused things because EVEN IF you chose to use OS/2 or Lotus or whatever - you STILL had to give Microsoft money.

Google doesn't do that.

Microsoft STILL sets the default browser, even if you WANT something else. Microsoft STILL sets the default search engine to its own. Yes, you can change that... but the next update/patch could replace it AGAIN.

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Did nobody here even read the fine article?

It's not about being the best search engine. Google is that, for values of "best" that seem good enough for most people. No question.

It's about not being the best in other fields, then leveraging their search engine prowess to screw over their competitors in those fields. And if you doubt for a moment that Google has been doing that, I've got an internet to sell you.

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@Indolent Wretch

You've just made the argument that advertising is a natural monopoly, that one player (perhaps two) is the minimum energy state for that market (blending physics and economics). In which case, it *must* be regulated.

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Nonsense.

You could barely buy a PC without Windows installed on it and switching it to another operating system was a task WAY WAY beyond the capabilities of the vast majority of users out there.

Regardless of your choice of browser you could NEVER uninstall IE.

I don't see how Google has killed the opposition when every single thread of this type ends in a chorus of people exclaiming how they've ditched Google and use DuckDuckGo.

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Lets take Maps as an example.

Others did Maps. They all did it awfully.

Google came in with a piece of software that was revolutionary in it's day. People literally were amazed by it. It was fast and slick and brilliant.

They then extended it, brilliantly, with street level views. People were gobsmacked AGAIN.

That was nothing to do with search engine prowess and screwing over their competitors. Nothing.

They were just much, much better.

Or do you disagree with that?

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> Others did Maps. They all did it awfully.

No, Streetmap and Mapquest were actually quite a lot better than Google Maps. They just weren't as easy to embed and didn't pop up like magic when you searched for (pretty much anything with a physical location) with Google.

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LDS
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"Microsoft abused things because EVEN IF you chose to use OS/2 or Lotus or whatever - you STILL had to give Microsoft money".

Where did you dream that? Patents? So, don't use Android.

What was wrong for a MS product to have a default MS browser - which you could easily change? Don't Google drives you to its own services as well?

Frankly, the fact that people like you has a unnatural hate for MS, while Google is holy, makes all this a bit scary...

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They don't have to switch to bing

When they log onto Windows for the first time they have IE and Bing.

They download Chrome. On purpose.

They switch IE to use Google. On purpose.

Or even download Firefox, and switch to Google.

Or for the most limited people, they will type google.com every time. I know people who do that.

They do it because they LIKE google, and Bing/Yahoo sucks.

Bing has just as much advertizing stuck at the top, and even more crap links on the first page like cnet "reviews" or ebay links.

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Anonymous Coward

WTF???

Seriously, you haven't a clue about maps.

There's a lot of history there and when Google Maps came out, they bought map data to put on the internet from Navteq and Tele Atlas.

I'm posting anon because I had a front row seat.

Google could put map data on the internet because Navteq couldn't. Do you comprehend the costs of setting up the infrastructure to support it? Google had it because of what Google is. Navteq couldn't begin to go out and build the data centers to supply the map data.

Then there's the synergy between the map data and the rest of Google that Navteq didn't have.

So if you think about it, Google leveraged their other businesses that Navteq / Garmin / etc couldn't.

Again there's more to the story but I can't talk about it.

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Meh

Sometimes, just sometimes

The competition just isn't up to much.

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Corporation puts profit ahead of principles???

Blimey.

Next you'll be telling me water is wet.

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Re: Corporation puts profit ahead of principles???

>Corporation puts profit ahead of principles?

Yeah Jack Welch taught the Baby Boomers how to do that and they really ran with it. Now its standard SOP.

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The fun bit is waiting for some fandroids to come along and tell us that even though the FTC internally found Google guilty on all counts, they are still clearly innocent because nobody makes McDonalds sell Burger King burgers or some other nonsensical drivel.

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Facepalm

Don't confuse two different groups of people: Those who use Android and those who like Google. They are not necessarily the same.

For example: I am in the former group, but I couldn't be further outside the latter group.

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Google's problem

Is that Microsoft now suck at everything they do, but they have lots of cash from legacy product lines to buy euroocrats.

Bad news for consumers when google are forced to push crappy competitor products up the results rankings just to keep people in Brussels happy.

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An article by Andrew Orlowski carrying water for a megacorporation...as surprising as a fart after a Mexican dinner, and about as welcome in polite society, too.

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(Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

What a peculiar misreading of this article

Did you actually read it?

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Poseurs will pose.

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Re: What a peculiar misreading of this article

I think that's a pretty obvious "no."

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Re: What a peculiar misreading of this article

I was especially taken by the explaintion on the differences in competition analyses between the US and Europe. Now it makes sense.

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Re: What a peculiar misreading of this article

Andrew, to be frank, I think he did have a point and the fact he didn't read what you wrote kind of proves it. The point is, while we all have our obsessions, and pedal our views, consciously or not, your leitmotif on the Register (this article is a complete departure, by the way) once or twice interesting, finally got monotonous, i.e. article after article on the same and with the same angle. This is to the point that, if I happen to glance at the author's name and recognize yours, I think "oh no, not again", and move to other stuff, and if I miss the name, I can recognize you after a few lines, and, sorry, with the same effect. Sure, it's a free world (pun intended), nobody's forcing me to read, and you can write what you want and how you want, and lots of people probably do enjoy it. But this hilariously misfired post above did strike a chord with me, hence the comment. Kind of ironic, given that your text on Google v EU was measured and very enjoyable, hopefully you'd not take it as an offense, written so clearly, that perhaps even an average politician could get it. I wish I could see more of your writing on variable topics.

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There’s little chance of a European YouTube rival getting much backing

That's because without a behemoth like Google behind it any video sharing site is going to be killed by the music and movie businesses.

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Take maps as an example

In 2007/8 I found that certain Google searches returned as the top hit a KLM link drawn from the geodata RSS feed that flickr provided on my account. Click the link and you were taken to Google Maps with the photos layers over it. In essence a scraping service no better than those that pretty up their tawdry website by displaying a ribbon of tagged flickr images. How ever these were an up-to-date tags, these were what the RSS feed contained when googlebot indexed it several weeks ago. As I recall the search was "Liseux" the geodata on the day I looked held images from Snettisham Beach. Basically Google were layering images across their maps in order to "pretty it up" it had nothing to do with search information at all. Cynical exploitation.

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"Google said it demoted verticals because they were spammy (“low quality,” “shallow”, “duplicate, overlapping, or redundant” content) – and it’s undoubtedly true that such sites attempted to game Google and get in the rankings. Yet so, too, did sites providing a better consumer offering. Google just didn’t want you to see them."

Try and get a clue, this isn't the freaking point. I DON'T WANT TO SEE THEM. If I go to a search engine and do a search the last thing I want, 99.99999999% of the time, is to get directed to another search engine.

I don't care how utterly brilliant a consumer offering they have they are by definition "redundant" because I didn't go to them to do my search.

Basically this article amounts to Google bad because Wil Wheaton and the Gadget Show told me so.

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but...

on the occasions when you are searching for a product I'm betting that you want to find the best site to do the price comparisons with (and \or reviews).

The fact that Google presents you with their shopping results ahead of anyone else's, and often in lieu of anyone else's clearly shows they know what you want to see but chose not to show it. Added to that they probably game their results to give themselves the largest commission if a sale does go through.

If Google were operating decently they would show the top rated shopping/comparison sites so you could get the best deal, not them!

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Re: but...

Actually, if I'm searching for a product by model, I'm almost certainly interested in reviews and real-world experiences, be it (online) magazines, blogs or forum discussions. Perhaps the manual in pdf form. Actually looking for the best price to buy online is a minority situation.

Two of best features google have ever had were "fewer shopping results" and the 'blogs and forums' search option. Sadly neither exist any longer.

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Re: but...

If Google were operating decently they would show the top rated shopping/comparison sites so you could get the best deal, not them!

The point is that if I am looking for detailed information - specifications, manuals, power usage, etc. - I DO NOT WANT OR NEED to have to trawl through shopping and/or comparison sites, they are just a hindrance to me getting the information I want.

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Re: but...

If you're looking for specs, manuals etc, then add those words to your search terms. Do you really need to be told this stuff?

If you're looking for best prices, on the other hand, that's a completely different search.

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Re: but...

> The fact that Google presents you with their shopping results ahead of anyone else's, and often in lieu of anyone else's clearly shows they know what you want to see but chose not to show it.

WTF? Google has *never* shown me their own shopping results. Nor, I'm delighted to say, have comparison sites ever come near the top of my searches. (Comparison sites are usually just a list of sponsored links anyway, they just don't admit it.)

So what are the rest of you doing that makes these things into an issue?

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Re: but...

No I want to see places selling the product, reviews of the product and just stuff about the product. If I want the best price comparison site I'll google for "price comparison site".

Your argument boils down to "Google search the internet for information and let you search for it BUT prices of products is a special sort of information and they shouldn't be allowed to treat it in the same way". As a dev and a supporter of the general purpose computing device that irritates me immensely.

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"Try and get a clue, this isn't the freaking point. I DON'T WANT TO SEE THEM. If I go to a search engine and do a search the last thing I want, 99.99999999% of the time, is to get directed to another search engine."

You are looking at it wrongly. Try an experiment: you want manuals, type <widget> manual. You want specifications, you type <widget> specification. You get what you want. You want to actually buy the thing, you type <widget> buy, and Google doesn't want you to see price comparison websites, and instead shows you its own, abysmal, shopping website. If this were judged on quality alone, Google Shopping would be deader than flares.

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"<widget> price" didn't give me the reults I'd expect, and "<widget> price comparison" is worse. I'd expect the relevant page from price comparison sites to show up for those terms. To use google for this search I have to find "price comparison" then go to each result site to find "<widget>".

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Anonymous Coward

What has made Google's product so successful is that it's actually good at what it does, finds what you are looking for.

What I find disheartening is that there isn't an EU based alternative but given the EUs penchant for over regulating the market is it any wonder ? They love to create socialist utopia in Brussels and Strasbourg but often forget who has to foot the bill.

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Exactly.....@Mine's a Guinness

Why do people in the EU look to others to tell them what is right and wrong? Can't they figure it out themselves or are they so used to being dictated to that they can't think for themselves?

Make up your own minds and stop the wild accusations. You can't even begin to complain about so called monopolies when you don't even try to make a decent competing product that does what people want. Google is successful at what they do.

If you did make a competitor, you would likely gain some real market share seeing as you all think that Google has a monopoly, there is clearly room for a competitor.

I say the only reason there is a "monopoly" is because everyone else would rather cry than try. Those who do try will eventually get some results. Those who just cry, end up with their tears and nothing else.

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"...mindless drivel... small minded UKIP talking points ("who are they to tell us what to do")"

Yup, there we are, tick and tick.

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