back to article Google versus the EU: Sigh. You can't exploit a contestable monopoly

So, the EU Commission is going to call Google in and give it a really hard talking to for offering what Google's users rather like to have. And if they decide that, well, Google has been giving the consumers what the consumers desire, good and hard, then they're going to fine the Chocolate Factory up to 10 per cent of global …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    So....

    ..you were happy with IE bundled on Windows then?

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: So....

      Apple, meet orange. MS abused the market by forcing acceptance of Windows as the desktop OS from pretty much every major manufacturer. Bundling IE (especially in a way that makes it difficult to get rid of) in then gives it a good way to control internet standards, which then gives them a patent licensing revenue stream.

      It's easy for someone non-techy to use another search engine, less easy for them to swap out IE (or even Windows for that matter).

      1. Tomato42 Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: So....

        Your average punter has no idea what a browser is, let alone that Google isn't "The Internet".

        And I don't care about google shopping, it has always been utter garbage so I've been using different sites. The problem is that they abuse their monopoly in any way they can: YouTube users turned into G+ users, 60fps YouTube - Chrome only, 360° YouTube - Chrome only, gmail IMAP - non standard compliant, gmail POP3 non existent, offline gmail - you guessed it Chrome only. That's just few examples.

        Shopping is just the tip of the iceberg.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So....

          Huh? I've been using POP3 for GMail for years now. They even have a guide up to help you with all the settings you need. Here's a link for you:

          http://lmgtfy.com/?q=gmail+pop3&l=1

        2. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

          Re: So....

          > Your average punter has no idea what a browser is, let alone that Google isn't "The Internet".

          True, but when the average punter goes and buys a PC then it comes with IE installed and nothing else and IE is pre-programmed to use Bing. So you could argue that Bing has a monopoly position. But somehow the average punter manages to change things so that they choose to use Google.

          MS have spent gigabucks in advertise Bing, but the average punter is still refusing to use it.

          Google don't have a monopoly, Google have a product that people are choosing to use.

          1. The Dude

            Re: So....

            I use Bing to find images because I find it works better than Google, but I use Bing to search through DuckDuckgo, which is a bit odd. It works for me. I believe I started using duckduckgo on the recommendation of an article here on The Register, which (as we all know) has a monopoly on techy eyeballs.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Contested monopoly, sir.

          None of these dominant positions are uncontestable; there are alternatives to all.

          If Youtube is crap, use Bing to search for cat videos on other video-sharing sites. Don't login to Youtube or or Google or even create an account there.

          If Gmail is crap, use your ISP's Webmail interface or one of the thousands of other email providers on the Internet. Or even set up your own mail server, as some US politician or other did.

        4. h3

          Re: So....

          When it was called froogle - Google Products was pretty damn good.

          (No idea about something similar that isn't as Google's now though. So I just use Amazon and a few other sites - go direct)

      2. Oddlegs

        Re: So....

        But Microsoft didn't get in trouble for forcing Windows to be the de facto desktop OS. They got in trouble for using their (fairly won) OS monopoly to try to create a second monopoly.

        The situation with Google is pretty much identical. Their search monopoly is legitimate and no-one is saying otherwise. The issue comes from using that search monopoly to push other products. You can argue that it's trivial for users to go to other price comparison sites but the truth is no-one bothers because there's a big shopping button right at the top of any Google search.

        Should Google be punished because users are a bit lazy? Possibly not but it's exactly the same rationale behing Microsoft's fines over the browser wars.

        1. fandom Silver badge

          Re: So....

          "But Microsoft didn't get in trouble for forcing Windows to be the de facto desktop OS. "

          But they did, as in "even if you ship a computer without windows you still have to pay it us the windows licence it doesn't use"

          Or as in "no, you can't ship a computer with both Windows and BeOs"

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: So....

            Even at the height of the Browser Wars, Microsoft never had a monopoly that wasn't contestable. Linux first appeared in 1991: there was nothing to stop you from setting up your own computer manufacturing company, selling machines with Linux (or BeOS, or OS/2, or nothing at all) installed, and never paying Microsoft a dime.

            It was only if you wanted to use Microsoft's product that you had to pay their tax.

            How is that different from Tim's argument about Google?

            1. oldcoder

              Re: So....

              You paid even if you DIDN'T want Microsoft's product.

        2. Antonymous Coward
          FAIL

          Re: So....

          "They got in trouble for using their (fairly won) OS monopoly..."

          WTF?

          FAIRLY WON???? Citation needed!.. Please don't forget to include comprehensive references to at least (in no particular order): Digital Research, FUD, OS2, kernel obfuscation, HIMEM, undocumented ("illegal") opcodes, Lotus, United States v. Microsoft Corp., Wordperfect...

          1. Indolent Wretch

            Re: So....

            Thanks for that, my forehead hit my desk so hard I couldn't bring myself to respond.

            The shockingly blinkered nature of some of these peoples attitude to Microsoft's criminal behaviour over the years is just mind blowing.

            I mean OK guys, we get it, you think Google are the new Evil, even if that's true don't forget who introduced the damn concept.

        3. Indolent Wretch

          Re: So....

          But are they other products?

          Why should a product that lets you search web pages for information type A be considered a different product from one that lets you search web pages for information type B?

          It's all search.

          So is maps, so is hotel bookings, so is bus time tables and flight information, and ST:TNG bloopers.

          It's all searching for information on the Internet.

          You could argue that Google Plus is not search. But the others?

          Google is a search company funded by advertising /OR/ an advertising company made watchable by search. Either way I don't get to see why they should be limited in what they can search.

      3. BSOD

        Re: So....

        Today it's just as easy for someone non-techy to install another browser as use another search engine. That wasn't the case when M$ got whiptanged by The Beak.

    2. Alister Silver badge

      Re: So....

      So....

      ..you were happy with IE bundled on Windows then?

      Sigh... The same old comparison being drawn.

      This is NOT the same. Nobody is forced to use Google as a search engine. It is a personal choice. Indeed, for IE / Windows users, it requires a user to consciously change from the default which is Bing.

      And even if you do use Google as your search engine, no one is forced to click on any particular one of the search results returned.

      If a company wants to appear at the top of a particular set of results, they can pay for a sponsored link, but even if they don't do that, they will still appear in the organic results depending on their relevance.

      Google does not hide or refuse to show links to competitors. What Google may do is give preference to their own services, but it does not force you to select them.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: So....

          "What Google may do is give preference to their own services, but it does not force you to select them."

          Actually, yes, they indirectly do. Ever tried the "I feel lucky" button?

          No, I've never tried it. Which is odd, since you seem to think we're all forced to use it.

          1. dkjd

            Re: So....

            "What Google may do is give preference to their own services, but it does not force you to select them."

            oh goody, I can de-install "play store" from my phone then?

            1. Jimmy2Cows

              Re: So....

              oh goody, I can de-install "play store" from my phone then?

              Maybe, maybe not. But you aren't forced to use it. There are alternatives even if using them requires more work.

              You seem to be berating the maker of your phone OS for giving you easy access to other products that work with your phone OS...

            2. John G Imrie Silver badge

              Play store

              Not so sure you can un-install, as I've never tried it. I do know that you can add other stores.

            3. david bates

              Re: So....

              Yes. As long as your phone manufacturer (not Google) allows you to unlock the boot loader.

              I've had three Nexus devices, two of which I've rooted (and Google did nothing to stop me rooting them, and even helped me find the instructions and software to help), and installed a non-google android build on, and then OPTIONALLY installed all the googly goodness I wanted.

              Or you could use the Amazon app store or side-load...Google wont stop you

            4. silent_count

              Re: So....

              @dkjd

              With every AOSP ROM which I installed on my previous phone (galaxy s3), you had to install Google's app bundle separately from the ROM. I don't know which phone you have but if you're asking if it's possible to have an android phone without Google's apps (play store included), the answer is absolutely 'yes'.

            5. Badvok

              Re: So....

              @dkjd: "oh goody, I can de-install "play store" from my phone then?"

              Err, yes, well at least disable/hide it on most phones. What was your point again?

        2. JimmyPage Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Ever tried the "I feel lucky" button?

          No.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: So....

        "but even if they don't do that, they will still appear in the organic results depending on their relevance."

        And that is the nub of the matter. Google are being accused of artificially increasing the rankings of their own services even when other sites might have come at the top of the organic search results.

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: So....

          Maybe the only legal obligation Google has is the contractual one with its advertising customers to display the ads, modified by the legal requirement to drop links to some sites based on copyright infringement claims and (in Europe, at least) to exclude links to those claiming a right to be forgotten.

          What would be the legal source of a claim that Google should not display the "organic" results in whatever order it chooses as long as it sticks by its contracts with advertisers?

        2. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: So....

          "Google are being accused of artificially increasing the rankings of their own services ..": Why should they not, as long as that doesn't conflict with the agreements they have with their paying customers?

          1. Jim 59

            Re: So....

            "Google are being accused of artificially increasing the rankings of their own services ..": Why should they not, as long as that doesn't conflict with the agreements they have with their paying customers?

            No reason at all, so long as Google is open about the conflict of interest, and makes this clear on the search page.

            1. tom dial Silver badge

              Re: So....

              Me: Google are being accused of artificially increasing the rankings of their own services ..": Why should they not, as long as that doesn't conflict with the agreements they have with their paying customers?

              Jim: No reason at all, so long as Google is open about the conflict of interest, and makes this clear on the search page.

              Me: Which conflict of interest would that be? I do not know of any basis to think Google (also Yahoo, Bing, or any other search portal) has a duty to explain the order in which it presents general search results. Placement of paid advertisements are a different matter, one presumably controlled by contracts.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: So....

            "Google are being accused of artificially increasing the rankings of their own services ..": Why should they not, as long as that doesn't conflict with the agreements they have with their paying customers?"

            Mainly because they claim they don't do that. They clearly state that they tweak the algorithms to get the "most relevant" results for the user based on a number of factors and have i the past specifically stated they do not artificially raise the profile of any results. This means there is a user expectation that the organic results are fair and impartial.

            There's nothing stopping them putting their own services results up with the paid for/sponsored results rather than messing with the "trusted" results.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So....

        One of the issues with this and with "Given that you cannot exploit contestable monopolies there therefore needs to be no regulation of them. Sure, we do need to look at dominant market positions and decide whether that is a contestable market" is the customer and the person being exploited.

        The person who uses Google search is not the customer of Google and the dominance/monopoly position is to the users who get the product for free, and a pretty good one at that. If Google play their cards right they will do the minimum exploitation of their users as possible, even the opposite in spending money to make sure that the user stays with them.

        However the customer of Google is the companies that pay for ads and also, although not a paying customer, the company that ranks in their search engine. As Google have created a near monopoly on search which they don't want to exploit, they do want to exploit the consequence of that near monopoly by extracting whatever fee they feel from their advertisers. The advertisers don't have an alternative if they feel exploited due to the users not moving with them if they try to use a different service.

        When the monopoly is over your customers and they are the ones being exploited and a route for a competitor exists then the free market will decide. However having achieved a well deserved monopoly over their users they are free to exploit their customers which have no real correlation to each other... it's more complicated.

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: So....

          Dear AC who posted "the customer of Google is the companies that pay for ads and also, although not a paying customer, the company that ranks in their search engine":

          Please explain with some degree of precision exactly why a "company that ranks in their search engine" but has not purchased ad space is in any way Google's customer. Exactly why should Google (or Bing or Yahoo, for that matter) not display whatever they wish, in whatever order they wish, as long as they honor the contracts they have with their paying customers. What law requires them to give away services for which they provide the facilities and for which they normally charge a fee? That they do so to a degree of their choosing is part of their business model and increases the value of their services to the paying customers, but it certainly is not obvious that they should be required to do so.

        2. Tim Worstal

          Re: So....

          True, it gets more complicated with dual facing markets. Which is why the last Econ Nobel went to Jean Tirole, who explains these things.

          Now, if anyone thinks the Commish is up to date with such economic research then I've a bridge in Brooklyn they might be interested in.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So....

      @LAF Big difference, IE is total shit where as Google search is actually a good search product and got there on merit.

    4. The Boojum

      Re: So....

      Personally, didn't give a damn. I just installed and used whichever browser(s) I wanted.

    5. Jim 59

      Re: So....

      Contestable monopolies cannot be exploited because to do so brings forward that contesting.

      In other words: don't worry about monopolies, the free market will sort them out. However, with a monopoly, there is no longer any free market in existence. Ergo, no sorting can occur.

      Examples are poor. The Chinese rare earth affair can be discounted as it was clearly not a monopoly in any recognizable form. Being the sole supplier in a market is not sufficient to have a monopoly. As for Rockerfella reducing prices - again, being dominant with a natural commodity is not a monopoly in itself, and Standard Oil didn't behave like one, according to the author.

      The Czech supplier having having a shrinking market share - this argument is so slight it almost proves the opposite of what the author intended. All it shows is that the monopoly is still being established.

      Google has several of the features of a monopoly in search:

      - they dominate the supply

      - they dominate in other related areas

      - they leverage these positions horizontally, each to strengthen the other

      - no effective market operates in these areas (search)

      - there has been a corresponding lack of innovation and change (in search) for 10 or 15 years

      and mostly:

      Google behaves as if it has a monopoly in search. It walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck...

      1. Dan Paul

        Re: So....Then it's a Duck

        Not a monopoly, and no one EVER forced you to use it.

        You made the choice to do so.

        1. Jim 59

          Re: So....Then it's a Duck

          Not a monopoly, and no one EVER forced you to use it. You made the choice to do so.

          Nobody said people are forced to use a monopoly. You may not want the item at all.

      2. Tim Worstal

        Re: So....

        Excellent, so you agree with me then?

        "In other words: don't worry about monopolies, the free market will sort them out. However, with a monopoly, there is no longer any free market in existence. Ergo, no sorting can occur.

        Examples are poor. The Chinese rare earth affair can be discounted as it was clearly not a monopoly in any recognizable form. Being the sole supplier in a market is not sufficient to have a monopoly."

        There's two separate questions here.

        1) What is a monopoly?

        2) Is Google one?

        You have come to the same answer I have on 1). There's a difference between being sole supplier and being a monopoly. We just use different words for it, me using the formal jargon of "contestable".

        Good, so there we agree.

        On 2), we disagree, is Google a contestable or non-contestable one. OK, no worries, opinion journalism would be pretty boring if we all agreed on everything.

      3. naive

        Re: So....

        This answer is quite amazing, perhaps you could enlighten the world how google does all this.

        - they dominate the supply

        They do not. There is, and was, quite some competition. Perhaps google became dominant because they thought a bit further and offered services which are so good people can not ignore them ?

        - they dominate in other related areas

        Same story. Every one can build a cloud, image databases, a mobile phone OS or even self driving cars. Be the best and the position of becoming a dominant market leader just happens.

        - they leverage these positions horizontally, each to strengthen the other

        That is what they call Synergy. Companies do risky and expensive take overs to create this.

        - no effective market operates in these areas (search)

        There is a very effective market, namely a market of billions of well informed users. Ever seen a dropbox commercial ?, i guess not but still it is widely used, because it is so good.

        - there has been a corresponding lack of innovation and change (in search) for 10 or 15 years

        Same point. Get kickstart capital. Hire *good* people, give them space to create and *implement* innovative ideas, and be successful.

        Punishing google, is rewarding the mediocrity of its competition. Perhaps google found a way to manage the company in such a manner that good ideas are not chocked by layers of management, next quarter profit and mediocrity in general. The real monopoly is somewhere else. Google made a mobile OS, and now 80% of smart phone users have to pay MS $10 for the ability so a windows PC can read its photo gallery.

        So perhaps you are right after all. Google has a monopoly in being better than its competition, and not because of a dysfunctional markets shut closed by patent trolls.

    6. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: So....

      Yes, because every operating system these days ships with a web browser, and it would be very difficult to download Firefox without one.

      1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: So....

        > and it would be very difficult to download Firefox without one.

        http://www.mattsilverman.com/2009/06/how-to-download-firefox-without-a-web-browser.html

        1. omnicent

          Re: So....

          Yes because CLI is so easy for non-techies.....

    7. Yag
      Devil

      Re: So....

      ok, I'm wrong, my bad. Google does not *force* anyone to use their services.

      However, they give a strong emphasis to them in their search engine, which is indeed a logical business decision :

      - Looking for "email"? Google mail is the first answer

      - Looking for "maps" (or typing a physical address) ? Google maps this time

      - Looking for "shopping"? Google shopping

      Now, are those results biased by design (which would be indeed Evil), or because of a snowball effect? (people using google as their search engine are more likely to use other google services, ranking those services further up.)

      - About the "I'm feeling lucky" button :

      Very old statistics (2007 is very old in the Internet sense) shows that this button was used in roughly 1% of the searchs (obviously none of them performed by the demographic of El Reg's readers).

      This button was supposed to cost google 100M$ in loss of advertising revenue at the time, giving a rough idea of the sheer amount of requests this tiny "1%" actually is.

      And most of you are awful liars when saying you never used it : you HAD to try the "french military victories" bomb with this button at least once...

      1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: So....

        > Now, are those results biased by design

        Yes. The results page is divided up into several sections, separated by rule offs. The first section is related advertising: paying the bills. The next section(s) may be 'in the news' or 'image results' or similar and then there are the general results.

        Of course Google advertises its own services alongside other paid adverts.

        Your complaint (and the EU one) is like complaining that a commercial TV station shows promotions for its own programs and doesn't show (free) promotions for programs on other stations.

  2. toughluck

    Sigh indeed...

    Minerals are fungible. Services are not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sigh indeed...

      You can get a cream for that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sigh indeed...

      Fungible !

      Do I need a pig to search for that ?

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Sigh indeed... Just search the other Monopoly, Wikipedia

        Fungibility is the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution. That is, it is the property of essences or goods which are "capable of being substituted in place of one another."[1] For example, since one ounce of gold is equivalent to any other ounce of gold, gold is fungible. Other fungible commodities include sweet crude oil, company shares, bonds, precious metals, and currencies. Fungibility refers only to the equivalence of each unit of a commodity with other units of the same commodity. Fungibility does not relate to the exchange of one commodity for another different commodity.

  3. Panicnow

    Bait and Switch is standard US business practice ( And it sucks!)

    1. Establish a dominant market position by marketing spend and giving away a valued service.

    2. Progressively add money making "features" that no one would have subscribed to if there were not already captured.

    3. Put cash in off-shore havens to fund the next step 1.

    Optional step 4, remove initial capability ( E.g. remove support for "old" devices)

    Apple's progressive "capture of the value added market

    Facebooks advert revenues

    Googles trawling of your activities to sell you stuff

    Microsofts shift to SAAS

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bait and Switch is standard US business practice ( And it sucks!)

      Yes, especially when US biz is backed up by the CIA Rand Corporation.

  4. The Mole

    Harm..

    In many ways I have little issue with Google enhancing its search engine to embed info boxes from its own products (e.g. type a postcode it shows a map), nor is it unreasonable that if you use a combination of google products you may get an enhanced experience.

    What I do have a problem with is if Google manipulates the 'organic' search results so that competitors are artificially ranked lower so that a normal user isn't likely to find them compared to results for google products. Manipulating the ranking of competitors making them harder to find would be abusing the monopoly on search results.

    1. fandom Silver badge

      Re: Harm..

      Funny, I searched for Webmail on Google and Gmail doesn't appear until the third page while Office365 appears in the first.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Harm..

        And I search for email (which lets face 99.999999% of the public will do) and guess which is number 1?

        1. fandom Silver badge

          Re: Harm..

          guess which is number 1?

          Let me check....

          Poor abused Microsoft, they are relegated to the second link.

          Only the most sofisticated users will find it there.

          1. Indolent Wretch

            Re: Harm..

            There's a second link! My eyes... Opened!

          2. John G Imrie Silver badge

            Re: Harm..

            There is a significant drop between first and second link. Even moving from 9 to 10 gives you a masive reduction in clicks.

        2. Jim 59

          Re: Harm..

          It also depends on your search bubble. Use startpage.com or similar to avoid it.

          According to Google, loads of my blog articles are on the google front page. But that is only because I visit my own blog so often. startpage.com shows me the real ranking, as a stranger performing the same search would see it. Sure enough, my articles appear much further down.

      2. Yag
        Thumb Down

        Re: Harm..

        Try the more generic and plainly obvious term "e-mail" instead, and... MAGIC!

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Harm..

          That cos you search term has -mail in it so that would take out ISPs that provide mail.

          1. Yag

            "That cos you search term has -mail"

            Duh.

            Not if there's no space between "e" and "-mail".

      3. toughluck

        Re: Harm..

        I typed:

        webmail not google

        guess what, the results are only for gmail. Which is obvious, since google, in their infinite wisdom, removed boolean search operators (not to mention literal search).

        1. Huey

          Re: Harm..

          Thank goodness for that if you had typed google it would have broken the internet!

        2. alisonken1
          WTF?

          Re: Harm..

          Interesting. I typed "webmail" (without the quotes) in google and here's the links I get in order:

          About 66,400,000 results

          workspace email login

          earthlink email login

          Sign in to Office365

          roadrunner login

          Gmail login

          Hmm. Google has 4 other weblogins _before_ their very own gmail.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Harm..

      And is there any real evidence that this is happening?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Harm..

        "And is there any real evidence that this is happening?"

        Just a wild guess, that might be why there's an investigation, not a penalty (yet).

  5. Squander Two

    They made their own bed.

    However, isn't the point of providing a useful free service to leverage it into exposure for your other profitable services?

    I'd agree, but Google keep claiming that they don't do that. They claim that their search results are the most useful to users, the most reflective of what they're really looking for, etc, and that no preference is ever given on financial grounds as that would destroy the value of their product. Lying about a product you sell is fraud. Lying about a product you give away, I have no idea. But it would at the very least attract the attention of a regulator.

  6. codejunky Silver badge

    Thumb up

    Good article.

  7. Mod74

    Google product search works well does it? I'm not sure how a comparison site that excludes one of the largest (and often cheapest) shopping retailers can be described as working well. Go do a product search, notice how there's no Amazon results? Amazon won't pay to be listed in Google's comparison (yes, they charge for listings) so you as a consumer are prevented from seeing what could be the cheapest option. The last thing I bought online was less than half the price on Amazon compared to the cheapest Google can offer.

    Google use their search dominance to make 98% of their money through ads, which they're perfectly within their rights to do. For a lot of people artificially promoting less consumer friendly services (like shopping) is a step to far which I believe it's right that the EU investigate.

    Do a search for Cloud Storage. Google is the number one result. Dropbox is on page 2, OneDive is on page 4. We can argue pros and cons but it's clear that the other two (and others) can offer better value or functionality depending on use cases. Yet they're thoroughly demoted in the search results.

    1. Paul 25

      Dropbox not turning up if you search for Cloud Storage is a bad example.

      The Dropbox front page includes neither of the words "cloud" or "storage". Likewise OneDrive has no mention of the word cloud and only one of storage.

      The fact that Google returns Dropbox at all if you search for "cloud storage" demonstrates how good it is at extrapolating what a site is about even if that site doesn't mention it at all.

      1. Mod74

        You're right. I have in fact chosen a very poor example here, At first glance I thought Google were promoting Google Drive, not the separate Cloud Storage. In fact Google Drive is on page 3. I could probably find other better examples, but hands up, my mistake here.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That's what the keywords feature is for. It lets you tell a search engine what your page is about in every possible way without having to blare it to every user.

        Dropbox: <meta content="online storage, free storage, file sharing, share files, awesome, cloud storage, online backup, cross platform, sync, sharing, mac, windows, os x, linux, backup, collaboration, file versioning, file revisions, remote access, undelete" name="keywords" />

        OneDrive: <meta name="keywords" content="OneDrive, download OneDrive, photo sharing, cloud storage, SkyDrive" />

        Yes, both of these are from their front page.

        1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

          Most meta content tags are ignored

          There used to be a lot of sites with invalid data in the meta content fields (an old spamming trick). It got so bad that search engines ignore or give a low weighting to most (if not all) of the meta content fields not backed up by visible text.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Searching or shopping?

      Searching for something like 'buy ping pong balls' on the main Google search page gave, in order, Sports Direct, Amazon, er Amazon again, Argos, eBay and then Amazon, oh, and then Amazon again. Trying the Google Shopping, gave eBay, Sports Direct, Newitts, and a range of 'not Amazon' options.

      So perhaps search is pretty even handed but go shopping with Google and you get Google shopping. If you choose to walk in to the front door of a shop called Sainsbury's, you probably shouldn't expect to find all the products from Tesco. But no-one is forcing you to walk in to that particular shop.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Searching or shopping?

        So perhaps search is pretty even handed but go shopping with Google and you get Google shopping. If you choose to walk in to the front door of a shop called Sainsbury's, you probably shouldn't expect to find all the products from Tesco. But no-one is forcing you to walk in to that particular shop.

        But I'm not shopping with google, I'm searching with Google. They promote their own shopping when I'm doing search. To use your analogy, I'm trying to walk into the shopping mall, but everything is from Sainsbury.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: Searching or shopping?

          "But I'm not shopping with google, I'm searching with Google. They promote their own shopping when I'm doing search. To use your analogy, I'm trying to walk into the shopping mall, but everything is from Sainsbury."

          That would be sainsbury's shopping mall. They own it they do what they like within the law with it. It is theirs.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Searching or shopping?

          @ Mod74

          The act of clicking on Google's shopping link (and ignoring the links on your search results) is a choice to go and shop with Google. The act of reading and responding to the Google Ads shown with the search results is a choice to be influenced by advertising.

          While you can game the search results extensively for sure, they definitely do not exclude Amazon or even keep them off the top of the list (from the last few weeks I submit for evidence a glue gun and sticks, wheelbarrow tyre, a pair of Reef sandals, and a portable USB battery pack).

    3. Jimmy2Cows
      WTF?

      Umm, what?

      Go do a product search, notice how there's no Amazon results? Amazon won't pay to be listed in Google's comparison (yes, they charge for listings) so you as a consumer are prevented from seeing what could be the cheapest option.

      Well your first sentence is just bollocks. I search for plenty of products and see Amazon listings all the time, usually high up the first page. Tends to be 50/50 between Amazon and Ebay for the number 1 spot.

      And even if your first sentence were true, how is your second assertion in any way Google's fault? Amazon would have the option to pay. If Amazon chose not to pay, well then lack of Amazon listings would be Amazon's fault. Not Google's.

      In other, shocking, news, shit offered free to the public isn't always offered on the same terms to commericial entities. Get over it.

      1. Mod74

        Re: Umm, what?

        My first sentence isn't bollocks. Type a product into the Google search box and then click Shopping. You know, the one in between Images and News. Notice the lack Amazon results?

        The shopping comparison engine is the one mentioned in the article, and the one the EU is looking at, not the search engine.

        I don't take issue with the fact that Google charge for listings and Amazon choose not to pay them (cheaper prices for me), but the fact that the comparison engine is promoted to the top of the normal Google search page -and excludes anyone who doesn't pay to be there- I do think is a problem.

        1. Jimmy2Cows

          @Mod74 Re: Umm, what?

          You never said using the "Shopping" page specifically, just talked about doing a product search which as has been said by others as well as myself, finds things sold on Amazon just fine.

          Never used the "Shopping" tool, never even noticed its existence. If that is any kind of measure of its self-pushing, biased nature then I doubt the competition (which exists in spades) has anything to really worry about.

          Ultimately, nobody forces you to do your shopping searches with Google. If you don't like what Google does, or what you perceive it to do, you have the choice to go elsewhere.

        2. The Dude

          Re: Umm, what?

          There's a shopping button? I'll have to try that next time I have some spare cash to burn.

        3. The Dude

          Re: Umm, what?

          There's a shopping button? I cannot find it.

        4. Indolent Wretch

          Re: Umm, what?

          God I thought the complaint was about searching for a product on the google "web" tab and getting pushed towards google shopping. Your complaint is about being pushed to google "shopping" WHILST on the google "shopping" page?

          Under what circumstances would google be allowed to create a shopping comparison site? Do they have to hide it in the basement?

    4. veti Silver badge

      It's hard to make a case like this, because Google returns different results to different people. If I type "buy ping pong balls" into Google, the results I get will be quite different from the results someone else gets.

      The difference depends on (a) where you are (which country), (b) whether you're logged in to any Google service, and (c) whether there are Google cookies on your machine (and let's face it, unless you've taken extraordinary measures to prevent it, there are). Google's rankings are kept opaque - purposely, because that's the only way it can work, but as always with secrecy, it makes abuse incredibly hard to investigate.

    5. AlanS
      WTF?

      Odd. I get Amazon entries when I'm searching for books.

  8. Yag
    Thumb Down

    "The EU Commission is going to call Google in and give it a really hard talking to for offering what Google's users rather like to have"

    Wrong. Consumer takes what they can get.In the mobile world, the relevant choices are either Apple's walled garden or Google's walled garden.

    Having Gmail, YouTube, hangouts, google map, google play video/music/etc... applications pre-installed in the phone with no official way to remove is the exact same as for Microsoft and Internet Explorer.

    Speaking about browsers, Chrome is the only application that I could remove. I guess it would have been too obvious if it weren't...

    1. fandom Silver badge

      "the exact same as for Microsoft and Internet Explorer."

      Nope, Microsoft forbade OEMs to install another navigator.

      On the other hand, the Galaxy tablet my mother got has chrome relegated to a 'Google' collection of icons while Samsung's 'Internet' app is to the front and center of the screen.

      Seriously, if you want to make Google look bad don't compare them to Microsoft, you get the opposite result.

  9. dogged

    Off topic

    I'm not going to bother commenting on the content of this article as it's clearly bollocks (comparing finite mineral reserves to a non-fungible service, really Tim?) but I have been wanting to ask you something else.

    I get the anti-EU thing. In fact, personally speaking, I agree with you about it. HOWEVER -

    How can you support a party which openly pushes the Lump of Labour Fallacy as if it were fact? As an economist?

    That's like an astronomer believing the moon is made green cheese.

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: Off topic

      A few points.

      1) I am not an economist: no advanced degree in the subject, never worked as one etc. So, not "an economist". Just someone who knows rather a lot about it.

      2) Party politics isn't the reason I'm here at El Reg. It's despite, not because in fact. So perhaps elsewhere would be the right place for this discussion.

      3) All political parties are coalitions. No one likes all policies of any party. I have one over riding political thought, that the EU itself is a very bad idea. That's before we even get to the question of whether the UK should be in or out. I'm thus with the political party that reflects my monomania.

      1. dogged

        Re: Off topic

        Good answer(s), thank you.

  10. Mikel

    I like Google

    As a company, a search engine, software developer I like Google. I like all of their services that I use. I like their corporate ethics, their handling of copyright and patents, their stance on SOPA, PIPA, network neutrality, spying, censorship, civil liberties. I like their investments in open source, their targeting of entrenched and abusive monopolies for disruption. I like that there are enough Google bashing videos hosted on YouTube and funded by their competition to drive a weekend video marathon. I like their book scanning effort to build a modern Library of Alexandria accessible to all. I like the whole idea that their founding search service was developed for the purpose of indexing the world's information not because it was an Orwellian vehicle for control, but because the existence of so much computing, networking and knowledge had led to a tragic situation where too many answers were known by somebody somewhere, but not accessible to the people who needed them and that fixing that problem was a social good.

    I like that for 15 years they have been playing Roadrunner to Microsoft's Wile E. Coyote. I like how they have liberated the smartphone industry, democratized the software development industry. I like that when China said "Censor or leave" they said "Well, bye." I like how they are working to bring Internet and knowledge to the world's poor, driving green energy and corporate responsibility. I like that their systems for selling relevant access to my eyeballs to power services I like has nearly driven the old buckshot and wallpaper advertising methods out of business - to the improvement of everything sponsored thereby.

    I just like Google. I trust them. I think their motives and methods are good, founded in goodwill and guided by respect for people, moderated by self discipline.

    1. Squander Two

      I used to trust them.

      How do you feel about their driving a car past your house and grabbing your wifi data? Then lying about it? Then destroying evidence?

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: I used to trust them.

        Now with Android they don't need the War Driving.

      2. Mikel

        Re: I used to trust them.

        If you drive by my house you will find my WiFi wide open for all to use and plainly labelled so. I have no concerns about this erroneous collection of data. I believe it was collected not in malice but out of a general practice of "collect all the data and filter it later" - which is a best practice. As for the handling of the issue, I see no cause for concern.

        1. Indolent Wretch

          Re: I used to trust them.

          Can I just say Mikel I felt that was a very articulate couple of posts you made there.

          My sentiments are pretty perfectly the same as yours. I do like them as a company and to the extent that I would trust any company I trust them too. That doesn't mean I like everything decision or statement that comes out of them or that I'll just blindly accept what they'll do next.

          To your list may I add; numerous helpful contributions to the open source community, principled legal stands made in areas such as the free use of APIs, a sense of humour, and perhaps most importantly having the best Internet search engine.

        2. Squander Two

          Re: I used to trust them.

          > "collect all the data and filter it later" - which is a best practice.

          Are you OK with the police doing that? Or the NSA?

      3. Vic

        Re: I used to trust them.

        How do you feel about their driving a car past your house and grabbing your wifi data?

        They didn't - because my wifi data is not broadcast to the ether unencrypted.

        Google might not have been the purest of the pure in respect of that little debacle, but the "slurp" was only of plaintext broadcast data; they did nothing to break into networks, just listened...

        Vic.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I used to trust them.

        Was that really so awful when it was ignorant people who figuratively left their own front door open?

    2. strum Silver badge

      Re: I like Google

      I quite like Google, too - but there's nothing in writing that says they have to be nice, all the time, forever. Laws (like anti-trust legislation) exist to stop nice people turning nasty, when it suits them. Currently, it suits Google to be (more-or-less) nice. Circumstances could change, behaviours could change.

      Remember - a great deal of the world's evil has been done by people who thought they were doing the right thing.

  11. Staberinde

    Nice try Tim

    A shame the Right seems to have a monopoly on economic comment pieces on The Reg these days...

    However I'm afraid your thesis ignores the huge barriers to entry Google and its brethren shelter behind. Like paying minimal tax, which a British competitor would struggle to achieve. Or having a massive war chest with which to acquire competitors with better people and ideas.

    Capitalism is supposed to be about a constant churn of creative destruction and fierce competition where no company gets to be dominant for long. Yet your assumption seems to be that tech is a special case where global economies of scale lead to inevitable monopoly or oligopoly and that we should simply accept it. There'll always be a Microsoft at top until a Google supplants them; the market dominance is the same but the logo is different.

    Doesn't it worry you as a good capitalist that business owners are able to extract such huge profits from companies on a 10 year dominance cycle? Aren't you disturbed that Google's business model is to monetise user data for which they receive software-in-kind in a value exchange entirely determined by the supplier rather than the consumer? Or that Google freerides on the infrastructure of the telcos in a way that it doesn't allow app developers to do with its own ecosystem?

    I don't think Adam Smith would back your arguments.

    Please read Jaron Lanier and come back with a proper capitalist analysis rather than an ode to rent-seeking.

    1. Dan Paul

      Re: Nice try Tim (Nice try at bringing leftwing politics into this argument)

      Politics have nothing to do with this except the fact that all this anti Google crap always gets spouted by the leftwing and Eurocrats.

      Capitalism is not a bad thing if you hadn't justified your very existence by reading from the little red book all your life.

      All you communists and socialists have given people is adverse regulations, intrusive government victim mentalities and hundreds of trillions of dollars/Euros of debt.

    2. Tim Worstal

      Re: Nice try Tim

      "Capitalism is supposed to be about a constant churn of creative destruction and fierce competition"

      No, that's markets, not capitalism.

      "I don't think Adam Smith would back your arguments."

      Interesting, because that's what much of Wealth of Nations is about, the way in which markets temper capitalism.

      "Yet your assumption seems to be that tech is a special case where global economies of scale lead to inevitable monopoly or oligopoly and that we should simply accept it."

      Not inevitable, although exploring the manner in which global economies of scale might exist in tech is pretty much 50% of what Krugman got his Nobel for.

      "Please read Jaron Lanier and come back with a proper capitalist analysis rather than an ode to rent-seeking."

      I've read as much of Lanier as I can stomach I'm afraid. Given that he doesn't seem to have the first clue about either markets or capitalism.

  12. auburnman

    Monopsony not Monopoly?

    I have issue with the headlines assertion that 'you can't exploit a contestable monopoly.' Clearly you can, even if it (might) attract competition (after a time lag where you lap up the gravy.)

    But let's look at it as Google being a supplier for a minute: Google is more or less a monopsony with a stranglehold on the eyeball supply. Every single advertiser could hate them and be ready to jump to another advertising space seller, but how does a competitor contest Google's position when market share in search is the resource that you are using? You can't make more eyeballs so you have to steal Google's somehow. Only on that side of the equation you are competing with a (financially) free service with years of experience in delivering effective, relevant search results.

    Google may be pushing their own services and agenda all they like on their website; until they piss off a critical mass of search users or they pull an unambiguously illegal stunt that lands them in doo-doo, advertisers have the basic choices of putting up with it or pissing off.

    1. Paul Shirley

      Re: Monopsony not Monopoly?

      "after a time lag where you lap up the gravy"

      That's a big flaw in the economic theory. I don't care if the market corrects abuse, harm is occurring in that lag time and that lag can easily stretch to years - even decades if you look at examples like Microsoft. As usual when economic theory hits the messy real world, it falls short.

      Regulation is often needed even in a self correcting market and it's needed here to keep everyone honest *today*, not at some unpredictable time in the future.

      1. Indolent Wretch

        Re: Monopsony not Monopoly?

        No amount of regulation is going to make Hot-Maps.com a success.

        (They were one of the initial people complaining about Googles supposed unfairness)

        The only way it could is if the legislation forced me to use it on pain of death.

        Regardless of your opinion that would not make my world a better place.

        1. strum Silver badge

          Re: Monopsony not Monopoly?

          >No amount of regulation is going to make Hot-Maps.com a success.

          No, but a bit of time might.

          Remember, Google Maps wasn't all that hot at the beginning - no better than Mapquest or a few other hopefuls. Google Maps didn't get to be top of the pile because it was better than all the rest; it got to better because it was at the top of everyone's pile - and had the time and resources to develop.

          1. Dan Paul

            Re: Monopsony not Monopoly?

            Baidu was almost exclusively designed to be used only in Asia.

            9 Billion plus possible customers and they mostly use Google according to

            http://www.statista.com/statistics/216573/worldwide-market-share-of-search-engines/.

            They have search choices that cater to the area and they still use Google because it works better.

            Thats not called a monopoly thats called a better mousetrap!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Monopsony not Monopoly?

            Not true in my case, sorry.

            I switched to Google Maps when it got better than what I was using previously.

            And now I've got me a Lumia, I'm using Here maps on the telephone, and Gmaps on the interwebs.

          3. Indolent Wretch

            Re: Monopsony not Monopoly?

            Rubbish.

            I used to use Mapquest and a variety of other online map sites before Google Maps made it's debut.

            It blew them out of the water from a very early point. I was in an office when people were hearing about it and jaws dropped. The speed, the satellite imagery, the sense of exploration, the way you could scroll around and interact and zoom, it was very special.

            Alternatives at that point had a clunky search function and arrows at each corner of the map which resulted in a turnaround and refresh.

            Within a year if you were visiting somebodies website and looking for directions to their stores and their contact page had an embed or a link to something other than googles map you wondered just how much they hated their customers.

            To say it was no better than its competition is not true.

            Hot-Map.com as an example is nearly perfect, they've been around since at least 2003 but their website looks dated for 1998. They have a blog page and 98% of the blog entries they've written since January 2003 (that's 11 damn years) have whining about Google as their primary purpose. Seriously, go and look.

            At best their are a half dead, one track minded entity with no ambition other than hoping a government somewhere cripples their betters and forces people to use them. At worst they are nothing but a chimera of a shell and a shill, limping along with the help of cheques from you-know-who because it seems more genuine than simply buying the votes.

          4. Paul Shirley

            Re: Monopsony not Monopoly?

            @strum: "Google Maps didn't get to be top of the pile because it was better than all the rest"

            Google maps got to be better because Google invested VAST amounts of money making it better.

            You could try arguing that's unfair to smaller competitors who cannot match the investment in servers or mapping but if they couldn't afford to do that they simply couldn't deliver the same level of service anyway. Simply spending money to build *better* product is not abuse, however much it buggers up someone else's business. It's abuse when you spend money only to screw with competition.

            Some tasks need scale to do well, that's why we allow large corporations to be large, why we allow monopolies rather than aggressively breaking them up before they do wrong. Maps would seem to be one of them.

  13. Raumkraut

    The moment Google starts screwing over us consumers then we'll bugger off elsewhere.

    That's only true if the consumer is informed that they're being screwed over. Who's going to do that? Google?

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      The moment Google starts screwing over us consumers then we'll bugger off elsewhere.
      That's only true if the consumer is informed that they're being screwed over. Who's going to do that? Google?
      The Register for one. Now flip the coin. The consumer is being informed they are being screwed over and that they *should* bugger off elsewhere. How do you know they're telling the truth?

  14. Mage Silver badge
    Devil

    This article and EU missing the point.

    Everything Google does is to sell Adverts.

    They are using all the information they gather from all their services in a way that breaks privacy law and is very creepy and immoral.

    They are able to do this because of the way the Internet has to work. A server must know your IP to return data to you.

    In the real world the "providers" don't know if you look at the Bill board or listen to radio or watch the TV or DVD or read the paper book.

    In the Internet connected world, they do. But worse is that most providers are using Google services in some way, so even apart from Google knowing your email contents (gmail) or documents (Google Cloud / Google Docs) or searches, they know what pages you look at, programs you listen to or watch etc, how long, how often, where you are. Probably often they know who you are.

    There is a good reason too why Google wants a single sign in for everything. The near monopoly on many Google services (not just search) is mildly worrying, but not the biggest issue.

    The "inventors" and pioneers of Internet and Web were naive in extreme about . But also about "how social pressures" work. It's almost inevitable that security and privacy on the Internet is a huge problem given inherent design. Perhaps each ISP needs to be a "Tor". But also you'll tend to have monopolies. One auction site, one encyclopaedia, one search, one Social magazine, one messaging, one video sharing. It's interesting that "competition" tends to be purely different social groups or languages.

    I don't know what the answer is, but it's truly bonkers to believe the "Market" will sort it out on it's own, that anyway only addresses the lesser maybe necessary "evil" of monopolies, not privacy, state control, manipulation of users etc.

    1. Indolent Wretch

      Re: This article and EU missing the point.

      And the end result of that is that the adverts online are more tailored to me.

      Sometimes they are even interesting.

      The evil burns!

      Seriously I wish somebody would do that for TV too. Then I could watch the cricket without constantly having ads for bingo, jacamo and payday loan companies.

  15. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    I agree with most of the concepts explained in the article. Yes, another product comparison site can be made. Yes, if it is that much better (or Google is that much worse), consumers will start using it.

    However, there is a considerable point missing here: Convenience. Most people on the web (at least in the west) use Google for search. If they do that, there is an extra step involved in going to another site, whereas Google display their product search results right there on the main search results page. There has to be a big advantage to another site for consumers to consider switching.

    This applies to many of the other services Google offer. They are not always the best, they may have their downsides, but they are very convenient, especially to someone who uses Google as their gateway to the internet. By forcing competitors to need a vastly superior product to outweigh this convenience, there is no longer a level playing field. The market is heavily biased towards Google in many ways. This doesn't mean other companies can't win (just take a look at the failure of G+), but it will always be an uphill struggle in any market where Google already has a footing.

    This is not to say whether the current EU action against Google is valid (or not). Just that this important point is missing entirely from the article.

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Aye, it's basic singularity mechanics, which the Internet does in spades due to its incredibly low friction/resistance. Amazon were once just another shopping site. Ebay just another auction site.

      After accreting enough mass to rank highly (i.e. you didn't flub scaling), the sheer size of the userbases starts tearing the competitors to bits entirely naturally unless they're seperated by enough distance. After some time, secondary services start forming on the surface (ever seen anything big that didn't?) and get a free gravity-fed userbase in all cases. Then there are the moons, natural and captured, like Youtube, and other services pulled down to bury themselves permanently integrated into the crust.

      Just because Google is *naturally* huge (no conspiracies even required), it doesn't mean they *aren't* abusing the natural forces available to them, but people genuinely *want* integration (e.g. does looking for a device-type in a geographical area require 1) a selection of competing device manufacturers, then 2) competing retailer price comparisons, leading to 3) competing map providers to display 4) the product in the store at the location that could have been suggested at the start? What should happen if you ask Siri?). But if Google gives users what they Want, that will eventually end up with a justifiable conviction for monopoly abuse. Giving people what they Want when they Want what they Need to never be given, is typically going to land you in Court. People Need no monopolies. They Need options. Competition. If you have integrated services that someone wishes to compete with, well, you may have to rearchitect them, even if you invented them.

      What bugs me is this. Some services will only be possible under mass integration/data-density (AI - i.e. *your* AI. Individual medicine/education/coaching). And other services are only possible with mass user density/gravity (finally understanding/changing society). Big powers. Big trust issues. These are Big tools that can be used to solve, and create, Big problems. Big decision. Probably one re-roll per Google-class entity. So, not many per human lifetime.

      Unfortunately we've already got Big problems. The kind that get bigger if you pretend you don't. And I doubt China, or Eastern society in general, sees this problem as anything other than an opportunity. So, the West could just leave them to Solve our Problems.

      Erk. Too many mental laxatives.

      1. Indolent Wretch

        But then whats the solution?

        Nobody on here seems to be suggesting anything other than, they are evil, kill them with fire. Oh and while your at it all tracking must be banned and all adverts must be random.

        What do people want?

        Do they want to forbid Google from doing anything other than basic web search? Would it be OK if google left the shopping box but instead added links for "perform this search @ pricerunner, etc, etc"? Must they drop the shopping results completely and force people to go to the shopping tab? What if you can configure your google account to say "if you think I'm shopping show results from pricerunner" (although pricerunner would then probably sue them for scraping)? What about Maps & News?

        I personally think the EU has got completely the wrong end of the stick, and I can think of a few good suggestions and legislation that can help the industry going forward.

        But what do the google haters actually want to happen?

  16. Rob Moss

    Regulation

    "Only non-contestable monopolies need regulation."

    That simply isn't true. It would be fair to say that only non-contestable monopolies need regulation in order to prevent the abuse of that monopoly. But if a company owning a contestable monopoly is doing something which is within the rules but that "hurts" a majority of consumers to the point where they believe something "must be done," then, democratically, that contestable monopoly needs regulation, because any competitor will have to perform that same legal abuse in order to compete.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what next?

    Ford dealers being forced to carry a sign saying "Other makes are also available"?

    1. dogged

      Re: So what next?

      No, and you're doing a fine impression of an ignorant fucktard right there.

      The business of a Ford dealership is to sell Ford cars. You know that walking in.

      The business of Google Search* is to deliver search results, not price comparisons. That is the business of Google Shopping, the same business that sites like PriceFinder or others are in. When you go Google Search and look for, for the sake of example, a Ford Ka and you get some data about the Ka and also price comparisons (always without exception close to the top of the page and far above results on PriceFinder and others, even though Google Shopping is OBJECTIVELY worse as a price comparison site, that is called "leveraging a Search monopoly into the price comparison business" and that, oh anonymous builder of straw men, is illegal.

      Now stop it.

      *from the perspective of the user, that is

      1. Indolent Wretch

        Re: So what next?

        Well explain this to me:

        Example 1: trying to find the rules of chess

        Example 2: trying to find a tutorial for chess playing

        Example 3: trying to find a local chess club

        Example 4: trying to find the best price for a chess set

        Example 5: trying to find flight times to go a chess championship

        Example 6: trying to find hotel rooms near the championship

        Example 7: trying to find nude photos of the hottest chess grandmaster*

        Are you suggesting that there is some "magical" quality about some of those searches that means Google should just give up the ghost and hand over all responsibility to someone else? Or that the word "search" must only mean a single form of collating information?

        (* it's either Eva Repkova or Sanja Dedijer, YMMV)

        1. dogged

          Re: So what next?

          I'd go with "don't embed Google Shopping results in Search results" as a decent start.

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: So what next?

        The business of Google Search* is to deliver search results, not price comparisons. That is the business of Google Shopping,

        Maybe you feel that they should be different, separate, services, but that is irrelevant. Both are Google products, and Google is entitled to use one to promote the other.

        If you went to the dairy aisle in Tesco and found a BOGOF advert for strawberries would you start foaming at the mouth because the dairy department dared to advertise a price for a product that rightfully belongs in greengrocery? Or would you accept that people buying cream might indeed like some strawberries to go with it, and find the BOGOFadvert useful? Obviously some dairy users will hate strawberries, and Asda strawberries might be cheaper anyway, but is that a reason to criticize Tesco for advertising theirs?

        1. dogged

          Re: So what next?

          > Maybe you feel that they should be different, separate, services, but that is irrelevant. Both are Google products, and Google is entitled to use one to promote the other.

          I have no feelings on the matter but the law is very clear that Google is not entitled to use one to promote the other. Your attempt to make excuses, however, is interesting.

          > If you went to the dairy aisle in Tesco and found a BOGOF advert for strawberries would you start foaming at the mouth because the dairy department dared to advertise a price for a product that rightfully belongs in greengrocery?

          Here we go again. Not a good analogy at all, in fact I'd call it another straw man albeit one wearing a better costume. Both "sections" are in the same physical shop, both are selling food items from the same business unit and Tesco - however much we might all hate them - are not a monopoly.

          You might have done better with the Tesco insurance and Tesco Mobile offers you see in the stores but again, not a monopoly so they can leverage as much as they like.

        2. h4rm0ny

          Re: So what next?

          >>"Maybe you feel that they should be different, separate, services, but that is irrelevant. Both are Google products, and Google is entitled to use one to promote the other"

          No they're not, that's where you are mistaken. The reason is because it is anti-competitive. Sticking with the Ford car analogy, suppose Ford not only made cars, but also owned a chain of petrol stations. Suppose they cross promote deals between the two with their petrol stations giving discounts or priority lanes to Ford cars. That means the car business is no longer competing on the quality of cars, but is affected by the number of petrol stations Ford owns. And if Ford is dominant in the field of petrol stations such that the overwhelming majority are owned by them, then that is anti-competitive. The car industry will be hugely skewed not by competition within it, but by the market dominance of the owning company in a different market sector. That is abuse of position which is illegal. Google are hugely dominant in search. Therefore using that to promote themselves in other markets can be anti-trust.

          Also, this article is the usual biased polemic I expect from Worstall these days.

          1. Squander Two

            Re: So what next?

            I have a real-life example: British Gas. They sell gas and they also install and service gas central heating systems. What they used to do was use the profits from gas supply to prop up the central heating servicing side of the business, which made it impossible for other companies to compete with them on that front: they were using the money from the legal monopoly granted them as a nationalised industry to quash competition in the private sector in which they also operated (gas supply was nationalised, central heating servicing was obviously not). The government put an end to that practice in 1996 as the tail-end of privatisation, splitting them into two separate companies, British Gas Trading, who sold gas, and British Gas Services, who serviced central heating, and telling the latter that they had two years to start breaking even in their own right and stop taking funding from the former.

            You may have noticed that there are now other firms such as Green Flag who offer central heating service contracts. Before '98, it was simply impossible to compete with British Gas, at least at a national level.

      3. Dan Paul

        Re: So what next?

        NO it's not a monopoly and it's NOT illegal. The EU is making a big deal about nothing on the behalf of companies that can't make a competitive product. They are the ones applying undue influence on lawmakers, not Google.

        Sorry that you have too much time invested in another search provider but when you make a better product that does as much as Google does then you might have an arguement.

        All I see right now is a continental case of sour grapes.

        1. dogged

          Re: So what next?

          > All I see right now is a continental case of sour grapes.

          It's all the fault of those FILTHY EUROS, right, Dan Paul?

          A good honest American company wouldn't break the law, right, Dan Paul?

          A good honest American company would never break monopolies laws, right, Dan Paul?

          Only the stupid Euros have those stupid dumbass laws anyway, right, Dan Paul?

          Seriously, either you're trolling or there's something wrong with you.

          1. Dan Paul

            Re: So what next? Dogged or should I say Doggerel

            Never said Filthy, Dogged. Just said Euro and that is quite enough of a four letter word for now.

            I know you don't like my opinion but unlike European law, we have this thing called the First Amendment that protects "Free Speech". (I know thats a foreign concept to you since you only regurgitate what you're told to say)

            All my comments regarding Google are REPLYS to articles and posts that deliberately or not, single out American companies like Google for criticism and legal censure by the EU & EUC. That's not the definition of trolling now is it? You must be responding to your own guilt.

            If that makes my comments to have been directed at "Filthy Euros" as you say in your post, then lets be blunt. They are directed at the EU & EUC and EVERY one of their legal "decisions" smell funny. Just like bribery and influence peddling on the behalf of the Fair Search Alliance. And if you were even trying to be honest about it you would agree.

            Never said the US does not have stupid laws, but that's not the subject of these posts, is it Dogged?

            We have LOTS of stupid laws, many on the books are simply unenforceable for their antiquity.

            American companies break the law all the time but not in THIS case Dogged. And they are not the subjects of these posts are they?

            Google has done nothing illegal, only perhaps their results in some circumstances are questionable and that question would not have even been brought up if it weren't for the undue and illegal influence peddling of the people behind the Fair Search Alliance who are trying to get Googles search algorithims exposed. As if.....and there is the reason for my statement that there is a "continental case of sour grapes"

            None of them can create a search product that even comes close to Googles so they bribe, whine, lie, cheat and sabotage Google at every opportunity.

            And while we are at it, there are a few British companies over here like National Grid, BAE and BP that DEFINITELY have not exactly been known for good business practices.

            1. dogged

              Re: So what next? Dogged or should I say Doggerel

              `> I know you don't like my opinion but unlike European law, we have this thing called the First Amendment that protects "Free Speech".

              You do, you just don't understand it. Your first amendment only means your government can't censor you. Everyone else can.

              Deal with it.

    2. Squander Two

      Re: So what next?

      Actually, car dealerships do have a legally enforced monopoly in the UK. The general rule is that manufacturers are not allowed to dictate which retailers may or may not sell their product. But there are three exceptions to that rule, on the rather spurious grounds that they are luxury items: cars, gemstones, and perfume. British supermarkets have been pushing for years to get the exceptions to the law removed so that they may start selling cars. Personally, I support that, as car dealerships are fucking awful and do abuse their monopolies.

      (If anyone has slightly more up-to-date information on this, I'd love to hear it and am happy to stand corrected. It's one of those obscure laws that is puzzlingly difficult to research. My info is years old.)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So what next?

      Except ford dealers will take any make in part exchange and will then sell that other make car, so yes you can go to a ford dealer and by a non ford car, just not a new one.

      1. Squander Two

        Re: So what next?

        > Except ford dealers will take any make in part exchange and will then sell that other make car, so yes you can go to a ford dealer and by a non ford car, just not a new one.

        Yes. Read what I wrote: the law says that manufacturers may not dictate which retailers may or may not sell their products, and cars, gemstones, and perfume are the exceptions to that law. A manufacturer obviously may not dictate which retailers sell someone else's products, exception or no.

  18. David Roberts Silver badge

    Google shopping?

    Well, learn a little something every day.

    I didn't even know it existed. I use Google search.

    So no problem with Google as a search engine, then?

    1. dogged

      Re: Google shopping?

      No, the Search monopoly is entirely legal and gained legitimately (as far as we know).

      But since you use Google Search, you'll have seen Google Shopping results. They just weren't labelled as such.

  19. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    "The moment Google starts screwing over us consumers then we'll bugger off elsewhere"

    ORLY? Generalising from your own experiences and behaviour there, TW?

    Yes, *some* consumers will "bugger off elsewhere", but a lot more, because they don't know they're being screwed over or find "everything under one roof" to be more convenient or not being willing to accept that they're being screwed over or whatever will not.

    In the mean time the verb "to google" has entered the language and the (false) idea that their results are impartial and aimed solely at getting the best results for the consumer gives a powerful drag factor on any change, so they will keep their monopoly for a very long time unless those pesky governments try to ensure that people *really* have a choice.

    TW does rather seem to be missing the point, doesn't he?

    1. icesenshi

      Re: "The moment Google starts screwing over us consumers then we'll bugger off elsewhere"

      TW is missing the point. The only question is whether or not it is intentional.

      1. Daggerchild Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: "The moment Google starts screwing over us consumers then we'll bugger off elsewhere"

        Gah - that's too meta-manipulative for me. I need some faith in my species. Regardless, this article really is an exploding whale, so I'm making a break for the fenceline. I don't want any of this on me.

  20. Spaceman Spiff

    Be careful of what you ask for!

    If Google were to block access from the EU to their services (and those of re-packagers such as DuckDuckGo) for, say, 2 weeks, I can guarantee that the villagers would be up in arms with torches and pitchforks to pillory the EU commissioners.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Be careful of what you ask for!

      Goody, let's do that - pillory the EU commission I mean, after all they are an unelected monopoly that dictate what we can and can't do.

    2. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Be careful of what you ask for!

      ... but at the same time, it would prove their monopoly beyond any reasonable doubt.

  21. chris swain

    A product that is free to the consumer is surely not contestible?

    If we are just talking about search (and that's generally what I use Google for) then it can't be a contestible monopoly because they can't gouge me on the price. They can gouge me on the results but I don't think they do that, the t'interwebs would be up in arms about it. If they apply the same ranking algorithm to their own products as they do to everyone else's then the search part is fair.

    As to all the other stuff, well, they all do that don't they? Apple in particular. That other stuff may well be wrong and I would hope that is what the EU probe will be concerning itself with but they really ought to look at lot's of people not just Google.

    But to say that Google have a contestible monopoly on search is not, I feel, correct because the cost to the end user is free. They have a contestible monopoly on advertising against search results so if European advertising professionals and European developers feel like they are being stitched then perhaps they should use each other's resources to try and contest that space? Perhaps they could come up with a better search product? Divert some of those advertising euros into a disruptive rival upstart and pay it in kind by promoting it?

  22. LucreLout Silver badge
    Holmes

    WTF?

    I'm a Windows using lover of Microsoft. There, I said it.

    I've used Bing by accident once or twice (baby + phone = odd things happen), but otherwise use google for search, gmail for mail, YouTube for video.... all by choice. I just prefer them to other products.

    I'm not sure how anyone can credibly claim a need to regulate Google for those services... Sure, the Google+ stuff is annoying, but mostly because I've no interest in social networking. If it ever gets too annoying, I'll go back to Yahoo - it's not like I've never switched search engine before (lots of guff, altavista, webcrawler, yahoo, google, bing, google).

  23. strum Silver badge

    Worstall makes the fundamental mistake of imagining that the users of Google are its customers. They aren't - they're the product. The advertisers are the customers.

    If a company uses loss-leaders to exclude competitors - that's pretty much the definition of a monopoly. Google's might creates an insurmountable barrier to entry; if you can't possibly rack up enough clicks, you haven't got a product to sell.

    1. auburnman

      Google users are Google customers as well as the product. In the web search market they buy search services by providing eyeballs on the Google page; Google takes these eyeballs, categorises them by the likely interests of the user and delivers them in bulk for a fee to advertisers in the advertising market. Google's 'products' are free to take their business elsewhere at any time within the search market for the low low cost of a few keystrokes. Google's customers are free to buy advertising space from any other ad provider at any time (and I imagine they already do), but Google remains the biggest supplier of eyeballs on ads due to its dominance (not monopoly) in the separate web search market.

      There is no loss-leading going on; web search is a no monetary cost operation and was long before Google entered the business. I won't deny that Google's might creates a massive barrier to entry. But whatever your opinion of Google, the failures of other market entrants/participants can't be laid at their door.

    2. Dan Paul

      Are you really that ignorant of the real world Strum? Worstall is dead on!

      EVERY retailer of any note uses loss leaders to exclude their competitors. What do you think a "Sale" is?

      That Tesco, Aldi, Sam's Club, Target, Wal-Mart, Tops, Kohls, Walgreens etc. (insert the name of any retail operation) ad slipped into the newspapers is full of "Loss Leaders".

      THIS IS HOW YOU GET PEOPLES FRIKKIN ATTENTION.

      If everybody does it; it can't mean it's a monopoly.

  24. Jim 59

    I demand a Goodfellas mash up.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "biting the hand that feeds IT"??????????????

    The Reg.logo contains the phrase "biting the hand that feeds IT". With Mr Worstall and others it increasingly seems to be "climbing into bed with" the IT giants who (like Walmart last week) can do no wrong because they are "big business" ............

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If there's a case to be made against Google, surely that case is on behalf of the advertisers NOT those using the search. Search is free and users can chose any result returned. Advertisers though pay for ranking, and if Google is manipulating the rankings to be other than what they claim when selling advertising, then they would be guilty of misrepresentation.

    As users though, you have no interest in regulating, if the results offend, use an alternative. You can do so freely, and you use Google if you do because it provides benefits that you pay only very indirectly for.

  27. Gannon (J.) Dick

    Wohoo

    "We'll be incrementally creepy and you just tell us when to stop, OK?" is not a monopoly it is blame shifting in preparation for contestability.

    Like, you mean we gotta pay Taxes like everybody else ? etc., etc., etc.

  28. Ilmarinen
    Devil

    Nibbled to death by an okapi

    Too BIG, too sly, too money - In the words of The Dammed: Smash It Up!

    1. Dan Paul

      Re: Nibbled to death by an okapi

      "Too BIG, too sly, too money - In the words of The Dammed: Smash It Up!"

      You mean like the European Union and the corrupt EUC????????

  29. Sam Adams the Dog

    Rockefeller and Amazon?

    "Rockefeller was a shrewd cookie. He continued to push the price of kerosene and other oil products downwards, even when he was the dominant player."

    Just like Amazon with AWS....

  30. Richie 1

    There is an argument that Google's search business is non-contestable

    The article rightly points out that competitors don't provide results that are of the same quality as Google's, and that if they did, consumers would move to the alternate service. This is the argument for it being a contestable monopoly.

    However, the quality of search is to a large part determined by the quantity of data available to the service, which is determined by the number of existing users. (The algorithms for generating search results are mostly documented in journal papers and implemented in open source software, so they are available to all players; there is some skill involved in creating the search engine from these, but quantity of data is a huge factor.)

    The fact that the size of the existing userbase determines the quality of the product leads towards a search market with a single dominant player. So there is an argument that Google should be regulated as a monopoly (though probably not to the extent that a natural monopoly is).

    You can see a similar thing with eBay and auctions: more buyers and sellers makes selling and buying respectively more attractive on that platform, and the market again tends towards a dominance by a single player.

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