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Group Calls For Google Antitrust Probe

samzenpus posted about 4 years ago | from the break-it-up-over-there dept.

Google 372

CWmike writes "Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog called on the DOJ to launch a broad antitrust investigation into Google's search and advertising practices and consider a wide array of penalties, including possibly breaking the company up (PDF). The watchdog, along with a mobile entrepreneur and two lawyers representing Google rivals, called for an investigation focusing on a number of issues, including Google's marriage of search results to advertising and its book search service. '...We think all remedies should be on the table, including, we think, the possible breakup of the Internet giant,' said John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog. Adam Kovacevich, senior manager for global communications and public affairs at Google, discounted the criticisms, saying Consumer Watchdog has been 'relentlessly negative' about Google. The group recently questioned the reasons why Google stopped censoring search results in China, and criticized Google's privacy Dashboard as inadequate, Kovacevich said."

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372 comments

Trust Deez Nutz (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933234)

8==C=O=C=K==S=L=A=P==D

8==A=N=D=R=O=I=D ~-_

Lawyers (4, Insightful)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | about 4 years ago | (#31933236)

I hate those guys.

Re:Lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933998)

But do you know what I don't hate? I don't hate vests.
- Francis

Re:Lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31934006)

You should hate the system. If you were a lawyer, you would perhaps be no different. Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Apple behind this? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933246)

Seems the way Apple has 'warmed up' to Google, I wont be surprised if Apple is behind this. They are capable of something like this, given their pathetic way of hyping up latest iphone or whatever.

Re:Apple behind this? (1, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#31933280)

I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft is behind this. Which would be a severe case of the pot calling the kettle black.

If anyone needs to be broken up, it's MS, for collusion between their application software (esp. MS Office) and their OS, and their browser, and now they're trying to take over search from Google with "Bing".

Strange how this group complains about Google, but completely ignores MS.

Re:Apple behind this? (4, Insightful)

thepike (1781582) | about 4 years ago | (#31933368)

If anyone needs to be broken up, it's MS, for collusion between their application software (esp. MS Office) and their OS, and their browser, and now they're trying to take over search from Google with "Bing".

Really? MS needs to be broken up for bundling software? What about Apple for only allowing their software to run on their hardware? Why do they get to stop psystar from selling their clones, but MS can't put their browser on their OS? Also, Office doesn't come bundled with the OS usually, except as a trial, so you're eventually have to choose to buy it (though obviously the trial version and ubiquity encourages that purchase).

I know market share plays a big role here (as in Apple doesn't have enough for it to matter) but they're way worse about their terms of use and forcing people to use their stuff than anyone else.

Re:Apple behind this? (0, Troll)

sopssa (1498795) | about 4 years ago | (#31933392)

There were talks that Microsoft needed to separate Windows from their main corporation too. It didn't even make much sense, but this one does.

Google is being anti-competitive. All the datamining and lose of privacy is done so that Google has always more and more data about you. Then they can use this data across all their services, from YouTube to Gmail to Book Search. They can promote their other products freely. Just like if you wanted to use Windows, you had to take IE too. If you use Google Search, you have to take all of their other services too.

The massive amount of datamining and gluing all the services together also makes sure no one is even able to compete with Google. There's anti-competitive laws against such.

Re:Apple behind this? (5, Informative)

MrHanky (141717) | about 4 years ago | (#31933492)

What? You have to use Youtube, Gmail and Wave when you use Google Search? That's actually what you're saying. Sopssa, you're an idiot.

Re:Apple behind this? (1, Troll)

sopssa (1498795) | about 4 years ago | (#31933606)

If you search for a trailer of some movie or a game, what result comes as first? YouTube, complete with a thumbnail of the trailer to distinct from the other results.

Same for Book Search and other services.

But that's not even the point. The point is that because of the amount of datamining Google does, no one can even compete with them. Bing can't get enough long-tail keyword data so they can improve their service. No one else can either.

The outcome is that no other company can compete in Google's area. That's pure anti-competition. Technology changes and laws regarding it should too. Before Google no one could gain anti-competitive position by datamining just because there wasn't any technology to do so.

Re:Apple behind this? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933652)

Oh sopssa, everyone knows you're just a trol and a microsoft astroturfer. STFU.

Re:Apple behind this? (-1, Flamebait)

Dog-Cow (21281) | about 4 years ago | (#31933654)

By your logic, competition is absolutely impossible because by competing, you're being anti-competitive, which prevents competition, which means you couldn't have been competing in the first place.

You are a stupid piece of shit. When you die, the world will rejoice.

Re:Apple behind this? (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#31933664)

What the hell are you talking about? The only thing you need to do search properly is spidering. No one is restricted from doing that by Google. As far as I can tell, Bing certainly does compete with Google in search. It's not Google's fault that no one trusts MS to provide unbiased results, especially after all the instances where searching for "linux" returned results like "how to migrate from Linux to Windows".

Re:Apple behind this? (1, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | about 4 years ago | (#31933760)

The only thing you need to do search properly is spidering.

That's not true. Why do you think Google does so much datamining? Why do you think they have a wide amount of data what people search for and how much? Why do you think they send a hidden javascript GET request in the background on what search result you click on?

Maybe in the 90's you could make a search engine with only by spidering, but that's completely different now.

The other point is that to improve a search engine you need to know a lot about what people search for and which result they click on (which most likely is a good result). Google's monopoly gets it massive amount more of this data than Bing, or any other starting search engine. This is also why they can offer better search results, and keep competition away.

Re:Apple behind this? (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#31934058)

That's not true. Why do you think Google does so much datamining? Why do you think they have a wide amount of data what people search for and how much? Why do you think they send a hidden javascript GET request in the background on what search result you click on?

It's called "advertising". They make all their money on it, and the more effective they can make it, the more profitable they are. They datamine because it makes their advertising (AdWords, etc.) more effective. It's a waste, for instance, if a Slashdotter gets shown an ad for feminine hygiene products, but if he's shown an ad for some obscure item he might be interested in, such as D&D paraphernalia or whatever, the likelihood of that resulting in a sale is comparatively very high. Google wants to find out what people are interested in, and show them ads for that stuff.

The other point is that to improve a search engine you need to know a lot about what people search for and which result they click on (which most likely is a good result).

I completely disagree. The only thing you need to know about in a search string is the string itself, and what compares with this. Google is still using the PageRank algorithm: pages with lots of links to them are more popular than pages with few links to them, and get ranked higher in search results. Your prior search history is irrelevant. What your prior search history IS relevant to, however, is the ads which you're shown. These are separate from the search results.

Besides, what exactly are you proposing? You seem to be complaining that Google is too big, and this means they get to mine more data. What's the alternative? Break up their search and advertising functions? How exactly do you expect a search engine to finance itself? The only other big search provider, Microsoft, does it by taking money from their monopoly in OSes.

Face it, a search engine is a free service that takes significant resources to provide, and makes zero money on its own. It has to be financed somehow. I suppose you could try a subscription-based search service, but with the history of for-pay services on the web, I expect that to go over like a lead balloon.

Re:Apple behind this? (1, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | about 4 years ago | (#31934150)

No one is saying Google, the search engine part, cant take advertising from other companies. Just that the entities should be separated, not the same company.

Google is still using the PageRank algorithm, but it's far from the only thing they're using. It's just a one factor. Can you imagine how spammy the results would be if it all was based on spidering and links?

I wasn't also talking about your prior search history, but all of the data combined. You're right, it's separate from which ads you get based on your prior search history. But all of the data combined they can use it to have a much more relevant search results than their competitors or new search engines can, just because of the mere amount of data they get.

Your alternative is actually quite good. The search engine and advertising should be separated. There's no reason why Google couldn't finance them that way too, and then the user data and algorithms would be separate.

Re:Apple behind this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933678)

It's not that they can't, it's that Google is just better. There are a lot of search engines. If you use Bing, you can find a trailer just as effectively as you could with Google. They'll both link to Youtube because most other sites are fucking garbage and only Youtube does video properly. That's not Google's fault either.

Re:Apple behind this? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933830)

If you search for a trailer of some movie or a game, what result comes as first? YouTube, complete with a thumbnail of the trailer to distinct from the other results.

Gee whiz. It would hope if there was an actual competitor to Youtube. Bing always lists movies.yahoo.com first -- and who the fuck has heard of this site?

Same for Book Search and other services.

No, Amazon always comes first, along with other shopping sites.

But that's not even the point. The point is that because of the amount of datamining Google does, no one can even compete with them. Bing can't get enough long-tail keyword data so they can improve their service. No one else can either.

Yes it is. You tried listing anti-competitive behavior of Google and failed completely. Nice backpedaling.

It's actually funny, in that I concur Google is (mildly) anti-competitive. But at least pretend to know what you are talking about - at this point, I am hard pressed not to consider your posts as veiled trolling.

Re:Apple behind this? (5, Insightful)

jasonwc (939262) | about 4 years ago | (#31933942)

Except of course you're ignoring the fact that a monopoly created on the basis of customer preference/superior service is not a violation of the Antitrust Laws. Maintaining their search monopoly by continually adding features and increasing the quality of their product, thus preventing competitors from gaining a large enough market share to compete effectively, simply isn't a violation of the Sherman or Clayton Acts.

And I don't see them using their monopoly unfairly to expand into other markets. They do link to their other services, but often the top hit for most of my searches is Wikipedia. The top hit is almost always the most relevant, or at the least, a highly relevant, source.

Why shouldn't they provide trailers on Youtube. It was the most popular provider of online video clips when it was purchased, and continues to be so today. Would you force them to link to another site, even where that site is inferior? Customers want links to Youtube. Also, they do provide links to other popular video sites, if there are relevant hits. Obviously, there will be more Youtube hits, on average, because of the site's popularity. I just don't see any attempt by Google to suppress their competitors.

Being big + better than your competitors =! Antitrust violation

Re:Apple behind this? (4, Insightful)

MrHanky (141717) | about 4 years ago | (#31934016)

Let's take your example, and search for a movie trailer. Avatar. Bing's first result is a fucking blog called avatar-trailer -- at Google's own Blogspot.com, followed by traileraddicts, youtube, youtube and Apple. Google's result's are Youtube first (with thumbnails), then three different services, image search thumbnails, then the fucking blog again, followed by the official site. The problem here isn't Google's data mining, but the fact that Bing's first hit just isn't what you're looking for. Bing is simply not very good. You can't blame Google for that.

Re:Apple behind this? (5, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#31933516)

Bullshit.

How is Google "anti-competitive"? And what is with all this whining about privacy?

If you don't want to use Google services, then don't. There's tons of alternatives.

Google Search -> Bing, Yahoo, etc.
YouTube -> dozens of different sites, or just don't use it.
Book Search -> your local library, Amazon.com, etc.
Gmail -> Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, your ISP-provided email, various non-free email services, etc.
Google Maps -> Mapquest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, etc.

Furthermore, exactly how much does it cost to use Google services anyway?

I calculate that, aside from Google AdWords (for a small business I have on the side), I have spent exactly $0.00 on Google Search, YouTube, Book Search, Gmail, Google Earth, Google Maps, and every other Google service. I'm not about to start complaining about them until I feel like I'm being coerced somehow into opening my wallet for them.

Separating Windows from other MS services made tons of sense, because Windows is a monopoly, and it's nearly impossible to buy a non-Apple desktop or laptop computer without it. There's nothing forcing you to use Google. In fact, it should be easier to type "bing.com" at your address bar instead of "google.com", since it has two fewer letters.

Re:Apple behind this? (1)

fryjs (1456943) | about 4 years ago | (#31934108)

How is Windows a monopoly? I'm being serious, what constitutes a monopoly, what's the definition?

Re:Apple behind this? (2, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 years ago | (#31934224)

Microsoft was a monopoly because it was (in the early nineties) practically the only OS available. Everything else was a special-order job. You couldn't just go into a major store and get a Mac.

Being a monopoly is not inherently bad. Google's near-monopoly on searching is not bad. What is bad is when that market share gets abused to stifle competition. As a textbook example, consider the old phone system: small local carriers weren't allowed to hook their systems to the big carriers. Because they couldn't connect, they couldn't attract customers, no matter how innovative their system might be. This is a perfect case where a monopoly halts innovation.

Microsoft's Windows situation was similar. They bundled IE with Windows and made removal extremely difficult. They ensured that IE appeared to be a vital component of Windows, though it was shown repeatedly that there was no real dependency. No matter how innovative Netscape Navigator was, IE gained its market share simply by being the default.

The concern here is that Google's bundling of services might be affecting competition. For example, other advertising companies might be considered useless, since they can't approach the visibility of Google's services. Likewise, Google's constant promoting of its other services may be impacting the ability for other companies to gain a competitive foothold.

Personally, I don't see what Google does as anything close to the anticompetitive practices Microsoft followed. That's just my opinion, though, and more facts might come in later...

Re:Apple behind this? (3, Informative)

Daengbo (523424) | about 4 years ago | (#31933600)

Anti-trust is about determining whether a company is limiting competition or using one monopoly market to leverage itself into another.

1. Google has a huge market share in search, but it's got plenty of competition, and there's nothing stopping customers from switching to that competition immediately: there's no switching cost at all.

2. Google might have a monopoly on advertising, but I don't think so. The latest numbers I can find are from Jan. '09, which put Adsense at 57%. It's probably larger than that now. Not likely to be labeled a monopoly, though.

Google has protected itself very well with the Data Liberation Project. That alone will probably scuttle any attempt to prove Google is limiting competition. There's no tying, either.

Re:Apple behind this? (0, Troll)

sopssa (1498795) | about 4 years ago | (#31933658)

What's plenty of competition? Bing? Baidu in China? There's no other independent search engines, all the others are using either Google or Bing. If MS decided to end Bing, western users would have exactly one search engine - Google.

No one can also start competing with them. They just don't have the amount of data Google gets from leveraging all their services together and because of the monopoly they have in search. Even Bing has said they have problems with their engine because the amount of data (especially long-tail keywords) they get is so much less than Google.

Re:Apple behind this? (1)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | about 4 years ago | (#31933808)

Take your pick - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_search_engines [wikipedia.org]

And take your bullshit somewhere else.

Re:Apple behind this? (2, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | about 4 years ago | (#31934246)

Ask.com (formerly Ask Jeeves)
Baidu (Chinese,Japanese)
Bing (formerly MSN Search and Live Search)
Cuil
Duck Duck Go
Google
Kosmix
Sogou (Chinese)
Yodao (Chinese)
Yahoo! Search
Yandex (Russian)
Yebol

Lets see the general English search engines from your list and exclude Yahoo because it will start using Bing search engine. Duck Duck Go "uses information from crowd-sourced sites (like Wikipedia)", so I don't think you can really count it as it doesn't search the other web. Kosmix also seems gather information only from Wikipedia, Flickr and the likes. So the list comes down to:

General
Ask.com (formerly Ask Jeeves)
Bing (formerly MSN Search and Live Search)
Cuil
Google
Yebol

Cuil and Yebol are having difficulties just for the same reason as Bing and who is actually using them? I was surprised Ask is still around. The fact is, if Bing quit, it would be 99% marketshare for Google.

Re:Apple behind this? (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 4 years ago | (#31933966)

If MS decided to end Bing, western users would have exactly one search engine - Google.

First, as others have pointed out, bullshit

Second, you just showed there's at least a duopoly and not a monopoly with that quote.

Re:Apple behind this? (1)

Daengbo (523424) | about 4 years ago | (#31933970)

The numbers, as they stand is Google at #1 (with 65.5%), Yahoo at #2 (with 16.8%), Bing at #3 (with 11.5%), Ask.com at #4 (with 3.7%) and AOL Search at #5 (2.5%). Google and Bing both saw increases in their market share (yes, somehow Google got bigger last month) while Yahoo and Ask.com lost some marketshare. AOL Search somehow still relevant in 2010, didn’t lose or gain marketshare. [1] [nexus404.com]

That quote is from last month. I hardly see 65% as some insurmountable number. All the search engines have the same data to work with. Google has website tools. Bing should have them, too.

Some countries (the U.S.) are hugely Google -- 85% -- but some countries barely know what it is. The number one search on Google last year in Korea was for Naver, a portal / search engine. The number two result was for Daum, another portal / search engine. People in that country only use Google to get to another search engine.

Google has such computing power that there are things that normal companies can't compete effectively in -- voice recognition seems to be one. Maybe you could get Google for having too much computing power and being "too good" because of it, but I doubt any court is going to say "Hey, this is hurting the consumer" and punish Google for it.

Google's big. It's powerful. I'm still much more afraid of Facebook. There's a monopoly that 's locking people into its platform..

Re:Apple behind this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933836)

To an extant your right about MS. What should have been done is the company broken up into 3 to 4 different companies, all with access to the same source code and rights (at the point of breakup). That would have resulted in competition. Taking one product out would have resulted in a much smaller and far less useful form of competition. But the rest of your post is just plain silly. No one can currently compete with Google because they do a vastly better job overall than anyone else. They have yet to abuse their position as far as the government is concerned. And since nothing was effectively done to MS, I doubt any big changes will be made at Google over your whining.

Re:Apple behind this? (2, Informative)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#31933602)

MS needs to be broken up for bundling software? What about Apple for only allowing their software to run on their hardware?

I'm getting tired of people constantly bringing up this argument. Listen carefully: MS is a monopoly. Apple isn't. It's nearly impossible to buy a PC or laptop without Windows; it's easy to avoid buying a Mac or any other Apple device or service or software. How many people do you know who own a Mac? I don't know a single one. How about a PC/laptop running Windows? Just about everyone I know has one.

The rules are different when you're a monopoly.

I know market share plays a big role here (as in Apple doesn't have enough for it to matter)

Aha, you're starting to get it.

but they're way worse about their terms of use and forcing people to use their stuff than anyone else.

And guess what? It doesn't matter! Precisely because Apple is not a monopoly, and has a ~5% market share (or whatever; I'd be surprised if it were that high to be honest). When you're a bit player, you don't get all the scrutiny of someone who utterly dominates a market (a.k.a. monopoly).

No one is "forced" to use Apple stuff. If you don't like Macs, get a PC (after all, if you want to run most commercial application software, it's almost unavoidable). If you don't like iPhones, get an Android phone, a Blackberry, a smartphone running WinMo, a Palm, etc. If you don't like iPods, get a Zune, an iriver, a Sansa, a Cowon, etc. Yes, Apple likes to tie things together, and coerce everyone into running iTunes. Don't like it? Don't buy an iPod, an iPhone, or a Mac.

Re:Apple behind this? (4, Insightful)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | about 4 years ago | (#31933824)

>>I'm getting tired of people constantly bringing up this argument. Listen carefully: MS is a monopoly. Apple isn't.

I am getting tired of people constantly bringing up this argument. Listen: Apple is anti-competitive, more than MS even with it's so called monopoly.

Re:Apple behind this? (1)

thepike (1781582) | about 4 years ago | (#31933948)

How many people do you know who own a Mac? I don't know a single one.

Really? You don't know a single person who owns a Mac? Do you know any college students? Or people who do video editing? Or music editing? Or who are alive? Yes, of course a lot more people have PCs, but I find it very hard to believe that you don't know one person with a Mac.

And your argument can be turned right around on you. Ipods have huge market share. Steve Jobs claimed it at about about 75% [ondisruption.com] , so is that a monopoly now? No, I can just buy a Zune. So why can't I just buy a Mac or linux computer instead of a Windows PC? Because people don't know the options are there? Or because when I walk into a store it's easier to find the Windows computers? Ipod displays are way bigger than those for any of the other music players you listed above, and it's way easier to find accessories for them, and you have to use it with Apple software (adding music to my android phone doesn't take any special software; just windows explorer). So if MS is a problem, why aren't Ipods? Where do we draw this line?

Re:Apple behind this? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#31934166)

Really? You don't know a single person who owns a Mac? Do you know any college students? Or people who do video editing? Or music editing? Or who are alive? Yes, of course a lot more people have PCs, but I find it very hard to believe that you don't know one person with a Mac.

After I wrote that post, I realized that I do know (not very well) one person with a Mac, and she's college-aged. I don't know a lot of other college-aged people, or people who do music/video editing, so that might have a little to do with why I don't know a lot of Mac users.

So why can't I just buy a Mac or linux computer instead of a Windows PC?

Simple: because TurboTax and thousands of other commercial applications won't work on your Mac or Linux PC.

MP3s will play on ANY music player (except some older Sonys which not surprisingly bombed in the marketplace), so this isn't a very good comparison.

and you have to use it with Apple software

Actually, no, you don't. My wife has an iPod, and I sync it with Amarok on my Linux PC. There's many other Free programs which will do the same.

So if MS is a problem, why aren't Ipods? Where do we draw this line?

Two reasons:

1) There are plenty of viable alternatives to iPods, even if they aren't very popular. Zune, iriver, Cowon, etc. They all play MP3s, so if you rip CDs to MP3, or buy MP3s from Amazon.com or a similar music store, you can use them. You can't use them with the iTunes store, however, because of vendor lock-in, and also because those players don't support AAC to my knowledge, but that's easily avoided by using Amazon instead (as it's cheaper), or by buying CDs.

2) You don't need an MP3 player to participate and be productive in modern society. You can play music on your computer, on a stereo, etc. However, using a computer is almost a requirement these days: email, websites, e-commerce, filing your taxes electronically, accessing government information, etc. All office jobs require the use of a computer. MS is a problem because their software is virtually required for using a computer, since most commercial application software only runs on Windows. It was worse when IE was the standard browser and most websites only worked properly on it; it's gotten a lot better in the past 5+ years.

Don't make me bring up a car analogy...

Re:Apple behind this? (1)

CoffeeDog (1774202) | about 4 years ago | (#31934012)

I think you have it backwards. Major vendors like Dell sell computers without Windows on them (with Linux instead), and last time I checked if you build your own PC (something an Apple user could never dream of) nothing obligates you to put Windows on it. How about you show me a computer that Apple sells without their OS pre-installed? You can have a PC without Windows, but you can't have an Apple without Mac OS (at least installed somewhere).

Re:Apple behind this? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#31934194)

How about you show me a computer that Apple sells without their OS pre-installed? You can have a PC without Windows, but you can't have an Apple without Mac OS (at least installed somewhere).

Apple's allowed to do this. Remember, they're not a monopoly, the rules are different. They can be bastards as much as they want. There's no demonstrable reason you'd need to buy an Apple without MacOS anyway; any generic computer can do the same job. You don't need an Apple computer (sans MacOS) to use any specific hardware, access any specific website, etc. It might be nice hardware, but you can get nice hardware from lots of places.

Yes, it's possible to buy PCs "naked", and Dell will happily sell you a computer with Linux for more money than with Windows. But how many Linux laptops are available out there? Or bare laptops? Try going into BestBuy and buying one.

Re:Apple behind this? (1)

fryjs (1456943) | about 4 years ago | (#31934136)

And who is "forced" to use Microsoft stuff? If you don't like Windows get Linux (it's free even), or Mac. How can you call Windows a monopoly when there are literally dozens of alternatives, many of them free?

Re:Apple behind this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31934184)

You must be a noob to the internet. OpenOffice does the exact same thing (even saving in .doc if you want!) for $0 instead of Microsoft's Office's $ > 0

Re:Apple behind this? (1)

AnonGCB (1398517) | about 4 years ago | (#31933374)

Wait, so because a software company makes stuff that works together they need to be broken up? That makes no sense at all.

Re:Apple behind this? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#31933632)

No, they need to be broken up because they're a predatory monopoly.

If they had a market share of 10% and locked in customers with secret file formats, tying products/services together, and the like, only extremists would be complaining about them (like all the anti-Apple people on here). But when your market share is 90-95%, it's nearly impossible for someone to avoid buying your products without basically being a digital caveman, so intervention is necessary to return the market to a healthy state.

Re:Apple behind this? (1, Informative)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | about 4 years ago | (#31933724)

Seems the way Apple has 'warmed up' to Google, I wont be surprised if Apple is behind this. They are capable of something like this, given their pathetic way of hyping up latest iphone or whatever.

Boy, some people never miss a chance.

Tinfoil hat time, folks: "It must be a conspiracy!"

The fact that Consumer Watchdog [wikipedia.org] has been around as an independent, non-partisan, non-profit entity since 1985 means nothing, I guess. Not when there's a chance to vilify the latest boogie man, whoever it might be. It used to be Microsoft, currently it's Apple. In a few years maybe it will be Google.

You conspiracy-minded types need to get a grip. Not everything that happens in this world is due to shady forces working in secret. Sometimes things are exactly what they appear to be.

who is paying Kovacevich (0)

Dan667 (564390) | about 4 years ago | (#31933248)

that would be the most interesting part of this story.

Re:who is paying Kovacevich (1)

Matheus (586080) | about 4 years ago | (#31933264)

RTFS: "senior manager for global communications and public affairs at Google"

Google is paying Kovacevich and well I presume.

Re:who is paying Kovacevich (-1, Troll)

sopssa (1498795) | about 4 years ago | (#31933278)

Yeah because people always need to paid to have an opinion. Can't nobody think and have an opinion on their own anymore? It's the same "he must be a shill" mentality here on slashdot too.

Re:who is paying Kovacevich (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933432)

Yeah because people always need to paid to have an opinion. Can't nobody think and have an opinion on their own anymore? It's the same "he must be a shill" mentality here on slashdot too.

No, no, no. Do you even USE the internet, man? If you have an opinion AND claim to honestly like something, THEN you're obviously a shill. If your opinion is that you hate everything, you're clearly better than all those worthless peons who actually smile once in a while.

Re:who is paying Kovacevich (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31934176)

Who is paying Sopssa for this opinion?

Re:who is paying Kovacevich (4, Informative)

seeker_1us (1203072) | about 4 years ago | (#31933322)

From the summary

Adam Kovacevich, senior manager for global communications and public affairs at Google,

So Google pays Kovacevich.

Legitimate Scrutiny (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 years ago | (#31933262)

While I think constant vigilance is needed with Google, this looks like nothing more than Microsoft once again using other groups to legitimize it's attacks on a competitor that has with consistent success kicked it in the ass at every turn.

Re:Legitimate Scrutiny (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933620)

HAH! It's funny that when Microsoft has a so called monopoly, it's the end of the world but when Google has a monopoly... it must be Microsoft.

Re:Legitimate Scrutiny (5, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 4 years ago | (#31933784)

HAH! It's funny that when Microsoft has a so called monopoly, it's the end of the world but when Google has a monopoly... it must be Microsoft.

Microsoft does have a monopoly, an illegal monopoly that was acquired via a number of seriously dirty moves, deliberately violating the law in order to remove consumer choice. Or do you believe that that our choosing to use Google's services more than any other company is a sign of inherent illegal monopolism? Well, if we do, that's not bad: it's because Google does a better job at delivering the services we want than anyone else.

Do you understand what the term monopoly means, and that having a monopoly in a particular area is not, in and of itself, against the law? It's the manner in which you achieve your monopoly status, and what you do with it once you have it that counts. I don't see Google suing competitors out of existence, although they've certainly snapped up a number of startups, generally for technologies that they need for their own products. Sure ... they're damn serious competition to anyone wanting to enter the search and online advertising business, but it's because millions upon millions of people have decided that Google does what they want. It's not because of backroom deals with hardware manufacturers to only ship Google's products. That's Microsoft's way.

Re:Legitimate Scrutiny (4, Interesting)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | about 4 years ago | (#31933860)

May be something, may be nothing - TradeComet's lawyer (one of the two lawyers in TFA) is from the same firm that does all of Microsoft's anti-trust work. It's tough to imagine such a firm would take on Google in an anti-trust case without at the very least getting Microsoft's blessing. It's not impossible though, MS may have nothing at all to do with it. It could all be coincidence.

Oh and TradeComet's anti-trust lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality - the judge ruled that the Adwords contract venue stipulation applied.

Also Google has a collections lawsuit pending with myTrigger.com (the other lawyer in TFA) for unpaid bills. That's funny, because this is all about sites being redirected away from legitimate business, but the only time one pays for Adwords is if someone clicked through.

Sounds like these guys are full of shit to me. There is a reason Google faces dozens of antitrust lawsuits every year, and there is a reason none of them go anywhere, even when there are high-powered law firms behind them. It's because they have no merit.

Re:Legitimate Scrutiny (2, Interesting)

mjwx (966435) | about 4 years ago | (#31934196)

While I think constant vigilance is needed with Google, this looks like nothing more than Microsoft once again using other groups to legitimize it's attacks on a competitor that has with consistent success kicked it in the ass at every turn.

I'm a bit of a fan of Google but I think this investigation should go ahead. I am confident that Google will not be found guilty, as you said this is not Microsoft, Google has a monopoly in search but unlike MS they don't use their dominant market position to crush competition or prevent new competitors from entering the market.

It's not just MS gunning for Google, Apple is doing it as well. Google represents the end of the Apple/MS business model if they are successful with Android and Chrome. Seeing as the EU hasn't even made a whimper about Google I doubt they have much to worry about.

Breaking up companies (5, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 4 years ago | (#31933342)

Breaking up companies always bugs me when the companies has grown primarily based on outright success. This sort of amounts to punishing Google for succeeding. And I have a lot of trouble understanding how there could be a substantial anti-trust issue. They aren't bundling goods in a bad way. The ads are clearly kept separate from searches in that advertisements don't alter Google rankings and you can tell at a glance if something is an advertisement or a search result. So there's no problem here. This is in contrast to some other search engines which specifically allowed companies to pay for higher ranking in search results. The authors of the complaint claim that Google has manipulated its search results to harm potential competitors. Frankly, that sounds more like sour grapes at not having done as well as Google.

Re:Breaking up companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933404)

Follow the money. This is likely to be led by either apple or microsoft, or both.

Re:Breaking up companies (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | about 4 years ago | (#31933490)

Or just plain ol' Consumer Watchdog being shrill, reactionary, and just plain anti-capitalist (yeah, that's right, I said it) again.

Re:Breaking up companies (3, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#31934202)

Sigh, it's not anti-capitalist to insist upon having unmanageably sized corporations broken up. Especially when said corporations grow huge based upon buying out the nearest competitor to create a monopoly position. Just because large corporations don't like it doesn't mean that it's anti-capitalist. Capitalism requires eternal vigilance in order to ensure that one source doesn't become the only source of every product or service.

Had the DoJ been doing its job in the first place a number of those deals would never have taken place. In fact, I doubt that MS would've been brought into court at all had the clowns running the DoJ during the early portion of this century been in charge.

Re:Breaking up companies (1)

thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) | about 4 years ago | (#31933514)

Although I don't think this case is strong enough but one of the claims is Google is giving away "free" products. Of course everyone does that but because of the huge profits from ads, Google's giveaway has far reaching effects. Is it on par with with Microsoft's monopoly on desktop PC, probably not yet. It could get there.

Re:Breaking up companies (3, Informative)

PinkyGigglebrain (730753) | about 4 years ago | (#31933528)

Breaking up companies always bugs me when the companies has grown primarily based on outright success.

How about a company that used its monopoly in a market to lock out and hurt competitors?

That is the big difference between Microsoft, Apple and Google. MS was convicted of monopoly abuse, the others have not.

Re:Breaking up companies (1)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | about 4 years ago | (#31933844)

Just because MS is convicted of monopoly does not mean others are not anti-comparative, and by others, I mean Apple.

Re:Breaking up companies (4, Funny)

tsm_sf (545316) | about 4 years ago | (#31934116)

[...]does not mean others are not anti-comparative, and by others, I mean Apple.

vis a vis oranges, I'm guessing?

Re:Breaking up companies (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 4 years ago | (#31933536)

"This sort of amounts to punishing Google for succeeding."

The whole problem is with market theory itself, in the real world institutions and key components of society have high barriers to entry as well as becoming a key component of society itself. The whole idea of efficiency tends towards monopoly and centralization.

Re:Breaking up companies (5, Insightful)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | about 4 years ago | (#31933586)

Anti-trust is not about bundling goods, it's about restricting access to a limited resource. For example, the Microsoft case - they were not hit with an anti-trust suit because they held 95% of the computer market, they were hit with the anti-trust lawsuit because they were using their 95% share of the computer market to force alternative web browsers out of the browser market. The bundling was illegal because they were using their position in the computer market to keep OEMs from bundling third party browsers with the Windows computers they sold.

I simply cannot see how the same thing is true with Google - the only key resources regarding internet search that Google has access to are their database and mechanism for crawling web pages, and their search algorithm. Anybody can crawl web pages, I could do it right now if I wanted to, Google is in no way restricting that, and the key elements of Google's search algorithm are well known.

There is absolutely nothing stopping anybody from creating an alternative to Google using the exact same resources that Google uses, and in fact there are several. However, if your service is not better, don't expect anybody to use it. Breaking the company up won't help anything. You'll just have four Googles dominating the market instead of just one.

If they are trying to say that Google's search results are the limited resource, they are full of shit. Google is selling ad space on their web pages, which all web sites have been doing since the beginning of time. If that is their beef, they need to be looking at Google compared to the entire fucking internet when making their claims, because that is the internet ad market Google is competing with. They are also not forcing anybody to do anybody, they aren't doing anything unfair at all. They are just "winning". Unfortunately, to some losers "winning" is unfair.

Re:Breaking up companies (1)

thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) | about 4 years ago | (#31933758)

Anti-trust is not about bundling goods,

That is if all of the goods have a fair price. Here from Wikipedia about antitrust law:

banning abusive behavior by a firm dominating a market, or anti-competitive practices that tend to lead to such a dominant position. Practices controlled in this way may include predatory pricing, tying, price gouging, refusal to deal, and many others.

It can't be more predatory by giving them away.

Re:Breaking up companies (2, Insightful)

Moridin42 (219670) | about 4 years ago | (#31934228)

Actually, it couldn't be less predatory. I know those search engines from Before Google sucked. But you know what they charged you? The same as Google.

Re:Breaking up companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933712)

The real purpose of the investigation is to find out who really paid for the Goldman Sachs SEC search term, when, and how much.

Re:Breaking up companies (4, Insightful)

webdog314 (960286) | about 4 years ago | (#31933848)

How would you even break a company like Google up? I mean, it's success is at least partially due to the fact that it's one giant cloud. Separating different parts of Google (gmail, wave, etc) would still require that they all use that same cloud, wouldn't it?

Re:Breaking up companies (1)

drolli (522659) | about 4 years ago | (#31934156)

Especially because i seriously doubt the sense of breaking a company up. Normally they are broken up along divisions, not inside divisions, thus you have two companies who work together very well.

Break up MS into Office and OS and: nothing would change. Big Software vendors do not automagically create products for other os

Break up some telecom into ISP and pure telecommunications company and: They still mainly sell each others products

Break up google into data center operation and search engine: Still each would be the dominant customer/provider for the other.

And the Mobile Carriers? (5, Insightful)

ExploHD (888637) | about 4 years ago | (#31933406)

When are the mobile carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and so forth are going to be held to these anti-trust laws? They have a majority share in markets, have limited competition, and we're paying high costs for things as simple as texting.

Google gives their stuff away for free and I can go anywhere else to search for what I need. People need to figure out their priorities.

Re:And the Mobile Carriers? (2, Informative)

Sepodati (746220) | about 4 years ago | (#31933806)

AT&T has the highest market share at 28% according to a presentation I saw the other day. Where is the majority share you're talking about and who has it? Limited competition? There are several national carriers you can turn to as well as smaller rural services, depending on where you live. Or pay-as-you-go. Where's the limited competition?

Maybe you could prove collusion amongst the carriers to fix text message prices... Good luck with that.

John

Re:And the Mobile Carriers? (2, Insightful)

ExploHD (888637) | about 4 years ago | (#31934014)

According to a recent study [techcrunchies.com] , the top four (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-mobile) control 80%. They have limited competition by buying all the little carriers up. $200 termination fees per two year line doesn't really give anyone a chance to move and explore the competition.

The Business of Google (5, Informative)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | about 4 years ago | (#31933460)

So the first reaction is obvious: who's behind this? From the linked article:

Consumer Watchdog sent a letter to the DOJ Wednesday asking that the agency investigate Google for antitrust violations. "For most Americans -- indeed, for most people in the world -- Google is the gateway to the Internet," the letter said. "How it tweaks its proprietary search algorithms can ensure a business' success or doom it to failure."

...

Google has manipulated search and advertisement placement results to shut out potential competitors who counted on Google results to drive traffic to their sites, said Joseph Bial, a lawyer at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft who represents myTriggers.com and TradeComet.com. Both companies have filed antitrust lawsuits against Google alleging that the search giant shut out their attempts to advertise on Google.com.

Apparently, people who make a business out of gaming Google's algorithm. The very folks that muddy up searches with crap links to various questionable "offers", link farms, and johnny-come-lately web apps. And they're claiming Google has a bias in their search results? Do tell.

Granted - conspiracy theorists might find the possibility of other actors [techdirt.com] bing involved too hard to pass up. It does look intriguing. But I'm reminded of the whole Occam's Razor thing.

Re:The Business of Google (2)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 4 years ago | (#31934026)

Occam's razor doesn't mean that the simplest solution is always the correct one. It only means it's more likely. It also doesn't take into account market factors and all the complexities of corporate war.

Re:The Business of Google (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | about 4 years ago | (#31934208)

Don't get me wrong - if I were completely discounting the notion, I wouldn't include a link. It's definitely within the realm of possibility. I'm just not ready to call everyone in to the library to list out the clues and point an accusing finger.

Re:The Business of Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31934042)

Granted - conspiracy theorists might find the possibility of other actors [techdirt.com] bing involved too hard to pass up. It does look intriguing. But I'm reminded of the whole Occam's Razor thing.

Heh. Nicely done.

Ok, but.. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933520)

I want the judge to rule that the plaintiffs not be allowed to use any Google technology in building their case. Soon they'll find that between Yahoo and Bing they could find enough information to argue their way out of a paper bag.

The Peoples' Interest Should Come First (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933552)

Our political system has provided us with laws meant to limit the power of monopoly players in the interest of The People.

I realize there are many fans here of Google. And I agree that Google for the most part has been a good corporate citizen. But companies that become monopolies don't get special treatment just because they've been (mostly) good. And it's Google's monopoly power that will inevitably cause them to misbehave in the future.

Something should be done now to protect The People from even "good" companies like Google. The Common Good comes before any individual or corporation.

sounds great! (3, Insightful)

bugi (8479) | about 4 years ago | (#31933554)

Sure, sounds great, so long as we get to retroactively break up microsoft while we're at it.

Criticizing the dashboard (5, Informative)

sandyjensen (46158) | about 4 years ago | (#31933556)

The article criticizing the dashboard [consumerwatchdog.org] has already been slashdotted but (oh irony) it was in my chrome cache.

The group also said that the Dashboard, though useful, is not easy to find.

“If they want people to use this, why isn’t there a direct link from the home page?” asked Simpson. “In other contexts Google likes to say competition is one click away. They’ve buried the Dashboard. The extra password verification is a good security measure, but why can’t you get there with one click from a Dashboard link on the home page?”

The google dashboard is cleverly "buried" at google.com/dashboard

Navigating to it requires the user to select the "Settings => Google Account settings" dropdown at the top right of the page when you're logged in. Maybe I've been around computers for more than a few minutes and that gives me an advantage, but that felt like a pretty natural way to find this.

I agree that Google needs to take more steps to make user behavior anonymous, but at least they're honest about that [google.com] and have a means for providing dashboard feedback.

And FWIW I don't see anything in the Microsoft Online Privacy Statement [microsoft.com] about giving users a way to control their data. Nor in the Yahoo Privacy Center [yahoo.com] .

Maybe it's just too hard to find.

too big to fail (3, Insightful)

bugi (8479) | about 4 years ago | (#31933580)

Speaking of companies getting too big, what say a determination of "too big to fail" automatically gets it broken up? Too big to fail is not good for the economy, even if they got that way by being saints.

Re:too big to fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31934022)

"Too big to fail" doesn't actually exist.

Long story short (1)

unity100 (970058) | about 4 years ago | (#31933642)

"The private interests which use our companies as allies are annoyed with our incapability to subdue google, and therefore we are suing on behalf of them"

google was out of the traditional establishment and private interest parties. and on more than one occasion it pioneered the public awareness effort to thwart their plans to end that insolent freedoms on the internet. (the anti net neutrality bill proposal a few years back, warrantless private information request refusals, acta etc).

so basically, they werent able to subdue it. and now they are trying to do it through 'antitrust' bullshit. despite they have no complaints against at&t, comcast, microsoft, intel and so on.

considering how supreme court was staffed by private interest backed right wing judges by bush in his term, they may succeed.

or google may relocate to ireland or europe, totally fucking up everything for them.

"Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog" (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 4 years ago | (#31933726)

My foot it is.. Its their competition that is trying to stir stuff up.

Sure, it may be a valid concern, but when they hide behind fake 'watchdog' group names, you have to question the motivation.

Re:"Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31934256)

I filed a complaint with Consumer Watchdog about Consumer Watchdog. LOL

http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/complaints/

r

Success! (1)

istartedi (132515) | about 4 years ago | (#31933730)

Who was it that said, "You haven't really succeeded until the Department of Justice comes knocking on your door"? I seem to recall having read that back in the 90s, regarding Microsoft.

Anyway, congratulations Google. You've really made it now.

Re:Success! (1)

Microlith (54737) | about 4 years ago | (#31933780)

Thankfully, the DoJ isn't knocking on their door.

This is a Microsoft funded puppet whining about Google to the DoJ.

SOLUTION! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31933750)

DON'T USE GOOGLE!

Really. the solution is that simple. We don't need to (yet again) waste the courts time and our tax money for STUPID SHIT like this that boils down to 'they're big and that's scary'.

They don't have a monopoly on internet search or advertising. They have a monopoly on GOOD internet search and advertising. (and whos fault is that? oh wait. everyone. cuz we hated all the other companys useless search and flashy ad crap all over.)

There's plenty of competition. It just all sucks.

Why would you punish google for doing it right and NOT pissing off their customers? Duh? That's like... what we want! Good companys with a quality product that at least trys to do the right thing.

Rogerborg calls for Consumer Watchdog probe (0, Troll)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 4 years ago | (#31933924)

Noted anonymous Intartubes nobody Rogerborg today called for the Department of National Federal Executive Bureaucracy to investigate the funding and steering of alleged "advocacy group" Consumer Watchdog for possible Unclean Hands manipulation by Microsoft, the Gnomes of Zurich, and/or the Saucer People.

The real story behind consumer watchdog (4, Informative)

voss (52565) | about 4 years ago | (#31933946)

http://techrights.org/2009/05/04/consumer-watchdog-exposed/ [techrights.org]

Both it and its predecessor link back to grassroots.com.

"At Grassroots Enterprise, we combine the best of cutting-edge Internet technology with high-impact communications to build movements that make an impact.
  What does this mean, in plain English? In a nutshell, that means that we help clients:"

The question is who is the client????

How fair is THIS practice???? (1)

MadCow42 (243108) | about 4 years ago | (#31934044)

Google search for term "search engine".... results are:

1. Dogpile.com
2. Bing
3. Altavista
4. Wikipedia article on search engines
5. Google custom search engine (not the main google site)
6. Ask.com
7. Yahoo.com ... ...

29. Google.com :)

I call bullshit (1)

rivetgeek (977479) | about 4 years ago | (#31934064)

Google is ranking down competitors eh? Go ahead, google "search engine". Go ahead, I'll wait. What's the FIRST result? Bing.com. Case dismissed.

Supposing it's like it was with Microsoft... (1)

shimage (954282) | about 4 years ago | (#31934212)

even if they are convicted, nothing will happen? Besides, if my Backflip is any indication, Google's so-called monopoly is not worth very much.

How would they break them up... (1)

thestudio_bob (894258) | about 4 years ago | (#31934264)

I think they should be broken up by search terms. Let the "why am I itching" division take on the "lindsay lohan crotch shot" division. It's only fair.
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