In June, we asked readers if they think Google is a monopoly or if people just prefer it. We got quite a range of answers. The argument hasn’t gone away. In fact, if anything, it’s ramped up more than ever. The company is facing scrutiny at one level or another all over the world, but things keep happening to add to the discussion, including court rulings, acquisitions, and even shifts in market share.
We’ll ask again: Do you think Google is a monopoly? Let us know in the comments.
A court in Brazil has rejected claims by shopping comparison site Buscapé that Google is a monopoly, and essentially does not conduct its business in a way that is fair to competitors.
As described in a legal document, the complaint is that Google “manipulates its search service, that controls 95% of the market,” for the purpose of:
1. Allowing only Google Shopping to display images of the searched merchandise, which is not permitted to Buscapé and Bondfaro;
2. Embezzling and usurping the database of reviews – clients’ evaluations of the purchases gathered along more than 10 years by Buscapé, Bondfaro and E-Bit sites;
3. Artificially including Google Shopping in the first ranks of the search results, whenever a consumer conducts a query for the purchase of products in Google Search, thus harming the other competitor sites owned by Plaintiff.
Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land shares the summary judgment ruling it what appears to be a big win for Google in a not-so-highly publicized case.
In a nutshell, the court found that Google is not a monopoly, as people can easily go to other sites to conduct searches if they like, including other search engines, or the sites like those of the plaintiff.
Interestingly, Google has also been sharing a New York Times report indicating that people are actually beginning more product searches at Amazon.com rather than Google.com. The Times reports:
In 2009, nearly a quarter of shoppers started research for an online purchase on a search engine like Google and 18 percent started on Amazon, according to a Forrester Research study. By last year, almost a third started on Amazon and just 13 percent on a search engine. Product searches on Amazon have grown 73 percent over the last year while searches on Google Shopping have been flat, according to comScore.
This is exactly the kind of threat that Google faces when it comes to diminishing search market share, and in fact, is one that Google has indicated in the past is its biggest threat.
While Microsoft’s Bing poses some threat, Google is likely more worried about losing market share piece by piece in different verticals – more product searches going to Amazon being a prime example. I wonder how many other searches are being lost to Amazon by way of IMDB. Not to mention all of the countless apps that find their way into users’ lives on a daily basis via smartphones and tablets.
We look at the search market share reports each month, comparing Google to Bing and Yahoo, but in reality it’s about much more than that. Google has to worry about Amazon, Yelp, Facebook, Siri, and every other app/site with a search function (or a notification function), collectively, making the need to search Google a thing of the past – at least for these apps’ respective verticals. This is no doubt why Google is also trying to get you information before you search for it with Google Now, which recently got an update of its own, by the way.
As Google likes to say, competition is just a click away, and that is something that will not be changing in the foreseeable future, other than perhaps the replacement of the word “click” with the word “tap”. It’s an argument that Google has leaned on for a long time, but a lot of businesses are not satisfied with that, and along with government agencies, continue to express concern with Google’s market domination and its effects on competitors and consumers.
The Brazilian court also found that Google can basically deliver its results anyway it sees fit, that Google Shopping (and presumably other verticals) is simply a type of result, and not a shopping comparison site like those of the plaintiff, and that Google’s use of the plaintiff’s reviews are simply within the realm of fair use.
Again, it’s a big win for Google, and will no doubt be mentioned in ongoing discussions and legal battles with other entities around the world (like the European Commission and the Federal Trade Commission).
Are you buying the court’s findings? Tell us what you think.