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Texas Opens Inquiry Into Google Search Rankings

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the when-governments-attack dept.

Google 178

Hugh Pickens writes "The AP reports that Texas' attorney general, Greg Abbott, has opened an anti-trust investigation against Google spurred by complaints that the company has abused its power as the Internet's dominant search engine. The review appears to be focused on whether Google is manipulating its search results to stifle competition. European regulators already have been investigating complaints alleging that Google has been favoring its own services in its results instead of rival websites and several lawsuits have also been filed in the US that have alleged Google's search formula is biased. However Google believes Abbott is the first state attorney general to open an antitrust review into the issue."

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When you can't compete, sue... (2, Funny)

Cheech Wizard (698728) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474238)

When you can't compete in a market, sue... That's the ticket!

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (5, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474314)

This is a politician looking for attention, not a competitor trying not to compete.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

martyngold (1893758) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475124)

Google has never caused me any problems. Maybe cause I am not a FatCat siting at the top competing with the big boys. I have been promoting London Escorts [babylongirls.co.uk] for a while now and it has never suffered much. Re-indexing and link building gets on my nerves though. It's like every site owner has to sit in front of their PC all day long building links to compete. Thats the only downside about Google. The other is Google maps, it's a really great idea but most listings are fake.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475312)

You are even promoting it today.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (2, Insightful)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475432)

It's like every site owner has to sit in front of their PC all day long building links to compete

The good websites don't have this problem, they get links because people like them, and link to them. If you have to spend all day building links, maybe you should look at your website's content/service first. That could be where the problem lies.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (2, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474344)

More like "When you can't fix the real problems plaguing your shitty state, distract attention by opening up a pointless investigation on a very well known, big company."

I'd be 100% in favor of Google opening up their own investigation of Texas. Start with the Texas revolution. That was questionable.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474618)

More like "When you can't fix the real problems plaguing your shitty state, distract attention by opening up a pointless investigation on a very well known, big company."

I'd be 100% in favor of Google opening up their own investigation of Texas. Start with the Texas revolution. That was questionable.

Aw hey-yull, we got us a 'nuther gawl-durn librul try'n his durndest to bash the GREAT STATE OF TEXAS! Whadya think we're all idjits down here? Betcha you're from back east sum whur...DAM YANKEES! When Dubya's presdent agin, we're a commin fer ya!

Meantime, awl y'all can KISS MY GRITS!!!

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

Pikoro (844299) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474760)

hey!! "kiss my grits" was from ohio! :)

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

Pikoro (844299) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474774)

bad form replying to your own post.. sorry... Arizona.. not Ohio.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474994)

Bad form referring to yourself as "you" when replying to yourself.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475186)

They don't even know what grits are in Ohio.

Try somewhere south of the Mason Dixon line...

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474640)

When you can't fix the real problems plaguing your shitty state, distract attention by opening up a pointless investigation on a very well known, big company.

Strange, I would expect to see the AG of the failed state of California to be opening this kind of investigations then, not Texas which is doing pretty well these days.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474866)

But as the state's budget shortfall widens-to as much as $18 billion, or about 20% of the next two-year budget, according to the state legislature's latest analysis released earlier this month-critics are complaining that Mr. Perry's policies have left the state with little room to reduce spending.

From the WSJ's article on Texas's massive budget deficity, which is substantially larger than California's.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475068)

In itself, a budget deficit isn't a bad thing. It's a problem for the state government, but it may be a good thing for the state economy in the long run because it forces the state has to cut spending which it should be doing anyway. While all the states are feeling the recession, Texas unemployment rate is substantially lower than California's (8% v. 13%) and its economy is the strongest of any state (http://www.cnbc.com/id/37516041/) by a variety of measures including GDP growth. Btw I don't live in Texas, I live in Nevada which is the worst state in the nation by most measures thanks to our beloved communist senator Harry Reid.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474888)

it has a 1.3billons$ deficits, 34.08billion$ debt, rising unemployment and rising criminality

To me this is not doing well

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475202)

> To me this is not doing well

Try having a less infantile approach to the facts.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475276)

Strange, I would expect to see the AG of the failed state of California to be opening this kind of investigations then, not Texas which is doing pretty well these days.

Kind of sounds like you're saying the pot is not black because the kettle is also black. Anyway, the California budget may be absurd, but I blame that on the voters who decided, shortsightedly, that there was probably no reason taxes should ever go up, so it should be impossible to raise them when revenue goes down, costs go up, and you can't cut all the fat immediately.

Texas, however, I don't know who to blame. Of the states, they have the second highest percentage of their population locked up in prison. They're one of the states at the forefront of "Hey, lets not teach science in schools."

Both California and Texas have their problems, but I find myself a little more understanding of California's problems.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (5, Interesting)

tomhath (637240) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474360)

Google has hinted pretty strongly that Microsoft is behind these lawsuits [blogspot.com] . That wouldn't surprise me. My guess is that the real goal here is to force Google to make their ranking algorithm public.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474554)

Doesn't matter who it is, the reality is that Google should never have been allowed to grow so large via acquisitions. It still blows my mind that the DoJ didn't see any problems with them buying out their nearest competitor in the online advertisement space, when they were already number one. While I doubt this suit in particular has merit, it's almost assured that Google isn't as not evil as they'd like us to believe.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474608)

beyond your comment being hilariously without any facts, the reality is that google didn't grow large via acquisitions. They grew large through sheer marketshare.

MS grew large through acquisitions. Bing yahoo deal? Yeah, okay.

Bing would be at about 1% had it not been for that and bing cashback.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474730)

DOJ does not care as long as there is still competition, and there is, you would know this if you looked around other places for once

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474990)

Don't never use no double negatives!

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475010)

Which would be fairly ironic considering how Bing's search results were strongly suspected of being altered when it first began (remember the Linux-related searches?).

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1, Redundant)

wagadog (545179) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475206)

Google's ranking algorithm *is* public. Read Amy Langville's book, "Google's PageRank and Beyond."

What isn't public is how the values of certain thresholds are determined to, for example, weed out link farms and add small statistical variations to the link adjacency matrix so that it can be more easily solved. These are determined heuristically -- trial and error, in essence.

The devil is in the details, but who cares -- search indexes are easy enough to build and even easier to filter and skew.

Google is just flattering itself by pretending there's something big and complicated beyond the linear algebra and statistics we all studied freshman or sophomore year in engineering school behind this.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33475400)

Google is just flattering itself by pretending there's something big and complicated beyond the linear algebra and statistics we all studied freshman or sophomore year in engineering school behind this.

Hardly. They're convincing investors to back them, potential competitors to stay out of the way and consumers to keep using their services. All very real achievements and far far more significant than just "flattering itself".

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475440)

Page rank is actually only one of several systems used in deciding the ordering of the results. Pagerank could not account for the grouping of links from one site (including hiding any after the first two or three), nor for the search history based re-ordering, etc.

Granted those other ranking systems are also certainly not very complex, almost certainly less so than pagerank. Similarly, how the various ranking systems are combined is probably quite trivial.

That said, the exact details are not published, quite intentionally, so as to avoid people gaming the system.

However, I don't see any unfair action on Google's part. If I search for image search, Google's comes up first, but I'm not surprised, Google's is the most popular. The other two major search engines are in the top six, so they are hardly buried. A search for news brings up Google as the third result, but the rest of the results in the main page are the major news sites. The sites do seem sorted in approximate order of popularity. Yahoo and Bing's news aggregator are not on the first page, because they are not very popular. (Most people using Yahoo News are just using the news stories on a Yahoo home page, and I've never heard of anybody using Bing News).

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474576)

I don't get it. I don't see any biased result: when I google it [google.com] .

In all seriousness, their algorithm works based on how many people look for something. Sometimes I use the search bar on my Firefox to look for Google (instead of using the URL bar). In any case, I'm not very surprised by the results of this search [google.com] anyways. Neither from these results [bing.com] although I find interesting that bing doesn't show up in their own search! Of course the latter are very similar to Yahoo's results [yahoo.com] . But even Yahoo promotes itself and Google (see the "Also try:")

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475468)

Yahoo's web search is powered by Bing, which explains the extreme similarity between the two.

I do find it absurd that Altavista (which was the best engine before Google thanks to it's advanced boolean search) ranks higher than Google in Bing results. Nobody uses altavista anymore.

Re:When you can't compete, sue... (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474744)

From the same state that was so critical of frivolous lawsuits and keeps trying to weasel creationism into science textbooks.

I'd wear getting sued by Texas as a badge of honor.

unexpected? (1)

deetoy (1576145) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474240)

Did anybody not expect this would eventually happen? Do no evil. meh.

Re:unexpected? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474256)

The investigation is completely frivolous. Even if the allegations are true, there is no antitrust violation.

Re:unexpected? (2, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474562)

Um, no, if the allegations are true, that would be a blatant violation of antitrust regulation. You're not allowed to use your dominant position in such a way. It's harmful to competition and definitely does cause problems for the market.

Re:unexpected? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474802)

Huh? How does it break anti-trust laws?

Google doesn't have a monopoly. Switching to Bing, Yahoo or whatever takes a few seconds - there's no lock-in, no barriers, nothing forcing you to search with google. If you don't like it you can go somewhere else.

I repeat ... market share alone doesn't make a monopoly. You have to engage in monopolistic practices - something which is almost impossible for a search engine.

"no lock-in"? See 15 U.S.C.A. 1 (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33475222)

You can't use an Android phone without a GMail account http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/android/thread?tid=22aadb7bd265418a&hl=en [google.com] .

The term for that is "tying arrangement" (http://www.answers.com/topic/tying-arrangement [answers.com] ) and ... tying arrangements are regulated by the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the Clayton (anti-trust) Act (15 U.S.C.A. 14)).

Re:"no lock-in"? See 15 U.S.C.A. 1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33475466)

No, you can't use Android without a GOOGLE account. They just automatically give you a GMail account with it.

Re:unexpected? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474582)

Who cares, use another search engine if you'd like. I know that sounds like a cop out but you really do have choices. Browsing the web is not like a buying a physical device or like the "tie in" that some physical devices have (like Apple). With an internet search, you can change with nothing more than typing the URL of another search engine and you're done. Plus, you can still use Google and avoid their own results by adding "-site:google.com" to the end of your search.

Re:unexpected? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474604)

Do no evil. meh.

Yeah, that's the same reaction I just had when I discovered google's homepage animation spikes my cpu
this is the best advertising opportunity bing will ever get

It's only natural.. (2, Interesting)

david_bandel (909002) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474242)

It's a very simple, easy to obfuscate (cover up) search results manipulation that could quite easily make a multi-hundred millions dollar difference for the company. Why on Earth would Google, if it could (and it can) NOT do something like this? Just look at their support of Chinese communism and ask yourself if the company is above doing anything for a buck.

There's no solution (5, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474286)

It's a very simple, easy to obfuscate (cover up) search results manipulation that could quite easily make a multi-hundred millions dollar difference for the company

Two alternatives: you either let them do it or you force them to publish their ranking algorithms.

If page rank were public, there would be no search engines worth using. The whole internet is bad enough with spam as it is.

Better let Google do their stuff, it's not as if they were keeping others from posting their own search results. I started using Google when they started giving me better results than Altavista, which was the search "monopoly" back then.

Re:There's no solution (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474318)

I remember Altavista. Horrible results.

Re:There's no solution (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474422)

It was better (and certainly faster) than anything before - but I don't think it was quite ready for prime time. At the end their results seemed have serious issues with it. Actually, I don't think Google is that great either - I cannot filter out all "add your own review" from the various sites. This is probably due to Google actually *not* manually altering the search results (although they have seemed to get better).

Altavista will probably always be remembered as the one that started the search engine wars for real. And Google as the winner - for now.

Re:There's no solution (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474470)

Actually, I don't think Google is that great either - I cannot filter out all "add your own review" from the various sites

The worst thing about Google for me is that too many results aren't what you get when you click the link.

There are many sites selling technical and scientific papers that send the full text to Google but when I go there all I get is an abstract and a "click to buy" button.

Re:There's no solution (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474586)

Indeed, probably my biggest complaint is that there's a tendency for the first page or so to be links to other search engines. Beyond that the way they went about things makes it fast, but it causes all sorts of headaches. Like searching for free software, tends to require quite a bit of work as it will by default not be smart enough to recognize that free downloads as in shareware and trialware are probably not what the person doing the searching is wanting. And additionally by default if it finds the words anywhere in the page that's considered good enough, when most people are probably wanting them to be at least somewhat near each other.

I have a feeling that perhaps Google has long since grown stagnant in that portion of their business and perhaps by virtue of being stagnant and very large is harming the search engine business. Not in an antitrust violating sort of way, but just harming it simply by being.

Re:There's no solution (1)

popeye44 (929152) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475194)

-shareware +freeware -trial I usually get great results. Good Googling isn't too hard with their excellent filtering via commands. I've had pretty good luck finding free software.

Re:There's no solution (1)

davek (18465) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474684)

I remember Altavista. Horrible results.

Not true. AltaVista is now the only remaining engine to publish link data, after MS pulled the plug on backlink results from yahoo [seomoz.org] as one of the steps toward the site's dissolution in favor of Bing. Who knows how long it will last, but it's there now.

Observe the backlinks to a recent slashdot story [altavista.com] .

Re:There's no solution (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475048)

Check your Google search preferences. Also, the meta-search I use does that by default. That does not make the results any better.

Re:There's no solution (2, Interesting)

MBC1977 (978793) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474716)

It may become moot anyway; Google's exclusive license to the Pagerank algorithm expires in 2011. And while I suspect they will throw a chunk of money at Stanford to re-license the technology,
I could honestly see several potential alternatives:

(1) Microsoft and / or Yahoo paying Stanford NOT to grant Google a new, exclusive license.

(2) Stanford (in the interest of advancing technology) NOT granting Google a new, exclusive license.

or (3) any number of various governments (to include the U.S. government) wringing some sort of concessions (let your imagination wonder about this one...)

Re:There's no solution (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474766)

Two alternatives: you either let them do it or you force them to publish their ranking algorithms.

Two alternatives: you either enforce the law or you don't.

I'm not saying that Google did break the law, but I am saying that your or anybody else's consideration of practical results of either action should have no bearings on the issue at all. If the law causes bad consequences, then that law should be changed, not applied selectively.

Re:It's only natural.. (1)

Chakra5 (1417951) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474832)

Support of Chinese Communism?? You say that like the point of Googles foray into the Chinese search market was all about a political goal. It had nothing what-so-ever to do with supporting communism or the Chinese government and to make that statement is blatantly off the mark. Say what you will about the 'deal with the devil' inherent in that bit of business, and there are certainly two sides to be made, but manipulation of political ideology as the motive for the whole thing is a totally unsupportable claim. Or do you have some info there that needs to come out?

More on this... (5, Informative)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474248)

Search Neutrality under attack [namemon.com]

As originally posted on Search Engine Land [searchengineland.com] , These allegations are merely exploratory and it is difficult to determine exactly where the GA's office is headed in this investigation, or how Texas could claim jurisdiction. All the lawsuits in question are being raised by non-Texas corporations and against a California-based company.

Yesterday, Google responded to the investigation [blogspot.com] , which has not been made public yet by the General Attorney's office. In it's response, Google states that they "listen carefully to people's concerns" and " we strongly believe our business practices reflect our commitment to build great products for the benefit of users everywhere". To some extent this sounds like the usual play from Google, invoking it's "do no evil" mantra.

Does Google manipulate results to thwart competitors and advance its own businesses? Some competitors to Google are concerned that the company lowers search results listings for certain firms and/or charging higher fees ads they place vs those of Google's partners.

Google has never revealed its search or ranking methodology for sites in detail, though it has published some papers on optimization and best practices.

Google's reply on a Friday night after business hours on the biggest 3-day summer weekend of the year is sure to draw little attention.

Re:More on this... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474324)

Figures - Foundem are just as paranoid and delusional as the teabaggers currently infesting Texas. By the end of next week, I'm sure the AG will be convinced it's all a liberal plot to indoctrinate the children, or something equally profound and/or retarded.

Re:More on this... (5, Interesting)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474420)

If Google is listing its own products above those of their competitors, they're doing a pretty shitty job. Doing a google search for "search engine" gets me a wiki, an aggregator site, Altavista, Bing and then Google ;-)

The first news result is about Google facing some sort of Texas AG inquiry though...

Re:More on this... (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474550)

That's nothing; I did a web search for "how do I search the web" and Google wasn't even on the first page. They need to improve their services so they can help people who need to find a search engine or how to search the web.

They do alright (1)

anguirus.x (1463871) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474650)

When I google Google google.com is the first result, followed by 9 more Google sites! And on the right hand side of the screen is an ad saying "MAKE GOOGLE YOUR HOMEPAGE NOW YOU CODDYFOPPED WHELP!!" and on the right hand side are some links to even more Google products and services!!! And then in tiny little letters below everything is "oh yeah, here's a bunch of other search sites" and in even smaller letters (you have to magnify the screen to see it): "hackonlybitchesusebingcoughsneeze". Man, Google is so evil.

Re:More on this... (1)

Cl1mh4224rd (265427) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475114)

If Google is listing its own products above those of their competitors, they're doing a pretty shitty job. Doing a google search for "search engine" gets me a wiki, an aggregator site, Altavista, Bing and then Google ;-)

Bing came up as a sponsored link on my results. Google itself didn't even appear until page 4.

Re:More on this... (1)

r7 (409657) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475142)

Google not only prioritizes its own services it also provides "priority placement" to its direct customers. Ever notice how often paid services like springersource and experts-exchange rank high in search results despite only being available to paying customers?

Re:More on this... (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475274)

Having google come up as the first google result is of no benefit to google. Searching for "email" or "video" or "calender" have google results at the top, but even then it's not really self-promotion, because a google search is a search of google as well as the web, since it would be pretty ridiculous to have a separate search box.

Test It (1)

anguirus.x (1463871) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474578)

Does Google manipulate results to thwart competitors and advance its own businesses? Some competitors to Google are concerned that the company lowers search results listings for certain firms and/or charging higher fees ads they place vs those of Google's partners.

Maybe. You said they have published whitepapers. If you had access to certain stats you could simulate an internet environment and see how pages ranked according to the best practices in those papers. If they match up, more or less, with what Google serves up you then have an indication they are implementing those best practices.

more gov't spending (-1, Offtopic)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474250)

Yes, let's have a government investigating an on-line search engine, who clearly charges too much for its services, and clearly the market is suffering from such an outrage.

Yes, there is no other competition to Google, no Yahoos, no Microsofts, no Altavistas, no region specific services like Yandex, no Mamma search, etc.

Yes, the barrier to entry into search engine field is stifled by Google clearly, clearly it is impossible to write your own crawler/spider to index the web and then to rank your findings in any way your prefer.

Clearly the government is spending more money to be very productive, obviously, as Krugman said a couple of days ago on a radio program: we need to have the government hiring people to dig ditches and hiring people to fill those ditches as well, that is the engine of economic recovery, the government spending and regulations, and all other ways government battles the private sector and redirects resources from private sector to public by (as an example) artificially setting very low interest rates, so that the banks borrow from the gov't at low rates and then lend back to the gov't by buying t-bills to make the spread.

How about investigating the GOVERNMENT for actually ILLEGALLY DESTROYING COMPETITION BY SETTING INSANELY LOW INTEREST RATES WHEN MARKET CLEARLY WOULD PRICE THEM MUCH MUCH MUCH HIGHER?

Yeah, but that would require actual ability to think and to understand basic economics and to realize that government spending and stimulus and bailouts and printing and borrowing and taxing and regulating and subsidizing while can lead to a short term gain in GDP numbers, actually in reality DESTROYS the market by displacing resources that instead could be used productively by private companies, LIKE GOOGLE to create new ideas, businesses and opportunities that ACTUALLY HELP ECONOMY.

I fucking hate the governments and everything that they stand for because they are the reason economy is failing and everybody's quality of life suffers because of their 'work'.

Re:more gov't spending (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474842)

That's not off-topic, that's just an inconvenient truth.

Uh...it's free... (3, Insightful)

Das Auge (597142) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474260)

Texas, why am I not surprised?

People are going to draw parallels between Google and Microsoft or Intel. However, I need to point out that unlike the later two, Google's services are free to the end user. Not only that, but it's also monumentally easier to stop using Google than say, Microsoft.

I don't know if Google is doing what they're accused of, but so what? It's free, I'm not locked in, and they never said that they were impartial (so no false advertisement).

Re:Uh...it's free... (2, Informative)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474426)

Antitrust violations tend to be abuse of a monopoly position to prevent competitors from entering or gaining traction in a market.

Considering that Google isn't really even a monopoly, this doesn't have merit as an actual case.

Re:Uh...it's free... (3, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474622)

Um, why on Earth was this modded informative, because it's wrong. You don't have to be a monopoly to run afoul of antitrust regulations. Being the largest player and using that dominant position to harm other competitors is sufficient. There is no rule that you have to a be a monopoly, I'm not sure where you got that idea from, but it's not correct.

As an easy to explain example, the deal that saw Google acquire Double click almost certainly ran afoul of the Clayton Antitrust Act in that it substantially reduced the market competition in the on line advertising space. That's just an example, but it pretty clearly demonstrates that being a monopoly isn't necessary for running afoul of antitrust regulations.

Re:Uh...it's free... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474826)

Nope completely wrong. You can have 99.999% market share and not be a monopoly.

It only takes you about ten seconds to switch to a different search provider, if you use google it's from free choice.

the deal that saw Google acquire Double click almost certainly ran afoul of the Clayton Antitrust Act in that it substantially reduced the market competition in the on line advertising space

What does that have to do with this?

Re:Uh...it's free... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474914)

Nope completely wrong. You can have 99.999% market share and not be a monopoly.

It only takes you about ten seconds to switch to a different search provider, if you use google it's from free choice.

Under your definition of monopoly pretty much only government-enforced monopolies would qualify (and of course, they would not be against the law). After all, IBM were never the only makers of mainframes and buying a Microsoft operating system was never an absolutely unavoidable decision (Apple had computers on retail sale throughout the 90s) - yet still both those companies managed to lose anti-trust lawsuits. Abuse of a strong market position is what matters to the law, not quibbling over the word "monopoly".

Also, consider what is being discussed here. Businesses don't have the ability to reach out to potential customers who are searching for things on the web and say to them "don't use Google, they are biased". They don't have a free choice to avoid any (alleged, hypothetical etc) Google bias from affecting their customers.

Re:Uh...it's free... (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475262)

>> Nope completely wrong. You can have 99.999% market share and not be a monopoly.
>>
>> It only takes you about ten seconds to switch to a different search provider, if you use google it's from free choice.
>
> Under your definition of monopoly pretty much only government-enforced monopolies would qualify (and of course, they would ...or Microsoft. ...or Standard Oil.

Although the definition is about power to distort the market, not numbers.

Where is Google's power to distort the market?

The fact that Google sells a perfect commodity (unlike Microsoft) greatly underminds their ability to distort the market.

Re:Uh...it's free... (1)

mounthood (993037) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475008)

It only takes you about ten seconds to switch to a different search provider, if you use google it's from free choice.

You've fallen victim to one of the classic libertarian blunders!* Other people's choices affect your options. You don't get to select what you want; you get to choose an option that enough other people also choose. So if few people buy Oldsmobile, they go out of business, and you can't buy an Oldsmobile. If they are pushed out of the market by a dominant or monopoly competitor, it isn't even other people deciding what should succeed, much less you as an individual.

*The most famous is "Never get involved in a land war in asia" but only slightly less well known is "Never argue with a Libertarian when Online!"

Re:Uh...it's free... (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475286)

>> It only takes you about ten seconds to switch to a different search provider, if you use google it's from free choice.
>
> You've fallen victim to one of the classic libertarian blunders!* Other people's choices affect your options. You don't get to

Not at all.

A car is a commodity. There is a very large barrier to new entrants. However, there is
nothing stopping a new one coming into the market. You personally will have no problems
switching to a new player as soon as they enter the market.

That's a far cry from something that needs special Ford branded gas or special Ford branded roads.

Anyone can (and do) compete with Coke or Campbell's or even Electronic Arts.

It's the burden of those trying to declare Google a monopoly to come up with some rationale that makes some sense for this. How exactly is Google in a position to abuse the market? How are you personally trapped? How is anyone else. What's the opportunity cost of avoiding Google? is that too high to be reasonable? (probably not)

Re:Uh...it's free... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33475318)

Mod parent down, he doesn't know what the fuck he is talking about.

Re:Uh...it's free... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474976)

Just as importantly, Google is a business, not a regulated public service. This isn't water or sewer. So what if they bias search results. There are other search engines available if folks don't like their rankings.

Re:Uh...it's free... (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474666)

Google's services are free to the end user.

Free as in beer, not free as in Privacy.
Many people think that Privacy has no value.
If you ask people about privacy, many will state that it is something to treasure. However just as many are willing to hand it over to others. Privacy is not like Open Source. You can not share it.

Re:Uh...it's free... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474886)

I suspect the GM dealership down the street is biased against toyotas.

Re:Uh...it's free... (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474892)

Texas, why am I not surprised?

Why are you not surprised?

it's also monumentally easier to stop using Google than say, Microsoft

I would say that it's easier to stop using Microsoft. There are numerous free and non-free alternatives. Google, however, has become the de-facto premiere search engine.

Anyone who wants to prevent inclusion in the Google search index is basically ignoring a significant portion of web users.

It's easy to see that Google puts their resources at the top of search results for related terms. Here are a few to illustrate:

The list goes on and on. If there's a Google service related to what you're looking for, google will be first on the list. In some cases, google is the first three places on the list.

Indeed (4, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474262)

I also noticed this: Always when I enter search terms in Google, I always get Google search results. Not a single time did I get results from Bing or Altavista. :-)

Re:Indeed (2, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474564)

I know, they're so biased, even though they have that empty "do no evil" mantra. If they really wanted to be fair, they'd submit your search request to a randomly selected search engine out of all those available. I don't see how this would be a problem, and it would end their abusive monopoly position. But of course they won't do that, not unless we throw the book at 'em.

Choice (1)

eXlin (1634545) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474274)

Google might be abusing it's power but what we really do need is real choice.

We have basically bing and google and every other search site have licenced their engines.

I personally am not really happy about bing and there seems to be no true alternative for google. I welcome more competition into search engine market.

How DARE they!! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474308)

An advertisiment service company advertising it's own company on it's own services!

Why that's.... downright logical! Sue them! Quick! Before it catches on!

Re:How DARE they!! (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474636)

If it's the case, then it would be a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act as a violation of the "rule of reason" as in anybody even without an economics or legal degree could see that a search engine with a 2/3 share of searches putting it's products higher in the rankings artificially is anti-competitive. But IANAL so I may have confounded the particular origin of that rule with a different act.

more & more dark water daze ahead (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474342)

it's all in the manuals. what is becoming interesting is discovering just who authored them. just like bad fiction, & now science, &/or total fiction. much remains to be accounted for/revealed on both sides of the expansive 'grey' area.

meanwhile (& by unprecedented evile's reckoning, a longer while than most of us will be here); in their never ending greed/fear/ego based compulsion to replace history; the corepirate nazi illuminati is always hunting that patch of red on almost everyones' neck. if they cannot find yours (greed, fear ego etc...) then you can go starve. that's their (slippery/slimy) 'platform' now. see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisocial_personality_disorder

never a better time to consult with/trust in our creators. the lights are coming up rapidly all over now. see you there?

greed, fear & ego (in any order) are unprecedented evile's primary weapons. those, along with deception & coercion, helps most of us remain (unwittingly?) dependent on its' life0cidal hired goons' agenda. most of our dwindling resources are being squandered on the 'wars', & continuation of the billionerrors stock markup FraUD/pyramid schemes. nobody ever mentions the real long term costs of those debacles in both life & any notion of prosperity for us, or our children. not to mention the abuse of the consciences of those of us who still have one, & the terminal damage to our atmosphere (see also: manufactured 'weather', hot etc...). see you on the other side of it? the lights are coming up all over now. the fairytail is winding down now. let your conscience be your guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. we now have some choices. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on your brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

"The current rate of extinction is around 10 to 100 times the usual background level, and has been elevated above the background level since the Pleistocene. The current extinction rate is more rapid than in any other extinction event in earth history, and 50% of species could be extinct by the end of this century. While the role of humans is unclear in the longer-term extinction pattern, it is clear that factors such as deforestation, habitat destruction, hunting, the introduction of non-native species, pollution and climate change have reduced biodiversity profoundly.' (wiki)

"I think the bottom line is, what kind of a world do you want to leave for your children," Andrew Smith, a professor in the Arizona State University School of Life Sciences, said in a telephone interview. "How impoverished we would be if we lost 25 percent of the world's mammals," said Smith, one of more than 100 co-authors of the report. "Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live," added Julia Marton-Lefevre, IUCN director general. "We must now set clear targets for the future to reverse this trend to ensure that our enduring legacy is not to wipe out many of our closest relatives."--

"The wealth of the universe is for me. Every thing is explicable and practical for me .... I am defeated all the time; yet to victory I am born." --emerson

no need to confuse 'religion' with being a spiritual being. our soul purpose here is to care for one another. failing that, we're simply passing through (excess baggage) being distracted/consumed by the guaranteed to fail illusionary trappings of man'kind'. & recently (about 10,000 years ago) it was determined that hoarding & excess by a few, resulted in negative consequences for all.

consult with/trust in your creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." )one does not need to agree whois in charge to grasp the notion that there may be some assistance available to us(

boeing, boeing, gone.
 

Cue exploding Europhile heads (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474358)

If TEXAS does it, it must be E-V-I-L.

But European governments are doing it too?!?!?

But it's oh-so-wonderful Google!!!

OH NOES!!!! SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT TO THINK!!!!

Re:Cue exploding Europhile heads (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474530)

"If TEXAS does it, it must be E-V-I-L."

Not really, but their track record is not so good, especially regarding justice.

"But European governments are doing it too?!?!?"

Yes, and even though they do weird things, they do have a better track record.

"But it's oh-so-wonderful Google!!!"

Google has been very nice up till now, but strength tends to be abused. We should be vigilant without necessarily harming Google.

"OH NOES!!!! SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT TO THINK!!!!"

We should take a very good look at Google from time to time. The Texas attorney general is, however, probably the least competent person to do so.

I've looked up the attorney general and this part gave away what he's after:

"Defending Tort Reform

Texas has been recognized among the best in the nation at attracting new businesses and recruiting new medical personnel due to the state’s successful tort reforms. General Abbott has successfully defended legal challenges to Texas’s tort reform laws helping create a stable environment to attract new businesses and create new jobs."

This guy is not after Google to help the little man for certain. Actually, there is evil in Texas, and I might just have found a part of it.

Texas? (3, Funny)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474408)

What's the problem? Google keeps on raking pages from Wikipedia higher than Conservapedia? I agree, that must be an anti-competitive conspiracy!

Re:Texas? (1)

KamuZ (127113) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475002)

I just search for Convervapedia... it's not a joke...

"...An encyclopaedia with articles written from a conservative viewpoint."

Some of the top results are about Obama and Homosexuality...

mod 0p (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474412)

than a fraction work 7hat you or chair, return which don't use the

Greatness must be achieved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474452)

Search on google "search engine" and you get the following

http://www.google.co.za/#hl=en&source=hp&q=search+engine&aq=f&aqi=g10&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&fp=59f7cdf3c54fdd53

Your first hit is bing, the only google references are news sites

Search that same term on bing and you get

http://www.bing.com/search?q=search+engine&go=&form=QBLH

Google is 6th on that list, and bing references *itself* as the 7th on that list.

Whose really deserving of a lawsuit here?

Is google a government or free market monopoly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474454)

Of course google has minipulated their search results. They are a company operating in the market. If you want more competition, they what we need is an investigation into the privileges that google receives from the government. These privileges may give google an unfair advantage with respect to other search engines. I'm not a proponent of intellectual property, but if google is allowed to infringe it while other companies are not then they have an advantage.

You may ask yourself the question whether the government and google have a natural tendency to collude together. These type of monopolies are also called government monopolies and are relatively stable with respect to free market monopolies. Take for example the banking cartel or monopoly. I can imagine that the government would like to lay its hands on the information that google has, and in return google would like to maintain it's market position using government granted privileges.

So, I would say, that an investigation by the government about the a possible monopoly position of google is nonsense. Any collusion of the government with google will never be investigated. Anyway, I as long as google's youtube is still hosting the following clips, I would say that google is relatively ok: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P772Eb63qIY

Biased? Who? (4, Insightful)

owlstead (636356) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474460)

I think we should start an inquiry about bias with Texas attorneys, not Google. It seems that they are too embedded in the old boys network to have anything to do with justice.

Look at the companies that file complaints: three companies that anyone would rather filter out than in. Seems to me that these aren't the companies that warrant the investigation. So I've got a very strong feeling this other company is behind it.

For me, this is just a big ploy to get to the page-rank algorithm. It would not be hard to leak it when the investigation starts for real.

ROFL (1)

Letalis001 (1697068) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474498)

'Texas' is just mad that people like Jerry Springer can quickly and easily find morons to populate the chairs on his stage so that he can make 'Texas' look bad. I mean after all, Google has been the dominant search engine for people who actually want to find something relevant for the last 10 years. I figure if 'Texas' is sad about it hurting their image. they need to use Yahoo. Because as we all know, Yahoo has been a worthless search engine since its inception. :)

Google sez this is the first? (2, Funny)

elmarkitse (816597) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474506)

"However Google believes Abbott is the first state attorney general to open an antitrust review into the issue." Did they used Google search to determine this?

why are we re-inventing the bush-blair blight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33474526)

tony calls george simple minded then agees that iran should be nuked later today. bad history gets even worse? that's a real gooed question/stuff that really matters, butt it's also fodder for the mindless phlamethrower majority. the cost (in innocent lives etc...) of the 'head in the sand' position at this time is absolutely immeasurable.

Never heard about the complaining sites. (5, Informative)

lalena (1221394) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474592)

From the article:

Harrison said that Abbott has asked Google for information about several companies, including: Foundem, an online shopping comparison site in Britain; SourceTool, which runs an e-commerce site catering to businesses; and MyTriggers, another shopping comparison site

Never heard of any of these sites. I Google shopping comparison, and I get the well known comparison sites I expect to see at the top. I do not get MyTriggers.

So I go to the MyTriggers site itself to check it out. At first, I didn't think they even had merchant site reviews. Then I realized they do, but may of the sites have not been reviewed yet. Only 2 reviews for Target? 12 for Amazon?

Whois search reveals the site was registered in 2005. Not bad, but if they have been around for 5 years I should have heard about them by now. Also, their domain registration reveals that they renew their domain every year. Google gives better ranking to sites that pay for many years at once, since that shows they owners have faith if their company. Basic SEO fail.

Quick investigation reveals that the company also owns ShopBig - one of those penny auction sites. I hate these sites and the way they operate. The MyTriggers site is hardcoded to show a big ad link to ShopBig on every page. Aren't they in fact doing the same thing they accuse Google of. They don't give other penny auction sites a chance to advertise there or appear on their search result rankings.

Let's pick on another site. TFA says that SourceTool is a e-commerce site catering to business, but the title on the home page says "SourceTool - A B2B Search Engine". If I Google B2B Search Engine, they are number 2 in the results. If I Google e-commerce for business they do not appear. The word commerce doesn't appear on their home page. So what are they? SEO Fail.

In the end, the site is a search engine for companies that sell to businesses. Since they have a medical category, and the company I work for is #1 in several categories for medical devices, I decide to see if they are listed. After waiting a full minute for the medical page to load, they are not. They don't even have the proper category for my company. Just to be sure I click on company profiles A-Z to see if I can find my company. It shows all companies starting with the #1. and a button for next page. No simple button to show companies that start with letter X. Do I have to click Next 50 times? They have a search box on this screen, but if I use it I get a 404 error.

I wasn't going to review Foundem at first since they are based in the UK and I don't live there. Google should be smart enough to lower their site on my search simply because that site applies less to me. Still I look anyway. They use the less popular .co.uk domain suffix - Google doesn't like this as much. Also, this time there really aren't any merchant rankings. They do have a Google bash on their home page with a link to SearchNeutrality.org - a site they also own.

I think the real complaint from these companies is the fact that shopping.Google.com results are now always shown on the search results page if Google thinks you are searching for a product - Something Bing did first. This pretty much destroys the business model for many companies. If Google thinks I am trying to purchase something, should they send me to a site that can't sell me the product? Should they send me to another site where I have to do 4 more clicks to get to a list of merchants and prices for the product I am looking for. If Google guesses wrong, should they show me a list of shopping sites on the first page when I really want a product review? I think the way Google handles shopping results is the best way for me, and they are in the business of satisfying my needs. This is still search.

Re:Never heard about the complaining sites. (1)

anguirus.x (1463871) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474626)

Hear hear! This is exactly it. Google does not appear to be manipulating search results. I get good results, and what I'm looking for. I'm not an SEO engineer, but I would presume that 'unique visitors' would be a criterion for a site's ranking. From what the parent describes these sites are probably flagged as non-functional or something of the like, and sorted to the bottom of the rankings. Or they ought to be.

Re:Never heard about the complaining sites. (1)

TheoMurpse (729043) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474794)

Never heard of any of these sites. I Google shopping comparison, and I get the well known comparison sites I expect to see at the top. I do not get MyTriggers.

While I agree with you, to be fair, perhaps you haven't heard about the sites because Google manipulates search results? I'm just pointing out that your logic does not follow. Correlation, causation, and all that. I know /.ers care a whole lot about that kind of thing, being (by and large) scientists.

Re:Never heard about the complaining sites. (5, Funny)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474850)

Gentlemen, if I may direct your attention here - you'll notice a rare individual of the species criticus cogitans, as he strives to bring rationality to the discussion. Notice the sincere effort to evaluate the content of "The Fucking Article" (as the natives call it), even going so far as to actually investigate the validity of the claims reported in TFA. Notice, also, how he was not able to write his post quickly enough to have it anywhere near the top of the page (the most desired location for this, and many other, internet tribes), and thus has been muscled out of the pecking (and modding) order by those members of his tribe who were able to more quickly spit out a generic response representing their previously held ideologies, as applied to this topic (monopolies/government-regulation/competitiveness).
 
Truly, gentlemen, we are observing evolution in action, as this individual will receive less recognition for their efforts than their fellows, precisely because of his desire to exercise his critical thinking abilities. Over time we will be able to observe as lalena (1221394) becomes more and more frustrated with being unable to communicate his ideas to his tribe and be rewarded (this community uses a source of nourishment called "mod points"), until he either dies (see the number of inactive/dead 5-digit or less UID for evidence of this), or must adapt his posting style to cater to the whims of masses, just in the hopes of striking a chord with moderator who holds to a similar ideology. I, myself, was gifted by the tribal leaders with a handful of these mod points, to dole out as I see fit. Unfortunately, I appear to have used them all up on the previous article on Craigslist and prostitution.

tl;dr: Mod Parent Up!!

Suddenly governments hate Google (1)

ElMiguel (117685) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474632)

It seems that lately we've seen a lot more government types looking for something they can use against Google. I wonder if they're trying to pressure Google into "voluntarily" cooperating with intelligence and law enforcement agencies. No doubt Google's information gathering capabilities would be extremely useful to them.

Google "search" (3, Informative)

whoop (194) | more than 4 years ago | (#33474980)

I just Googled, "search" and Google was at number seven. Bing was at the top. Using "search engine" and Google isn't even on the first three pages (I got bored after that). So clearly, Google isn't exercising it's monopoly powers very well.

P.S. I would Google for "Google" but I didn't want to break the Internets.

Re:Google "search" (1)

pyrosine (1787666) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475062)

Indeed, live.com (which isnt even a search engine) is the result before google

Honestly.. (1)

pyrosine (1787666) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475052)

.. I dont care whether the results are biased or not, as long as i find what i want. In fact, this is likely the view of any person not in the search engine market so for an attorney general who is meant to serve their state (the state being populated and controlled by those people), shows corruption at some part of the process

Corporate Rights (1)

anorlunda (311253) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475244)

It really upsets me to see how popular it is for Attorney Generals to abuse their powers to feather their political beds. I suppose it was started by Elliot Spitzer's great success at the tactic. We need a way to check their powers.

Might the Citizens United decision point the way? In that decision, the justices said that corporations are people with respect to first amendment rights. What about fourth amendment rights about unreasonable search and seizure? It seems that one of the primary forms of government abuse these days is to demand that corporations cough up all sorts of information at the drop of a hat in support of a so-called "investigation."

Without fourth amendment rights, government orders, subpoenas, regulations, and statue laws are not required to be "reasonable."

Half a Brain... (1)

Derosian (943622) | more than 4 years ago | (#33475362)

It never occurred to anybody that someone USING Google wouldn't want results from a competitors page. Sure when I search Microsoft I want the Microsoft page and I know I'm gonna get it. More often though, I am happier with what search results I get with Google, if I wasn't I would switch search engines. This feels like suing Mcdonalds for only serving Mcdonalds food, obviously a big anti-trust deal there. *insert rolling of eyes*
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