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Google Antitrust Investigation May Be On FTC’s Agenda

Is Google's Search Dominance Fair?

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Google Antitrust Investigation May Be On FTC’s Agenda
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Google’s proposed acquisition of ITA Software, and whether or not the Department of Justice approves it, may have additional ramifications for Google and government regulations.

According to a report from Bloomberg, the company is being considered for a “broad antitrust investigation” by the Federal Trade Commission, but before moving forward, the FTC is waiting to see what the DoJ does.

Is Google anti-competitive? Share your thoughts.

The report suggests that such an investigation by the FTC could be on par with the famous Microsoft probe from a decade ago, which is widely thought to have greatly held Microsoft back in many areas of tech (which ironically, could have helped Google become the giant it has become).

Microsoft is part of the FairSearch Coalition, an organization mainly made up of travel sites that have banded together to push for the ITA Software acquisition to be blocked.

Last week, Microsoft SVP and General Counsel Brad Smith wrote on an official Microsoft Blog, a lengthy spiel about the company’s “concerns about search in Europe,” as it filed a complaint with the European Commission. He wrote:

At the outset, we should be among the first to compliment Google for its genuine innovations, of which there have been many over the past decade.  As the only viable search competitor to Google in the U.S. and much of Europe, we respect their engineering prowess and competitive drive.  Google has done much to advance its laudable mission to “organize the world’s information,” but we’re concerned by a broadening pattern of conduct aimed at stopping anyone else from creating a competitive alternative.

We’ve therefore decided to join a large and growing number of companies registering their concerns about the European search market. By the European Commission’s own reckoning, Google has about 95 percent of the search market in Europe.  This contrasts with the United States, where Microsoft serves about a quarter of Americans’ search needs either directly through Bing or through our partnership with Yahoo!.

At Microsoft we’ve shown that we’re prepared to work hard and invest literally billions of dollars annually to offer Bing, a search service that many now regard as the most innovative available.  But, hard work and innovation need a fair and competitive marketplace in which to thrive, and twice the Department of Justice has intervened to thwart Google’s unlawful conduct from impeding fair competition.  In 2008 the DOJ moved to file suit against Google for its unlawful attempt to tie up and set search advertising prices at Yahoo!, causing Google to back down.  And last year the DOJ formally objected to Google’s efforts to monopolize book content, a position affirmed by a federal district court in New York just last week.  Unfortunately, even this has not stopped the spread by Google of new and disconcerting practices in the United States.

He went on to say that the situation is worse in Europe than it is in the U.S.

Interestingly enough, Microsoft actually continues to gain search market share with each passing month. Bing has a ways to go before it gets to Google’s level, but Bing has said that its market share has actually grown every month since its launch. Bing also powers search on Yahoo and Facebook, two of Google’s other big competitors.

A decision from the DoJ on Google’s acquisition of ITA Software is expected soon. Meanwhile, Google is hardly slowing down in its offerings.

Last week, Google announced the +1 button, which would appear to be the company’s version of the Facebook “like” button. As you know, Facebook has basically managed to take over the web in some regards with this button and other social plugins. If the +1 button sees similar success, it could only help to keep people using Google for search.

Of course it remains to be seen if the +1 button will be a success or a bust, but you have to wonder if Bing’s plotting a “Bing it” button or something.

Is Google playing fair? Is Microsoft right? Tell us what you think.

Google Antitrust Investigation May Be On FTC’s Agenda
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  • http://twitter.com/NickStamoulis Nick Stamoulis

    I wasn’t aware that Google accounted for 95% of the search market share in Europe. Is Microsoft just angry that they can’t chip away at that number like they have in States? Can you fault Google for doing search better?

  • CJ Young

    If Google, who is NOT in the airfare search business, can’t acquire ITA Software, then who can?

    • http://www.hkreplicawatches.com/panerai panerai

      why not ITA Software be acquired of?

  • http://www.photogold.co.uk David Rankin

    how exactly could Google not be anti-competitive? They have so much of the market it’s a monopoly. Google have taken the place of Microsoft as the over-powerful techno company. It’s clear they think the law doesn’t apply to them,so it’s probably about time that someone looked into their business practices

    • http://mccom.com Robert Duncan

      Does Google market share make you not choose Bing or any other search engine. That is what a monopoly is, not just having a large portion of market share.

      That’s equivalent to saying anytime someone invents something new, its anticompetitive and a monopoly.

      There is a big difference between a dominant market leader and monopoly.

      Search engines are still relatively new and not a very mature market compared to other industries – say food or clothing.

  • TheGecho

    Microsoft is always angry when someone offers a better “experience” then they do. Anti-trust is what screwed them in the 90′s so of course they are going to try to use it now.

  • http://www.simplyclicks.com Simply Clicks

    Google’s dominance is fair. It has become the dominant search engine because it is the best in the business. The key question is whether they are abusing their dominance by squeezing out smaller competitors. The EU believes there is a case to answer. The US regulatory authorities may take a different stance.

  • http://www.AbodeMarketing.com GERALD MALISZEWSKI

    I am not sure this even makes sense. Google does it better than anyone I know of. They aren’t forbidding you or me for starting a search marketing company.

    Google is becoming even more powerful in that they offer nearly every tool for free, to a point. Microsoft is upset because google has created tools that allow the end user to create documents, spreadsheets, email and do not have to rely on expensive company driven software.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      They often like to say that the “competition is only a click away”.

  • M kahn

    Look who is calling the kettle black! Microsoft perfected predatory practices. They are bitter now because they are the “me too” guys in search. As to scanning the worlds books, Google announced their goals years ago, and have been investing significantly in the process. No one is stopping Microsoft from scanning books into Bing. If they are unhappy with Google, they should build a better mousetrap.

  • http://howtogetridofacnespots.com How to getr rid of acne spots

    I don’t think Google’s dominance should be allowed. They are bullies. I am not surprised tho about Google being the dominant player in the European search market. Had Bing and Yahoo opened up their PPC to countries outside of the US they would have more ground too.

    While Google opened up it’s doors and became a Global player, Bing and Yahoo had the doors closed and although they are a global search engine themselves but not a global player due to the above fact. Might be a small fact but it is something Google had used and won.

    • http://www.wroclaw.acorus.eu acorus

      Had Bing and Yahoo opened up their PPC to countries?

      Because they would earn less than they pay to employ the people.

      Microsoft perfected predatory practices.

      The difference is in philosophy not tech abilities.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kwik-Dry-of-Mid-Michigan/164051613648795?sk=wall#!/pages/Kwik-Dry-of-Mid-Michigan/164051613648795?sk=wall jnissi

    I love Bing!!! Ever since I discovered it a while back, the search results are almost dead on. Google is a giant for sure, I am not qualified to know if they are using deceptive practices to monopolize the market. However, I do know, that if Bing gets more exposure, that it will do quite well. :) At least that is my 2cents worth.

  • http://www.seowebexpert.co.uk SEO Dave

    Google do offer the best search results and so they are rightly number one. However, I believe they do have a monopoly on search and I don’t like the fact that when Google makes a change to its algorithm it can massively affect many websites’ traffic and businesses can and do fail because of it. I wish Yahoo and Microsoft would offer better search results to compete more with Google in the UK, because yes, from the sites I manage, Google totally dominates here and I could believe that 95% of the search market figure.

  • http://wredlich.com Warren Redlich

    This shows what a joke antitrust has become. There are minimal barriers to entry in the world of search engines. Google stays the best not by blocking others, but by constantly innovating, testing, etc.

    If the role of antitrust is to protect bloated Microsoft from nimble Google, then we’re all in trouble.

  • Steve Berg

    Google produces an excellent product. They should not be penalized for trying to make a better one just because MS can’t catch up.

  • http://www.thedirecttree.com John

    I have always believed that googles prominence on the market is unfair. They can do what they like when ever they like and no one can stop them.
    There is no other company in the world which would be controlling such a massive share on world wide market yet in the past noone was asking any questions and it is about time someone does!
    The fact they are attempting to buy everything and everyone what just might effect their prominence is on its own case for case for unfair trading!
    They are dictating prices on PPC making billions in process yet cost of such advertising for google is next to nothing.
    It will be very long law suite but im sure google will in the end loose!

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  • http://blog.web-media.co.uk Rob Willox | SEO Scotland

    Whatever you might think about Google’s dominance in the search market it is a bit rich of Microsoft to complain about it considering the monopoly they have and the means they use to try and maintain it in the operating/office software market.

    If it’s the case that Google dominates search it’s probably as they do it better than Bing and the others although they are not entirely blameless in all they attempt to do.

    I sometimes wonder in a capitalistic world that trumpets market forces as the best for competition, customer choice and efficient use of capital to grow economies why it’s not left to it’s one devices to get on with it rather than needing governments to step in every so often to ‘level the playing field’.

    Are monopolies bad per se or only when they don’t appear to deliver for what appears to be for the greater good? Is it a fallacy then that market forces might not be the best model for expanding, developing and sustaining economic growth?

  • http://www.rxshelving.com Patti

    I don’t believe there is such a thing a fair share of anything. Your fair share is what you work for and earn. If you produce the best product you will dominate your field. Google should not be punished for being the best.

    • http://www.thedirecttree.com John

      Is google really the best???

  • http://mccom.com Robert Duncan

    Monopoly really? Is Google controlling who has access to search engines? Google provides a FREE service. Anyone can use the service. Anyone can also choose which search engine and browsers they want to use.

    Microsoft was getting in trouble because they owned operating systems in which made you use internet explorer and their programs. Google does not own internet and search.

    This is clearly not a monopoly. It is just one company providing a great tool, that everyone likes using currently. Tomorrow the attitude could change and everyone uses bing or duck duck go instead.

  • http://www.myersgaragedoors.co.uk/garage_door_repairs.htm Garage Door Repairs

    Bing and Microsoft should spend more time improving their search services and spend less time worrying about Google. At present Google happens to be a force to be reckoned with as far as search and advertising is concerned, however Bing with some cleaver thinking could do what Google did all those years ago when they became the most used engine. It’s the people that decide who to use, it’s the people you have to convince, so Bing should make their search better and market their services accordingly. Surely with the business brains at Microsoft they can figure this out for themselves, after all they did it with their office and operating systems, surely they can manage a decent search engine! Google Rocks!

  • http://signature.eu.com/we-promote/search-engine-marketing/ Kent SEO Company

    I agree with a lot of the comments posted here. I think Microsoft are just Google bating! For so long Microsoft was holding all the keys and guarding all the doors. No the balance of power has shifted and they’re p****d off!

    • http://www.freestylelife.co Ben

      Microsoft are deffinately p#d off at Google. Not only have Google come up trumps regarding web services and kicked MS out of the ball park…they’re also converging on the mobile OS platform. MS missed out big time there because of Googles Freemium models.

      MS needs to do a lot of work to keep now.

      Ben.

  • http://www.freestylelife.co Ben

    Personally I don’t see the problem.

    Take for exmaple: How many ‘serious’ competitors are there to Facebook? Hell, it used to be ‘can I have your number?’; now it’s ‘hey, what’s your Facebook?’.

    Google being dominent isn’t a problem as long as its intentions are on the right side of the line. Playing fair, and trying to deliver the best service. Let’s face it…there’s no other out there at the moment that can offer such a precise service, and to the high standard and Google does.

    Or is there?

    Maybe this is a result of Google’s anti-competitive actions. …..or is it?

    Maybe you haven’t heard of a better service because Google is so dominent.

    Either way. Google delivers each and every time for me, so I’m happy with using them.

    Ben.

  • http://www.hopebuildssuccess.com Ed Rude

    The obvious danger Microsoft sees in the purchase is that Microsoft’s pages, which deal with the prices of Air-travel, shopping, and travel in general, are powered by Ita.

    And, of course, what we concumers see is that thirty major airlines depend on Ita to help them set their prices.

    If Google buys Ita the search related resources coupled with the powerful software that both tracks and sets travel related prices for many companies, we may well find ourselves needing to purchae all travel materials and tickets through Google-Ita, at prices set by Google.

    Some scrutiny now, will probably save us from intense Goverenment regulation -or from dominance over all information, and all prices related to travel, by a single overlord of a company.

    Of course, the powerful technologies of Google and Ita might also make our choices better, especially in the hands of the benevolent and self-effacing company known as Google. Nonetheless, the US FTC and the European Commission are already looking at Google’s Monopolistic practices. Perhaps they do not trust in Google’s Supreme Benevolence.
    Neither do I.

  • Hutch

    Is Google anti-competitive? Microsoft is SO the trendsetter in this area. They had the offline monopoly for so many years and now it’s just crying over “spilt-milk” that they can’t rule the internet. As someone who consults to businesses Google is much better at understanding search than Bing; Google gets what I want while Bing is still searching. Long live the king of search.

  • http://hubpages.com/profile/dame+scribe Gin

    I do not doubt that Bing and other SE’s are gaining traffic. G SE isn’t as spammy anymore, a plus but is proving difficult to find in-depth ‘information’ anymore about some ordinary topic. Results to some business profile doesn’t really help answer questions. Not everybody is up to talking with a CEO or Jane Doe of some big corporation or business for a simple question. People are switching to alternative SE’s.

  • http://www.imachination.com joop teernstra

    After Google dishonored (to my cost) one of their Adsense cheques and played judge and executioner in a sham appeal process accusing me in effect of clickfraud, I started to become very afraid of a company with so little respect for 10 year business relationships and with the power of life and death over any and all internet publishers.
    I wrote to Vint Cerf, whom I know personally, but I am still waiting for a reaction from the company.
    Credible competition is vital for an honest internet!

  • http://www.sign-mart.com Sign making supply

    I really surprised there is such a thing a fair share of anything. Your fair share is what you work for and earn. If you produce the best product you will dominate your field. Google should not be punished for being the best.

  • http://www.worlddigitalonline.com World Digital

    It’s called Capitalism. Big biz will always try and buy out and or destroy any competition, plus get their hands into anything they can make a profit on. Look at Walmart.

    • KamakshiSri

      Right.

  • KamakshiSri

    Monopoly is a market condition where you have one seller and many buyers and at least one product or service. There is no market in which Google is alone, all its competitors surround it. Google is the leader in search. Google should not be blamed for offering better products and services to the users. Google never prevented any body from entering into any of the market it exists.

    Even if Google has many acquisition but it has never asked any extra cost from the users. What other proof one can give to state that its acquisition are not antitrust but just with an intention to avail best products and services to the users. Well, this step may be acclaimed to be very important to keep away its competitors but ultimate users are not going to be affected by it.

    • http://www.totallycellphones.com Kevin Luxon

      Unfortunately, America will continue to suffer in the long run as idiots like “XXXX” continue to shop at Wal-mart and support Google and all Monopolies. Please rent or buy “Inside Job” the Academy award winning movie.

    • Zend

      BUT GOOGLE’S COMPETITORS WILL BE AFFECTED which is NOT a good thing and ultimately will affect the users. You are too naive. Your logic is all screwed up too. Don’t know whether to shoot myself for breathing the same air you breathe or go ahead and teach you a big lesson here about business. Every single word of that last paragraph of yours are really “out there”. Corporations are not Mother Theresas kid. Users of course will be affected by it if you let a corporation get away with your non-sense. Google is not a lemonade stand nor you know anything about antitrust issues, antitrust laws or anything that applies to the gatekeeper of the net, Google. Because they provide free products to users it doesn’t mean they should be allowed to do whatever they want and bully competitors out of business. The business world doesn’t work at all the way you view it. Again, Google is not a lemonade stand nor a Mom and Pop Op, PLEASE!

      • KamakshiSri

        Ok, I understand the point you are making. But just think it from a corporate’s view point. Had you been the owner of Google. Would not you like to dominate and rule the market you are in. Then what’s wrong if Google does it?

        What you are talking is “humanity” but not business. The law is always there to help. And if, say you are right and Google misuses it powers that affects users, do you think the users will spare Google???

        What a corporate will do with its products and services which it cannot sell or render to users? Is there any way of survival of such companies?

        Professionals and lawyers know coining simple things into big issues and nothing else.

        What is the meaning of encouraging Google competitors, do you think these corporates won’t reach the point where Google is right now. What an user has to do with all these?

        I want what i look for as easily I can and wish you people want the same.

        My logic seems “screwed up” it may because I am frank on issues I should not be.

        Finally, I would like to say don’t shoot yourself for breathing the same air as I am but if possible lay down what you call business.

  • http://www.lightmotiondetector.com Sofia

    It took Google “years” to get to the point they are at now. They made great business decisions, took growth slow….and here they are now, dominant in their field of search engines. I say, “its their turn.”

  • http://www.totallycellphones.com Kevin Luxon

    We all live in the dark while monopolies kill middle class America and the quality of life all Americans deserve. The FACT is Google is now squeezing out the smaller companies while capitalizing or selling to the highest bidder the real estate space they call “Search Results” page. Just like Wall Street, bankers, and politicians, they are in it for greed. Please rent or buy the Academy Award Winning movie “Inside Job” and DO NOT COME CRYING to me when your out of a job and buying shit at Wal-mart and Amazon to save a dollar. That dollar you saved used to go to a small business owner and his/her family and enriched their lives as middle class Americans. Google, continue to whore out your results page to the highest bidder because only Wal-mart and Wall Street can afford to be there. Good bye America as we know it. Kevin

    • http://david15981.firstclassrecipes.com Dave

      Yeah nd it’s not just middle America mate. It’s worldwide. Funny thing about you lot is you forget the rest of us far too often.

    • KamakshiSri

      The issue which you are raising is not related to search but rather it is to brand. Do you think people will stop shopping at Wal-mart if Google refuses to sponsor their link. People have their own choice of having branded products.

      They haven’t got themselves popularized with Google only. They used Google just as an advertising tool and in the same way they have used many other medias of advertising too and that is neither unethical nor illegal. There is nothing wrong in finding a way to sustain in the market. That’s business, man. Now, is the point where WalMart is reaping the seeds it has sown long back. Just talk the days of its incorporation, how many people knew about it.

      Don’t talk about middle class businessmen because these businessmen love shopping at WalMart. It is a known fact that most of the wives and children of upper middle class love shopping at WalMart. It was they who made WalMart a brand and then started their own business on seeing WalMart doing good with hopes that they may reach the point where WalMart is, and thus become competitors to WalMart and unfortunately are creeping for a penny.

      There is no need, on my part, to watch any movie because I strongly believe that no movie can teach me anything better than my own life.

      • Roe

        “It was they who made WalMart a brand and then started their own business on seeing WalMart doing good with hopes that they may reach the point where WalMart is…”

        This is based on the false premise that American society is one of upward mobility, which has been shown time and time again to be statistically bullshit.

        • Roe

          “There is no need, on my part, to watch any movie because I strongly believe that no movie can teach me anything better than my own life.”

          And what a profoundly American viewpoint this is. I half expected you to finish with, “Dey took mah jarb!”

          Seriously? How much do you know about the rise of corporate America from post-WWII on, the Wall Street banking culture, etc.? You think your life experiences would tell you more than a legitimate, well-researched documentary?

  • http://david15981.firstclassrecipes.com Dave

    Yes – I’d like to see them stop putting sponsored links on every page. Why not just on the first results page. I use a variety of search engines and there is no doubt that google is the most comprehensive, but market share is one thing. Monopoly is another. Anti competitive behaviour is outlawed in Australia. Why not on the web? It’s ours to share not theirs to own.

  • http://www.seo-first-page.com/seo-analysis.html seo analysis

    I do not doubt that Bing and other SE’s are gaining traffic but Google produces an excellent product.

  • http://www.transportmedia.co.uk StefTM

    I completely agree with the reply of Simply Clicks.

    I remember when Google was just born… Although it was clearly a big marketing operation and a massive investment from the start…

    Google is the leader because it offered an excellent product/service like nobody else did on a large scale.

    Their leadership also is a monopoly in my honest opinion. However the problem is that they are clearly abusing they position on the market.

    For instance, advertisers do not have right to investigate Google’s logs to verify all clicks they paid. I had a couple of situations where server logs and tracking software were telling me that a website had X number of clicks and the client got charged X*2. But Google refused to provide their logs or any other proof…

    I believe Google offers a great service and tools but unfortunately they are not transparent with they clients and users. And I personally do not like so much when I cannot know what is really going on and what I am really paying for…

  • http://www.newstartautoloans.com Auto Loan After Bankruptcy

    Just let me know when they want us all to line up to have us get in our cars and go to have our heads stamped and our reason removed from our brains. Then we can be assigned our search engine and sign our check over to the government.

  • http://www.alan-howarth.com Alan Howarth

    Google will lose it when they feel they are omnipotent, just as Microsoft did 10 years ago – legislation isn’t required – though I think maybe they should be barred from ‘buying’ a monopoly share in the search business.

  • http://www.my-kleidung.de Mode Shop

    für Deutschland Google ist bessere suchmaschine als alle andere.

  • http://www.bestblogcommentsoftware.com wildoc

    I think almost all companies after they become sufficiently big, try to crush competition. Therefore the concept of free market and letting market forces decide is not going to work here as Google controls nearly 80% of the market. Therefore there is a need for regulators like the FTC to step in. I think it is best for the society that Google be stopped from growing too big.

  • Zend

    If I only were in charge of Bing… I’d pay Lady Gaga half a billion to have a fan page right on Bing.com where she can interact with her little monsters and do whatever she wants right next to the search box. Man, Google would crumble. Bing’s search share would jump 60% overnight. These marketers at Microsoft are just old school with absolutely no common sense. They are asleep at the wheel. They prefer to throw away money on those boring, useless tv ads that it takes a rocket scientist to figure out what exactly they are.

  • http://UseBiz.com Jeff Schneider

    We feel that Google would be better off launching a new services site, than buying established companies that have huge restrictions imposed on them by the many governing arms.

    Every company they buy will have tremendous competitive disadvantages, attached, from here on out. Better to start out with a powerfull new Brand and build a Strtegic advantage without restrictions.

    Google could use a powerfull Brand like our site, UseBiz.com , in our prejudiced opinion.

    Gratefully, Jeff Schneider (Contact Group) (Metal Tiger)

  • http://www.hedgehogdigital.co.uk/ SEO Bedford

    It is not only in Europe that Google has that huge dominance of the search market, here in South America or should I say Latin America, that way I include all countries all the way to Mexico, Google has the same share of the search market if not more. Believe me, when I mention Bing to some people they go, what?
    Google earned this and I think it is playing fair, its market dominance it is simply people’s choice, just like Windows. You don’t see Apple filling law suits against Microsoft because of its huge OS market dominance.
    My point is if Microsoft wants Bing to gain more market share they need to innovate, they need to deliver an unique product that will drive people away from Google instead of looking for things that Google is doing “wrong”.

  • http://www.google.com/ Veruca

    Play inofmatrive for me, Mr. internet writer.

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