Do Google’s Search Proposals Go Far Enough?

    April 30, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

The EU has finally come out with a public document discussing Google’s proposal to end a lengthy antitrust investigation, and addressing the previously reported “market test,” which will give competitors and all those concerned a chance to offer feedback.

Should Google be required to change its search results? Let us know what you think in the comments.

The Commission is seeking feedback on the commitments Google has offered to address concerns.

On why it feels the need to intervene, the Commission says, “In high-tech markets in particular, network effects may lead to entrenched market positions. Google has had a strong position in web search in most European countries for a number of years now. It does not seem likely that another web search service will replace it as European users’ web search service of choice.”

“In this context, it is important for the Commission to intervene in order to ensure that Google’s prominent market position in web search does not affect the possibility for other competitors to innovate in neighbouring markets, including in the long-term,” it adds.

The Commission views Google as dominant in search and search advertising, and says it is abusing its dominant position in four areas: specialized search, content usage, exclusivity agreements with publishers for the provision of online search advertising on their sites, and contractual restrictions on the portability and management of online search advertising campaigns across AdWords and competing platforms.

Google has, of course, settled similar concerns here in the U.S. with the Federal Trade Commission, where it agreed to let sites remove content from specialized search results pages while allowing them to keep results in regular Google results (they recently released a tool for this), and to enable advertisers to “mix and copy ad campaign data” within third-party services that use the AdWords API.

Some competitors felt that the settlement did not go far enough. The proposal in Europe goes further. Here is the list of Google’s proposals verbatim (per the EU’s announcement):

Google offers for a period of 5 years to:

(i) – label promoted links to its own specialised search services so that users can distinguish them from natural web search results,

– clearly separate these promoted links from other web search results by clear graphical features (such as a frame), and

– display links to three rival specialised search services close to its own services, in a place that is clearly visible to users,

(ii) – offer all websites the option to opt-out from the use of all their content in Google’s specialised search services, while ensuring that any opt-out does not unduly affect the ranking of those web sites in Google’s general web search results,

– offer all specialised search web sites that focus on product search or local search the option to mark certain categories of information in such a way that such information is not indexed or used by Google,

– provide newspaper publishers with a mechanism allowing them to control on a web page per web page basis the display of their content in Google News,

(iii) no longer include in its agreements with publishers any written or unwritten obligations that would require them to source online search advertisements exclusively from Google, and

(iv) no longer impose obligations that would prevent advertisers from managing search advertising campaigns across competing advertising platforms.

A third party would be required to monitor Google’s implementation of its commitments.

Already, despite the increased responsibilities on Google’s part, competitors don’t think the proposals go far enough this time either.

Interestingly, FairSearch, the group of Google competitors, which has been most vocal about its opposition to Google’s practices since its incarnation when Google announced its intent to acquire ITA software three years ago, issued a statement on the market test before the EU’s document came out.

“The most important remedy to Google’s abuse of dominance is to require the search monopoly, which controls 94 percent of the market in Europe, to subject its own products and services to the same policy it uses to rank and display all other Websites,” the group said. “Since it has taken a year to extract a final proposal from Google, FairSearch believes the ‘market test’ should last three months to ensure that interested parties have enough time to carefully provide the European Commission with their expertise on the effectiveness of Google’s proposal. As we have said, we will comment on Google’s proposed remedies after the Commission shares them.”

FairSearch intends to study the “effects” of Google’s proposal, and has implied that it will have more suggestions for how to make things better.

Separately, FairSearch recently filed a complaint with the EU saying that Google is using its Android operating system to give it an additional unfair advantage in search. This is not addressed in Google’s current proposals, but the EU isn’t ignoring it. Here’s what the commission had to say about “other Google-related allegations”:

This process covers the four competition concerns that have been investigated as a matter of priority. The Commission is, however, thoroughly examining all other allegations brought to its attention by different market players with a view to deciding whether or not a further investigation of those issues is warranted. Google’s Android related business practices are part of those issues.

To be continued…

All those concerned with Google’s current proposals have a month to submit their feedback to the EU.

Do Google’s proposals go far enough? Should Google even be required to do all of what it has proposed? Will this help competitors significantly? Will it hurt Google significantly? We want to hear your thoughts in the comments.

  • John

    YES they suck….sold out organic search to major corporations and ruined image search

  • http://www.quantisoft.com Howard Deutsch

    Google’s proposed changes appear reasonable. I agree the changes should bereviewed closely for a few months to make sure the desired changes are in fact realized. There should be a process in place to continuously monitor Google’s search results to ensure that future changes by Google do not negate the proposed changes.

  • http://www.mawlong-group.webs.com shane mawlong

    there is alway a disadventage and some good likewise.

  • Conran

    No one company should be able to wield the power Google has. This has effectively been a takeover of global business by an American company, and no other nation has done anything substantial to stop it.

    If Google changed their business practices tomorrow and signed a deal with Amazon to only ever show their results for any products they sell, hundreds of thousands of businesses around the world could collapse within days

    Countries need to end this monopoly now, before the corporation makes a disastrous error, or a despicable business decision, that could cost millions of people their livelihoods.

    • Jon

      I fully agree.

      Google has shown dangerous arrogance in recent times including its shameful stand on paying tax in the countries where it actually makes the money.


  • Jon

    Anything that helps dismantle Google’s monopoly is welcome. It is dangerous to have the entire business world dependent on this one megalith.

    Google is innovative and does what it does well – of course with some notable turkeys.

    Shame on the competition for letting Google get away with it – Google are innovators and fresh thinkers ( not to mention corporate animals ) and this is why they have done so well.

    We have passed the point where any competitor can catch up unless there is a paradigm shift on account of new technology and even then Google would probably be first on the new bus.

    I think individuals can help knock these guys down.

    When I see an adwords I am interested in I note the URL and enter that into Google – I dont click on the advert – that way I do trade with the 3rd party but Google doesnt get a look in.

    I use Amazon to find the books that I am interested in but then buy from local dealers.

    I always try and contact professional sellers on ebay direct – just plug their names into a search engine and you can normally find them online yourself and make sure that they get 100% of your money not ebay.

    These corporations are too big, too powerful and we as consumers need to think about the decisions we make in order to bring these guys down to size.


    • http://cebuanasweethearts.com Wayne

      Don’t forget Facebook and their sheer force in the social media marketplace. The masses of sheep pour all of their personal details of their lives into the Facebook machine – and it gobbles it up to no end. For any one company to know that much about the details of peoples lives is unbelievable.

  • http://www.century21.ca/matt.moore Matt Moore

    Google permeates the global network so much so that they are able to eliminate any competition – they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and fined multiple-billions. This would be the only action that would deter them from further distorting the world advertising market.

  • Anthem

    Oh dear. I am no fan of Google’s. Their algorithm change (Panda?) a few years ago completely nuked a few of my sites and my income went down 90% for some of them but I hate this kind of government interference even more.

    It’s Google’s business and they should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want with it. If it has achieved a state of dominance then it is because, given the free choice of which search engine to use, most people use Google.

    If its search results are poor because it allows vested interests to get in the way of the service it offers search users then this opens the door for a competitor to step in.

    That’s how this all works.

    However. I have now long been of the opinion that a search engine is only as good as the sites it references therefore Google should give an easy opt out facility of their organic results for any site that does not wish to be indexed by Google.

    You might think that this is suicide for any website and maybe it is but at least by offering this, Google are no longer coercing anyone on any side.

    Users use their search engine for free, us website owners have our sites indexed (and therefore “advertised” for free) but we are all free to leave it whenever we wish.

    I really don’t see what more Google can do. (I still hate them, though :) )

  • http://nevermind.com RD

    What search results? You mean a few paid ads and forums from 2005?
    The commie gman stripped google and all others. My isp makes China the land of FREEDOM!!! Yeah, Windstream.

  • http://www.blueflux.eu Martin Hookem

    Why don’t these other specialised search engines optimise for Google, and Bing, and Yahoo?
    I’m a web designer and have to optimise them to compete with business directories every week.
    It isn’t easy when each business directory is stuffed full of any particular search query for a service that one of my clients offers.
    To beat them or at least keep up involves a well laid out and frequently active site that offers the visitor the service they were looking for and plenty of information to show the quality of service to expect if they call.
    It’s the quality of the content that makes the difference.
    l don’t see why Google would have to put at least three links to other specialised search engines.
    Google have been working on their search engine and it’s algorithms for years, aswell as introducing a new anti-spam algorithm.
    It’s been made to offer safe, quality information to the world.
    The regulations are to stop or hinder the control of the information available to Google and how they use it for advertising.

    Yes l think you should have the option to exclude content from being indexed for Google News, it is your website and not Googles.
    But the search engine that you use, is theirs and it has the position it does for good reason.

    Howevever, with such dominance and control of content comes responsibility. Respect should be shown for the amount of work needed to achieve such a position as long as it has been done honestly.
    The same goes for the reasons for wanting to use Googles’ services yet exclude your content for your own purpose.
    Find a balance so that others can show their skills, while showing admiration for the best there is.

  • http://www.graciousstore.com Nina

    As long as Google does not have competitors, it can always decide what it wants to do with searches. The only way to cobe Google’s excesses, is to have other search engines compete with it

  • http://www.panzertechnologies.com/ panzertechnologies’

    I agree with You but The Thing which We Should Aware and what we are interested with the things around us… what You Says folks

  • http://www.panzertechnologies.com/ panzertechnologies’

    organic Optimization also matters …. Do aware of that….

  • http://bossy-girls.net/ Lila Sovietskaya

    Making it impossible for SEO to see keywords that users who browse when logged into Google has an adverse impact. User privacy can be protected without masking keywords