Government May Hold Google Back In Mobile Search Innovation, Even With Competition On The Rise

    July 24, 2012
    Chris Crum
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Earlier this month, Google was reported to have submitted a proposal to settle with the European Commission with regards to concerns expressed by the Commission’s head of competition, Joaquin Almunia. Details of Google’s proposal were not made public, but newer reports indicate that Almunia has added the condition that Google’s changes to its search results be applied to mobile search, as well as desktop.

This is according to a highly-cited Financial Times report (registration required), which indicates that Google could face a huge fine (in the billions), if Google and the Commission can’t reach an agreement. They’ve reportedly been negotiating since Google submitted its proposal at the beginning of the month.

The initial concerns laid out by Almunia, include Google’s displaying of links to its own vertical search services (as if Google’s competitors are playing the game so differently), Google “copying content from competing vertical search services and using it in its own offerings,” agreements between Google and partners on websites in which Google delivers ads, and “restrictions that Google puts to the portability of online search advertising campaigns” from AdWords to competitors’ platforms. You can see these concerns, as discussed by Almunia (verbatim), here.

It’s clear that the mobile approach to search is only gaining in importance as more and more consumers reach for their phones first, when looking to perform a quick search. Ironically, competition for Google is greater than it has ever been in the mobile space (see recent Apple announcements), and any restrictions set forth by government agencies will only hold Google back in the competitive landscape.

It will be interesting to see if longtime Googler, and now Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer will be able to make any kind of mark for the struggling Internet giant. If I had to bet on any executive being able to turn search around for the company, Mayer would be on the short list of possibilities. If Google has its hands tied by government restrictions, it could be an opportune time for any such competitor to make significant moves. Yahoo has already been trying to make a bigger mark in mobile search with Axis. Mayer, no doubt, has plenty more ideas.

Microsoft obviously has plenty of its own ideas about mobile search, as Bing continues to gain market share, little by little.

Realistically, however, Google has already won over so many search users, who have been using Google for so long, it’s hard to imagine the company’s share of the market dropping too drastically (at least in the near term). User experience can go a long way, but brands and habits can be pretty hard to break.

  • http://mtrax.com Dev Bhatia

    Actually, it’s very easy to imagine advertisers switching from Google to its competitors. Most advertisers who buy search advertising are Direct Response advertisers, meaning they are super-focused on results. They do the math. So if competitors can offer better performance or lower prices, advertisers will come. At mTrax, we set up mobile search campaigns for our clients on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. We think there is plenty of room for mobile search innovation, whether it comes from these or other market leaders.

  • http://www.placestoeatokay.com Steve G

    Google needs to focus on search and search alone and basically sell off Youtube, Gmail, etc., and just be a search engine company. That way they can’t be accused of favoring their own sites and being anti-competitive because there would be nothing but results of other sites and nothing of their own sites. It would save them hundreds of billions of dollars in fines and legal fees. I believe only then will Google be able to realize the mistakes they’ve made when it comes to search and continue to focus on quality of search results than trying to focus in so many different directions. I don’t think that companies that are search engines should be allowed to have their own data. Basically if Google keeps this up eventually they’ll be nothing more than a search of their own websites and we’ll all be basically using Google properties to publish anything we have because Google will favor it’s own sites above everything else and everybody will move to using Google to publish instead of actually having their own websites. Most data centers will close up because nobody will buy services from them and simply use the free services from Google to host their websites instead and so their website ranks higher than sites not hosted by Google.