back to article REVEALED: The 19 firms whose complaints form EU's antitrust case against Google

A new report says the companies whose complaints have been included in the European Union's formal antitrust charges against Google have been revealed, even though the European Commission is still keeping the official list of complainants under wraps. According to the report by Reuters, at least 30 companies filed complaints …

Yea just like complaint against IE in windows, a couple EU companies Whine about things and EU jumps to their beckon call. Also EU needs the money cause they broke as heck, gotta prop up Greece and Spain so why not make google pay for that.

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if that were the case, why listen to US companies?

I also find it interesting that 6 of the 19 are German..

Never heard of Foundem either..

This all strikes me as 'My product isn't good enough to beat the 'Merkin company,waah, daddy EU legislate me some market share' whining by a bunch of also-rans, whereby there will be court cases for years, there will be a fine, google will have to add 'did you mean to search with bing?' labels on their search listings, the EU bureaucrats all shake hands with each other and pontificate on what a great job they did, while the consumers all continue using Google because it is good enough, but now more annoying due to the extra crap they're forced to add. So they use a non-eu TLD version instead, like with the right to rape kids and have it deleted^w^w^w^w^w^wbe forgotten charade.

TL:DR; its total shit that will do nothing but annoy consumers slightly and make lawyers rich while demonstrably changing nothing.

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Boffin

@cyke1

Are you saying that both the EU and The US were wrong in going after Microsoft?

Now its Google;s turn and thankfully they couldn't buy the EU like they could buy Obama.

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Anonymous Coward

@cyke1

US national debt estimated year end 2015

$18.628 trillion

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What about Amazon?

Google themselves list Amazon as one of their biggest competitors for online shopping. I'm surprised they are not on the list.

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Re: What about Amazon?

> I'm surprised they are not on the list.

They aren't on the list because they're perfectly capable of competing without needing EU help. Unlike the no-hopers and MS stooges on the list, in other words.

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Facepalm

Re: beckon call

...just... seriously?

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Meh

Microsoft-

Oozing desperation from every pore, every passing day.

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Re: Microsoft-

I don't think it's desperation. Microsoft could do well if they just started bringing the products to the consumers instead of trying to confine the consumers to the products. It's more a kind of.. fundamental vindictiveness..

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/15/04/16/2228218/microsofts-role-as-accuser-in-the-antitrust-suit-against-google

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Anonymous Coward

It's all about the return on the $

I can spend a dollar advertising against my competition, I can spend a $ and sue my competition, or I can spend a dollar and lobby a regulator to fine my competition.

The complainants carefully assess where the best return on their investment will be, and that's just business folks - the shareholders demand that ROI.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all about the return on the $

A quote from movie Taken (2008) :

"It was only business"

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Holmes

TripAdvisor

I haven't looked at this site since I was asked to rate the hotel I had just stayed at, along with another dozen places I had never heard of.

On a wider topic: I book overnight accommodation for my group of golfers. Algorithm: search web for hotel near course, call and ask whether they can cope with 8-10 50+ men on such-a-such date. 15 years ago, I used Yahoo! as they had a better index for England, now I use Google, as they have improved their stuff. Competition works.

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Microsoft on the list? They tossing a hissy fit because Bing is ignored? As for the companies they had a vested interest in such as Expedia... do they still have an interest (read: shares)??? Just a little suprising to see them on this particular list as if they make too much smoke, someone will look for the fire.

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A question

Google's placement of links to its owned services presumably is limited by contracts between it and those who pay it to carry their ads, and disputes between Google and its advertisers about link placement could be settled in civil courts without involving various government agencies.

Why should Google not be entitled to display links for its own services ahead of those to the services of any other vendors who do not purchase improved placement from them if they wish to do so? To put it differently, what is the legal theory according to which the complainants or any others who do not use Google's advertising service should be allowed to invoke government power to obtain preferential or even neutral search result placement with respect to any services that Google might offer?

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LDS
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Re: A question

For the same reason MS could not deploy and prominently place and display its browser and media player in its own OS product.

Why other complained and forced MS to offer competition products offering them in a neutral way?

You should really learn how antitrust rules are designed and work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A question

Simply put, they have a virtual monopoly on internet searches now. This infers a degree of responsibility that they are simply not exercising. Pushing their own preferences to the top of a results list can make or break a company.

I don't pretend to understand Microsofts gripe but (most of) the others listed will have lost potential customers/revenue because of this unfair advantage. Eventually, it is the consumer who suffers due to lack of realistic competition in the marketplace.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Competition_law

"Article 102 prohibits the abuse of dominant position, such as price discrimination and exclusive dealing"

If you google "eu anti-monopoly laws", you'll be offered books on the subject for sale by Google preferred bookshop list. If you are a book-seller and not paying Google to be on the preferred list, you just lost a potential sale.

"Based on your search query, we think you are trying to find a product. Clicking in this box will show you results from providers who can fulfill your request. Google may be compensated by some of these providers. Provider updates to information may be delayed, therefore users should check the provider's site for the most up to date information"

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Anonymous Coward

@LDS - Re: A question

Nice try, you almost got me!

One small detail though, Microsoft has a monopoly on all PCs that come with IE/Bing pre-installed and Google is nowhere on these PCs, you have to actively want to use their services by typing Google's URI in your browser. Remember, if you don't do anything you end up with Microsoft's services and Google has nothing they can do so where's the monopoly here ? Even if Google can twist the arm of advertisers they can not force people to use their search engine.

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@Trizone - Re: A question

A PC comes by default with Bing nowadays so how is Google in a dominant position ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Trizone - A question

People still buy PCs?

Last time I looked, mobile devices were winning the market. And in any event, the search engine is not installed on PCs, it's selected. Doesn't take a genius to change it either.

Also, it's now generally accepted to "Google something", but you wouldn't Bing or DuckDuckGo it. When a novice user types in the search engine address, he's more likely to go to google.com. And stay there. Ergo, market dominance.

Finally, figures as at April1st (top 3 only):

Google: 1,100,000,000 - Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

Bing: 350,000,000 - Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

Yahoo: 300,000,000 - Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

(Go check Alexa!)

So approximately 1 in 6 humans of all ages goes to Google...

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Re: A question

@LDS: I didn't see that much of a problem with MS providing IE other than their mendacity in claiming web browsing to be an inherent part of the OS. I had more heartburn about their use of undocumented system calls to promote Word/Office over entirely fit-for-purpose products like Word Perfect. In the end, though their more strategic view and the Office product suite probably would have overcome Word Perfect even without that. Most galling, however, was issue of Windows 3.11, the sole purpose of which appeared to be to break OS/2 for Windows installations, of which I had one.

@Trizone: Is Google engaging in price discrimination? Surely not in the case of search, for which they are, in effect, charging their paying customers and paying for the costs of delivery out of the revenue stream they derive from that. Are they, on the other hand, engaged in exclusive dealing? "In competition law, exclusive dealing refers to an arrangement whereby a retailer or wholesaler is 'tied' to purchase from a supplier on the understanding that no other distributor will be appointed or receive supplies in a given area." (from Wikipedia). Since search involves neither a buyer nor a seller, it does not seem to be relevant here.

Searching "eu anti-monopoly laws" as suggested is not overly productive. The most suggestive thing there appears to be the Wikipedia entry containing "A refusal to supply a facility essential for all businesses attempting to compete can constitute an abuse." Yet it is not clear that Google has refused to supply such a facility despite the fact that it arguably presents its own possibly similar links ahead of those from others who decline to purchase increased ranking; indeed, it does supply such a facility, and at no cost, although not the degree of exposure that the complainants would like. Although I am not a lawyer and claim no special knowledge of the matter, Volumes I and III of the "EU Competition Law Rules Applicable to Antitrust Enforcement" also do not in any obvious way provide an indication that Google's normal business practices in respect of search operation would be unlawful.

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LDS
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Re: @LDS - A question

False. A lot of PC don't (and didn't) come with Windows pre-installed - only the low-end consumer ones. And nobody forced to use it, you had to actively use Windows. Windows was there because people wanted Windows.

*Nobody* ever forced them to use Windows. There was AppleOS/OSX, there was OS/2, there was Solaris, *BSD, *nix. People consciounsly decided to buy - and wanted - a Windows PC. Stop pretending people didn't want to use Windows, it was just the 1.46% of them that didnt't want Windows just because of hating MS (just to get a pirated copy "just in case....").

Nobody ever forced you to click the IE icon - you can ignore it as much as you liked. Yo had to actively click the IE icon. MS never forbade you to install another browser. And today a lot of pre-installed PC comes with Google pre-configured as the search engine, with Google bar or Chrome installed.

Moreover, even if you don't use Google services actively, still you can be used by them. Google Analytics tracks people data without their active consent (unless you use special software to block it). Mail transiting through GMail accounts are still analyzed, etc. etc.

But that again, that matters little.

It's when *in any way* you achieve a dominant position that puts you in the place to abuse it and cripple competition (and you do), that antitrust laws come into effect. It doesn't really matter how you achieve it, it's how you use it. Again, learn why antitrust laws exist, and how they are designed and why. But it looks Google is very good at brainwash people, the word "free" helps a lot, it looks..

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LDS
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Re: A question

It wasn't web browsing - it was "web" rendering. Actually, the IE rendering engine is used in several part of the Windows GUI. Thereby, could an OS have its default HTML rendering engine and HTTP protocol support or not? Could a web browser use that engine or not?

But the real problem was not really IE preinstalled - although giving it away for free killed many competitors, but, again, free email services and web mails didn't kill many competitors as well?

It was how MS was using it to twist the standards to drive them to its own direction and advantage (not different from what Google is doing now, see HTTP/2). Just like it attempted to twist Java - and lost there too.

Same for APIs, Office was then able to modify the OS and add new features that could kept hidden for a while, giving MS an unfair advantage (but in iOS there are several APIs only Apple apps can call, but that's OK, it's "for security"...). But believe me, WordPerfect developers had far bigger issues in Windows programming than "hidden" APIs. For example, it looked they never tested on NT4 (I was using it...).

In fact believe the biggest outcome of the EU rule was not the "browser choice" - it was the publishing of "all" interoperability specs. Just, because it's something that matters moslty to developers only, it never made the headlines.

OS/2 was another very bad managed project - did IBM really believed it could rely on its ability to run Win 3.1 applications for ever?? It bought Lotus, and instead of delivering SmartSuite for OS/2 quickly, spent time in releasing the Windows 3.1 version first, riddled with bugs. Given how slow IBM moved, and how big was an OS/2 service pack (and not everybody had Internet then, it came in a pack of several floppies you had to order explicitly - yes, I used OS/2 3.0 from 1994 to 1997, I'm not a MS fan...), it was far too easy to break it with a minimal change. But OS/2 should have relied on its own software. not Win3.x one.

With Google the issue is not if paid for ads are displayed more explicitly - it's if knowingly removed/blacklisted links of competiting services (or put them far below from they would have appeared without manipulation), if it ripped other site contents (what, if it happened to your very own one?). It's like net neutrality: do you agree that telcos could give precedence to traffic for which someone is ready to pay more, at expenses of yours? Or the kind of services telcos provide (and all of them are private business) should not allow for it?

I would just image what would happen if MS decided to blacklist Chrome on Windows systems...

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Boffin

Re: @LDS - A question

But it looks Google is very good at brainwash people, the word "free" helps a lot, it looks.

And this brings me back to the point I made some time ago about predatory pricing. When something - especially a package of services - is offered for free, you have to look beyond a simple price tag and look at the total value of what is being offered. And then consider whether or not it is possible for a competitor to offer an alternative with a similar value.

The fact is that when you consider the entire package that Google offers "for free" - search, analytics, maps, mobile OS, web browser, gmail, youtube, Google Plus (for what it's worth) and god knows what else, it becomes very clear that only a handful of companies have the finances to offer a competing package - and then they face a stiff uphill battle to gain traction against Google's dominance, especially when so many elements of this package cross-sell each other.

This effectively stifles competition and innovation, which is not good for the IT industry as a whole.

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Re: @LDS - A question

"False. A lot of PC don't (and didn't) come with Windows pre-installed"

How many was a lot at the time? 1.5%?

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Re: @Trizone - "And in any event, the search engine is not installed on PCs, it's selected."

"And in any event, the search engine is not installed on PCs, it's selected.":

Strange. I don't remember choosing to install Bing on Win8.1 but I do remember having to tell built in search to stop using it. Just before I uninstalled the Metro apps. Win10 won't even let me disable the steaming POS and desktop search is damn near crippled by it.

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Re: @LDS - A question

Fewer, and unless you built it from pieces or bought it from a local shop that did so, you wound up paying for Windows anyhow.

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Re: A question

Once again: Google's principal business is selling advertising; it makes the advertising content available at no cost to those who use google.com, with general web search as the inducement. This basic business model is much like that of the print advertising sellers who mail me flyers a couple of times a week. It is not clear why they should have a legal requirement to display a link to any of the complainants' sites at all unless they are paid to do so.

Where Google also doubtless has a dominant position is the selling of internet-delivered advertising, and it is there that the EU might look for anticompetitive practices such as predatory or extortionate pricing, or levying of exclusive dealing requirements. I say "might" as there seem to be no significant claims of such behavior, although Microsoft (Bing) and Yahoo!, which have a similar business model, might want to explore the question.

Special purpose search facilities such as Nextag or the various news aggregators probably are doomed in most cases to fail before any of the general purpose search services: they mostly are not of general interest or the links they curate will be shown directly in the general search results. Services aimed at a narrow community of professionals or specialists likely will be successful within their target group, but are likely to be found in google and other general search engine results one or more pages down from the top, depending on their degree of specialization.

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Re: A question

Special purpose sites like Nextag (and Foundem) are doomed because what they're doing *isn't specialised*. It doesn't take any special knowledge to rank prices from shopping sites, little more than scraping and a day in a real search engine finding the sites to scrape.

Genuinely specialised sites leveraging special skills&knowledge have a future, at least till powerful AI takes over search.

The few that try to add extra value by mashing up other information (like delivery time+cost, reputation etc.) I've found so error prone and incomplete it's hard to actually trust them. At least on general search sites it's credible funding is independent of organic results, however offended you are by advert placement.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A question

OK, bored of this now, so my final comment...feel free to troll.

I too am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be.

This is not and never has been about price discrimination or exclusive dealing. It's about displaying once company above another based on how much they pay you. And I carefully avoid the word "bribe".

Section C of Article 102 says this:

(c) applying dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading parties, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage;

You can find this at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:12008E102&from=EN

Feel free to interpret this any way that suits you, but displaying companies that pay you above companies that don't seems to fit this well.

The antitrust legislation also breaks this down at http://ec.europa.eu/competition/antitrust/procedures_102_en.html in a way that is quite straight-forward:

"To be in a dominant position is not in itself illegal. A dominant company is entitled to compete on the merits as any other company. However, a dominant company has a special responsibility to ensure that its conduct does not distort competition."

So...ask yourself this...by placing paying customers on top, does google "distort competition"?

'Nuff said.

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Re: A question

As far as I can determine, no statement has been made that any of the complainants in this matter have executed any transaction at all with Google. If so, they probably do not qualify as "trading parties" and it is not clear why Article 102 Section (c) would apply at all. Because internet search is not a market in the customary sense of a place or arrangement for exchanging goods and services that are in limited supply, there also are difficulties with the other three sections of Article 102, as referenced.

As to whether Google distorts competition by elevating placement of its customers' links, the answer, I think, is "no", since anyone seeking elevated search placement presumably can purchase similar placement at a similar price, and possibly from another search provider for a lower price.

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pissing away my taxes

Isn't it great how EU are pissing away my taxes deciding which US company to back...

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Re: pissing away my taxes

lots of down-votes, but it does look like a load of US companies are complaining about another US company... and how much is this investigation going to cost the EU?

OK, if Google are convicted then the EU may get that cost back, but if they lose are they going to fine those that started it?

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I think that Streetmap need to be looking more at their own offerings rather than whining about Google's Mapping offering to see where they are going wrong. Using their site is like a trip back to 1999, but with more (flash based) ads.

Seriously, StreetMap could be placed top of any map based search, and most people would scroll past it to something that was actually usable - pretty much all of their competitors.

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Yes, they could certainly do with updating their interface, like making the map full screen. On the other hand, they use "proper" colours for the maps, unlike google maps who use orange for trunk roads and a slightly darker orange for motorways. Is this their own choice or are they foisting US mapping colours on the rest of the world? Why can't they localise the mapping colours to the local "traditional" colours? My SatNav can, so why can't google?

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Anonymous Coward

Never tried Streetmap before (never heard of it even), just gave it a go, nice to see something that looks like a proper OS map. Perhaps if Google didn't have a virtual monopoly they'd have the cash to develop it more.

<rant>

I used to be a fan of Google, now they are just too big and powerful; they've become the sort of corporate monstrosity that they started out hating. Maybe if they paid anything near the taxes that they owe and had something resembling a corporate conscience then things would be different. Putting a silly animation on their search page or chucking a relatively small amount of cash into google.org doesn't change that fact. Personally I'd like to make the charitable donations myself and have the tax money plug the holes in the budget...

</rant>

Anyhow, if Google really is so "cool" and preferred, why does it need to stack its own stuff ahead of the competition? Doesn't sound too impartial to me...

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Maps.bing.com do have ordnance survey maps at two resolutions, presumably as a consequence of multimap

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Anonymous Coward

This is The Register, you are not allowed to say positive things about Microsoft.

The list of approved technologies is as follows:

1) Linux.

Report to the Penguins for rectal probing.

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I think it looks like "proper OS" because it is, most of it appears to be Open Ordnance Survey data. Got to love free mapping....

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Nextag

I can understand why Nextag are pissed, not so long ago their utterly useless comparison pages popped up in every search for any electrical product. Even if I only wanted the manual or a review. Never once looked like the results were remotely relevant to a uk user. Then they vanished from the top results, a wholly deserved vanishing IMHO.

Another company so reliant on unfairly high rankings they have only lobbying to fall back on when the system caught up with them.

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I remember using Streetmap 15 years ago, nothing has changed. Then we acquired a Sat Nav. But it was Google that came up trumps when we had to attend a funeral in a small country church in the middle of nowhere. They had even taken their camera there & I was able to "walk" through the village right up to the church, found it no problem. Never heard of Foundem until I saw some woman complaining about Google on the news. What has Tripit got to gripe about? Bing drives me nuts, you key in most of the URL, Bing comes up with a suggestion, click on the suggestion & Bing still takes you to a search page, crazy.

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monopolies

In the UK, one cannot buy a decent X86 laptop, at a fair price, without paying the Microsoft tax (they also tax Android).

The only place where there is true choice between Microsoft (Bing) and somebody else (Google), the competition win.

One can choose any search engine, but there is little choice with PCs.

As others have said thgis will only cost us, the consumers.

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Re: monopolies

"In the UK, one cannot buy a decent X86 laptop, at a fair price, without paying the Microsoft tax (they also tax Android)."

Took about 2 seconds of typing in Amazon

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lenovo-ThinkPad-Processor-Integrated-Bluetooth/dp/B00NJ4G2OM

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Anonymous Coward

Re: monopolies

'Tax' Android..? Its called Android asking to license a patent technology.

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Fed up with Google.

Fed up with the paid-for results cluttering what was once an honest search engine. Happily, Duck Duck Go does the job and claims not to spy on you.

Of course, all we'll witness at the EU is competing monopolistic (if there's such a thing) bastards -- lying bastards anyway. Outcome unlikely to benefit consumers.

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ICOMP

Microsoft was said to have set up ICOMP. So a bird of the same feather.

And with Microsoft paying ICOMP fees, do they do much the same with all the others, or are they hoping to hit a high note with Bing ?

A complicated tangle, isn't it ?

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ICOMP history

http://www.computerworld.com/article/2541146/networking/microsoft-launches-campaign-against-google-doubleclick-merger.html

"Grant did not explicitly say that iComp was formed to block the Google-DoubleClick merger. Microsoft and Burson-Marsteller are interested in fostering a discussion to ensure that the digital marketplace remains competitive, and they hope that other companies and consumer interest groups that have raised concerns about the merger will join them, he said."

Its not quite all about DuckDuckBing even if the money says so.

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Anonymous Coward

Looking at the list of complainants, I see several aggregators - either of shopping results or news services. When I search for something I want useful information. As long as Google rates useful information above link-farms and price comparison sites, Google is providing what I need. In my view, the complaints seem to have all the validity of spammers complaining about anti-spam measures and demanding that their junk mail be prioritised.

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Yelp is the only useful one on the list. Everyone running a US business in the last 5 years remembers Google's blatant campaign to eat their lunch by incorporating business reviews into Maps and G+. If that's not abuse of dominance I don't know what is. I wouldn't say it worked here, but maybe it did in Europe.

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I have found Yelp restaurant reviews so useless that I avoid them actively. Their mention here set me to looking for a capability to establish a site blacklist. IE makes it fairly easy, but there are third party plugins for Firefox and Chrome that claim to add white/black lists.

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You're probably right. Apparently I live in a remote oasis where Yelp is spot on - which surprises me. I've never seen another ratings startup that hasn't been gamed into irrelevance. As far as I can tell, most are outright pay-for-ratings scams.

heh... Yelp stock crashed 25% a couple days ago.

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