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Google Accused of "Cooking" Search Results and Charging MSFT Too Much

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the piling-on dept.

Google 285

cozzbp writes "Google is being scrutinized by the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee for supposedly 'cooking' their search results. In an independent study comparing search results for products, Google Shopping consistently ranked 3rd. Eric Scmidt denied these accusations at a Senate hearing Wednesday." On top of all that, Microsoft is alleging that Google overcharges them as much as fifty-fold for advertising prices as compared to other buyers.

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285 comments

Google bla bla bla (-1, Offtopic)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475700)

And senate hearings on sports...

So good to see their priorities are in order...

Meanwhile we're still at war... with ourselves, it seems

Re:Google bla bla bla (2, Insightful)

mfh (56) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475762)

Meanwhile we're still at war... with ourselves, it seems

You know this certainly adds a new dimension to the phrase, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

The point is that when the USA is a continually devolving government that stands out by how often they trounce the rights and freedoms of the people they are corruptly guarding, well it certainly begs the question: when are they going to crumble from their own weight and stupidity?

Nobody shed a tear for the dinosaurs. Nobody will shed a tear for humanity.

Re:Google bla bla bla (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37475878)

Speak for yourself. I've never forgotten about the dinosaurs. I'm welling up right now in fact!

*sob*

Re:Google bla bla bla (0)

That Guy From Mrktng (2274712) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476154)

Nobody shed a tear for the dinosaurs. Nobody will shed a tear for USA.

FTFY and I don't agree, theres too many people that profi^h^h^h^supports your own weight and stupidity and nobody (excluding desk communist that think China is actually communism) would like to see China taking your spot.

The "crumble" is certainly a thing that you can't blame on anyone else but you, and a thing that can only be fixed by You. I know textbooks conditioned you all to thing that USA == the whole world, but lets get serious, you economy flops would piss in the face of a lot of people but the world as a whole will keep going on. I don't really think the next economic meltdown will cause the extinction of the human race (© 2001 Discovery Networks ), or am I missing something?

Re:Google bla bla bla (1, Flamebait)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476162)

Fortunately, the US is not the guardian of humanity.

Of course, given their nuclear arsenal, aliens arriving at Earth would assume they are in charge of wiping out humanity...

Re:Google bla bla bla (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476228)

'well it certainly begs the question:'

No, it doesn't.

Re:Google bla bla bla (1)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476244)

Not all dinosaurs became extinct , some adapted . The Ostrich , for example.
So, it's possible we don't become extinct , but simply adapt.

Why Is It The Government's Business?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37475736)

I don't know or care if these accusations about Google are true.
I think the more important question is why should the government care about how Google is running their search results. They are the dominant search engine, but there are other competitors in this space and other alternatives.

Yet another example of government pushing its nose into something it doesn't understand in the name of the public good.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (5, Informative)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475806)

I don't know or care if these accusations about Google are true.
I think the more important question is why should the government care about how Google is running their search results. They are the dominant search engine, but there are other competitors in this space and other alternatives.

Yet another example of government pushing its nose into something it doesn't understand in the name of the public good.

Several reasons.

If it results in false advertising, there can be a false advertising claim under the Lanham Act by a competitor or the FTC. unlikely in this kind of case, but Google has been investigated in the past for making money off of that kind of thing, and the same agency is doing the investigation here.

In addition, there's antitrust law. Merely having other competitors in the space doesn't mean that a company isn't violating antitrust law. The concern of antitrust law is protecting against anticompetitive use of a firm's market power in a way which reduces competition--in simple terms, doing this takes away from the total benefit that society obtains from the marketplace, because it results in the firm with market power artificially raising prices, meaning that the company demands more and produces less while people pay more for products the company would have been willing to produce for less had it not manipulated the marketplace--effectively, people lose the benefit that reflects the difference between the old price and the new price, and fewer people buy because it costs more, and the company doesn't gain as much as the consumers lose. So it's generally a net loss when a firm abuses market power.

Antitrust law doesn't always protect against monopolies, because it doesn't prevent people from using economies of scale or integrating their supply chain. It does, however, sometimes result in regulation even in markets that are or seem to be oligopolies.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (0)

El Capitaine (973850) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475936)

...because it results in the firm with market power artificially raising prices, meaning that the company demands more and produces less while people pay more for products the company would have been willing to produce for less had it not manipulated the marketplace--effectively, people lose the benefit that reflects the difference between the old price and the new price, and fewer people buy because it costs more, and the company doesn't gain as much as the consumers lose

...except for the fact that just about every Google service is free.

I can still see the possibility of antitrust violations here...but honestly it sounds more to me like jealousy on the part of these other companies. Feels like the Senate is just procrastinating on the bigger issues by having fun with Google.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (5, Insightful)

veganboyjosh (896761) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476008)

Friendly reminder:

Google's services aren't free. Gmail, Google Docs, Picasa, all the other "services" you're referring to aren't their services. Google sells advertising.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (-1)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476172)

Your nonsense argument is ridiculous. Services don't stop being services because they're ad supported. The viewer is paying with his attention rather than his dollars, which attention is then either used by Google for its own purposes or resold to willing buyers. The fact that it is a non-cash transaction does not make it any less of a service -- if Google was not being "compensated" by its users then why would it continue to offer the service?

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476280)

You are not the customer, you are the product.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476176)

Oh, just shut the fuck up.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476248)

Oh, just shut the fuck up.

If you run for Senate, I will vote for you. (He's right, but you'd be funnier in the Congressional Record.)

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (4, Informative)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476044)

...except for the fact that just about every Google service is free.

You are confusing their product with their customers. You, who use their free services, are not Google's customer. You are their product. They use their free search engine and other services to entice you into viewing pages. Otherwise, they could care less about you. Their customers are the ones who buy ad space on those pages that you view. Check out their prices; they are far from free.

They collect information about you (the product) and your actual or inferred buying habits to attempt to make their ad placements more relevant, so they can charge their customers even higher prices for them.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (2)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476278)

'Entice' might be a bit pejorative, but as you describe it, what possible law could Google have run afoul of? Even MS whining about being overcharged means SFA in this framework; the customer value is purely subjective. Kleenex, for example, should expect a different 'eyeball' rate than an obscure Scotch.

If MS get charged lots for queries like 'what is the shittiest OS', they might have a case. If they get charged a lot for eyeballs on 'viable mobile OS', well they are the obscure Scotch.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476050)

Well, for one thing, Google violated Clayton when it bought out it's next closest rival in its advertising business. And the competition was severely hurt as a result. I'm a bit shocked that nobody had the wherewithal to do something about it at the time.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (4, Insightful)

znerk (1162519) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475958)

This isn't antitrust. If you are using Google's services, then you have a choice immediately and obviously accessible; direct your browser to a different website. The Microsoft antitrust suits were more about them bundling IE with their OS, which forces the user to use it, even if it's only to download another browser. This activity, combined with the fact that it was incredibly difficult (some would say impossible) to purchase a PC at the time without a Windows(tm) license attached to it meant that they were leveraging their OS dominance to push their other software, which is how they got in trouble. If Google wants to link to Google services at the top of their search results, so be it. If Google wants to charge Microsoft one hundred million dollars for a single-line advertisement... hell, if Google wants to tell MSFT to go fly a kite, then so be it.

Last I checked, businesses were still able to define their own prices (in most cases), and to sell (or not sell) their products and services to whomever they want to.

Why should Google let MSFT advertise in the first place? This would be akin to a television station selling advertising space to a different television station.

Microsoft got slapped on the wrist for being a bully, and is now trying to be a tattletale and get the other kids in trouble.

--
"Sit them in the corner, mommy, they won't let me break their toys!"

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476082)

You do realize that you often times see advertisements for cable on satellite and advertisements for satellite on cable. Not to mention advertisements for shows on a different channel.

The reason why they should be forced to sell the ads at a fair rate is because advertising is heavily dependent upon audience, if you control 60% of the advertising space, then you have a significant advantage over the competition as you can place ads in places where others can't place them, and you have a much bigger pool of places to put ads where they're more likely to be seen by somebody interested in the service.

If the allegations prove to be true, this would pretty much necessitate Google be broken up or in some way be required to reduce it's influence on the market. Considering that Google still gets nearly all of its revenue from the ad business, I think it's something they should be very worried about.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (1)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476234)

You do realize that you often times see advertisements for cable on satellite and advertisements for satellite on cable. Not to mention advertisements for shows on a different channel.

The reason why they should be forced to sell the ads at a fair rate is because advertising is heavily dependent upon audience, if you control 60% of the advertising space, then you have a significant advantage over the competition as you can place ads in places where others can't place them, and you have a much bigger pool of places to put ads where they're more likely to be seen by somebody interested in the service.

If the allegations prove to be true, this would pretty much necessitate Google be broken up or in some way be required to reduce it's influence on the market. Considering that Google still gets nearly all of its revenue from the ad business, I think it's something they should be very worried about.

Advertising is sold by the network, not by the telecom provider. Comcast has absolutely no control over what ads a given station can display, so they have absolutely no way of filtering out ads for satellite services. You see ads for shows on other channels (rarely, but they do appear), yes, but do you ever see ads for the news broadcast on other channels? Primetime shows are very different from one another, and generally people are going to watch what people are going to watch. If ABC refuses to display ads for 30 Rock, all they're doing is missing out on delicious revenue when the alternative is pretty much displaying redundant ads for a show everybody already knows about... but ABC is being forced by no one to display ads for anybody in particular. They can turn away whatever advertisers they want for whatever reason.

If you control 60% of the advertising space, then you should be able to charge a premium to your direct competition (and anybody else for that matter). Microsoft is directly in competition with Google in almost every way, and Google should not be forced to be "fair". If Microsoft really wants to advertise on Google that bad, then they had better be ready to pony up and make it worth Google's handful of lost customers.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476242)

You do realize that you often times see advertisements for cable on satellite and advertisements for satellite on cable. Not to mention advertisements for shows on a different channel.

The reason why they should be forced to sell the ads at a fair rate is because advertising is heavily dependent upon audience, if you control 60% of the advertising space, then you have a significant advantage over the competition as you can place ads in places where others can't place them, and you have a much bigger pool of places to put ads where they're more likely to be seen by somebody interested in the service.

If the allegations prove to be true, this would pretty much necessitate Google be broken up or in some way be required to reduce it's influence on the market. Considering that Google still gets nearly all of its revenue from the ad business, I think it's something they should be very worried about.

I call troll - Google don't control advertising. Any more than they control PC manufacturers, television, or telecommunications.

Nice try - hope MS cuts your shill wages for failing.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (1)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476250)

You do realize that you often times see advertisements for cable on satellite and advertisements for satellite on cable. Not to mention advertisements for shows on a different channel.

And if you type "windows phone" or "operating system" or the like into Google web search then you get ads for Microsoft. So it's clear that they're not charging so much that they're preventing the competition from buying advertising.

Ad space is a finite commodity. Google is allowed to bid on it as much as anyone else. If they want the same keywords as Microsoft, Microsoft will have to outbid them. There is no functional difference between that and what Google is accused of doing, assuming that is not the exact cause of what Microsoft is complaining about.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (1)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476286)

You do realize that you often times see advertisements for cable on satellite and advertisements for satellite on cable. Not to mention advertisements for shows on a different channel.

You do realize that the majority of the time the satellite ads you see are injected at the network level, not at the cableco's local level. And cable ads are injected at the local affiliate level and not at the satellite co level. Right?

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (1)

JazzHarper (745403) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475998)

If there are alleged violations of the law, then it should be investigated by the appropriate enforcement agency. That is never the US Senate. The members of Congressional committees are neither qualified nor competent to perform investigations. Congressional hearings almost invariably interfere with proper investigation and enforcement. I am convinced that that is intentional.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476104)

Depends what they're planning to do. Congressional hearings are precisely the ones you want if the most likely fix involves changes to the laws. You can't really do that with the courts or regulatory agencies. And it may turn out that Google's behavior is technically legal, but nonetheless unacceptable.

Or at least you're not supposed to be able to, but SCOTUS tends to forget that it's supposed to declare things as constitutional or not, and in some cases weigh in on the interpretation of the law.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476296)

Depends what they're planning to do. Congressional hearings are precisely the ones you want if the most likely fix involves changes to the laws. You can't really do that with the courts or regulatory agencies. And it may turn out that Google's behavior is technically legal, but nonetheless unacceptable.

Or at least you're not supposed to be able to, but SCOTUS tends to forget that it's supposed to declare things as constitutional or not, and in some cases weigh in on the interpretation of the law.

Not necessarily true for antitrust. Antitrust law is almost entirely judge-made law, by design; Congress wanted it that way because it figured any attempt to legislate it would be bad--too hard to write the law to correctly apply antitrust theory to all cases, and each case would be different. So they just wrote a law prohibiting "restraint of trade," and theoretically every contract is in restraint of trade, but the DOJ and other agencies can only use it to go after people who engage in behavior which should be regulated under antitrust theory. Now it's possible Google or MSFT is lobbying for this to get a new statute written since their lobbying powers are MUCH greater than their influence over the courts, but this would be a *really* thin pretext for that sort of thing.

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (2, Interesting)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476320)

Are you familiar with the antitrust laws in this country? The laws don't include any details. This is pretty much the entirety of the statute prohibiting monopolies:

"Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony [and listing penalties]" (Sherman Act Section 2)

In other words, 'monopolies bad, you federal courts sort out what that means' -- and that's the way it has been ever since. There is a whole body of cases interpreting what that means. Congress has had nothing to do with it for something like a hundred years, through cases far more serious than whatever Google is accused of. What makes you think Congress is going to do anything different in this case, other than possibly the result of being induced by Microsoft campaign contributions?

Re:Why Is It The Government's Business?? (3)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476196)

Exactly and IF it turns out to be true I really don't see the difference between this and the moves that got MSFT busted in the 90s. in both cases you have dominance in one arena (desktops and search respectively) being used to power their way into another market (browsers and shopping) which I believe would be a big no no under antitrust.

I have been wondering though about how google shopping does seem to always be towards the top and it smells funny to me. I mean be honest folks, how many of you have EVER bought anything from Google shopping? How many of you use Google shopping as your "go to" place for web shopping? I know for me its Amazon, Newegg and Tigerdirect, and if I just want price comparisons i use pricegrabber. i don't think I've ever used Yahoo or Google shopping for anything.

So unless there is a shitload of noobs somewhere shopping like mad with Google shopping it just smells "off" to me, but that's why there is an investigation, to see if it is off or not. But I have plenty of customers that do online shopping as well and frankly I can't recall a single one saying "Oh I got this from Google shopping" or Yahoo shopping either. Everyone just uses Amazon.

This is the Government's Business because .. (4, Interesting)

microphage (2429016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475968)

Cause Microsoft is one of the biggest funders on Capitol Hill !!!

"Microsoft's chief Washington lobbyist has been convening regular meetings attended by the company's outside consultants that have become known by some beltway insiders as "screw Google" meetings ..

Microsoft is trying to harm Google in the regulatory, legal, and litigation arenas because they're having problems with Google in the competitive marketplace." link [dailyfinance.com]

Welcome Google, to the big boy leagues (5, Insightful)

zbobet2012 (1025836) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475738)

Where the competition will do literally anything, including tipping the ears of politicians with insanely expensive lobbyist to run you through the mud.

How can you not "cook"? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37475748)

All search algorithms are "Cooking" results. There is no God given search result set for any query. Microsoft is no saint when it comes to discriminatory pricing.

Senate should do something useful, such as looking into Troy Davis fiasco and the general and routine miscarriage of justice, and Microsoft should just keep their moth shut.

Re:How can you not "cook"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476034)

Microsoft should just keep their moth shut.

Aw shit, it's Robert Smith again isn't it.

Re:How can you not "cook"? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476354)

'There is no God given search result set for any query. '

There is no God given _anything_!

Meh. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37475766)

Schmidt's answers may not have satisfied "some senators," but Schmidt ultimately made Lee sound like an uninformed jackass during the Google Shopping line of questioning. Google may indeed be engaged in anti-competitive practices, but this hearing (which I enjoyed this afternoon live the C-SPAN XM channel) seemed merely to provide a stage for political posturing. If the evidence presented in the hearing were really the worst that Google was up to, I would be convinced they weren't "being evil" after all.

What you call optimize, they call cooking? (3, Insightful)

LWolenczak (10527) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475772)

I'd hate to say this, but company $A having an algorithm that might be tuned however they damn well please does not constitute cooking... unless, there is a master defined algorithm that every search provider must follow. Yes... I can see the goose-stepping algorithm enforcement brigades now.

Now, are we going to start with the "In Soviet America Jokes", or are we going to just define the algorithm Führer and get over with it?

Re:What you call optimize, they call cooking? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37475896)

I'd hate to say this, but company $A having an algorithm that might be tuned however they damn well please does not constitute cooking... unless, there is a master defined algorithm that every search provider must follow. Yes... I can see the goose-stepping algorithm enforcement brigades now.

Now, are we going to start with the "In Soviet America Jokes", or are we going to just define the algorithm Führer and get over with it?

No, no, no. This isn't Nazi Germany, this is America! We have algorithm czars !

Re:What you call optimize, they call cooking? (4, Insightful)

brusk (135896) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475908)

Your definition of cooking is not the only, or even most, reasonable one. Sure, a search company can devise whatever algorithm it wants, but I think people have come, rightly or wrongly, to expect a baseline of impartiality in results from Google. If we define "cooking" against that expectation, it could include any tweaking that biases for or against certain pages because of Google's other interests. Ranking their own services higher in the results than where they would appear if a single algorithm were applied across the board would then be "cooking."

The question of what to do about this is a separate one. I might, for example, decide that the best course of action is to publicize Google's actions so that users of their search will be aware of this bias. There's no need to leap from pointing the practice out to legislating a master algorithm.

No. this is not accurate (1, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475942)

Search is completely impossible to not have a bias. If it did so, it wouldn't be a search, it'd be a table of contents and also completely useless as a search. If they rank their own shit higher, well, that's their choice.

When you search for a microsoft KB article on bing, do you complain that it showed up ahead of other relevant results? no.

Re:No. this is not accurate (4, Insightful)

brusk (135896) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476028)

Search is completely impossible to not have a bias. If it did so, it wouldn't be a search, it'd be a table of contents and also completely useless as a search. If they rank their own shit higher, well, that's their choice.

Of course there's no purely objective search. But if Company A builds into their algorithm that their own pages will always appear among the first five results, for example, it seems perfectly sensible for a Company B to point that fact out and say "We never do that. We rank all pages on the basis of a formula that does not consider who provides a particular web page," it would be a selling point for at least some consumers.

Re:No. this is not accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476140)

"We never do that. We rank all pages on the basis of a formula that does not consider who provides a particular web page," it would be a selling point for at least some consumers.

I think the consumer does not really care about this because as long as get the information that they are looking for quickly they are happy. The problem here is Google ranking their online services results higher by leveraging their search monopoly and hence they would likely generate more traffics at the expense of other online services. I think this type of practice clearly unfair.

Re:No. this is not accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476188)

Google does not have a "search monopoly". Please come back when you know what "monopoly" means.

Re:No. this is not accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476322)

Thanks for the pointing that out. Instead of "search monopoly", I should have said "large market share"

Re:No. this is not accurate (3, Insightful)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476300)

Of course there's no purely objective search. But if Company A builds into their algorithm that their own pages will always appear among the first five results, for example, it seems perfectly sensible for a Company B to point that fact out and say "We never do that. We rank all pages on the basis of a formula that does not consider who provides a particular web page," it would be a selling point for at least some consumers.

Right. Selling point. Competition in the open market of search engines. What we're talking about here is the fact that the government is taking legal action against Google for whatever it is they might be doing.

Re:No. this is not accurate (5, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476332)

Search is completely impossible to not have a bias.

That is neither relevant nor interesting. A more interesting question is whether the bias is deliberate and targeted or not.

Here's a target practice analogy: When you shoot darts at a target, you won't get all darts in the bullseye. You might even find that your darts land more often in the lower half of the board. That's bias, and it's not deliberate.

Now suppose that a champion throws some darts, and his darts all land in the upper left corner of the board. That's bias too, but it's clearly deliberate and targeted. If moreover there's money riding on the game, and the champion was expected to win, then there's a case for cheating.

In both cases, it's completely impossible to not have bias, ie to hit the bullseye every single time always.

Re:No. this is not accurate (1)

Anthony Mouse (1927662) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476352)

I don't see how that would be a selling point for the consumers whatsoever. A single result being in a different place has no real negative impact on the consumer: If the consumer is actually looking for that result then it's a convenience, and if not then it is so utterly trivial to ignore it and go on to the next one that complaining about it is frivolous.

Re:What you call optimize, they call cooking? (1)

AftanGustur (7715) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476340)

Ranking their own services higher in the results than where they would appear if a single algorithm were applied across the board would then be "cooking."

I think microsoft usually refers to that practice as "compatibility"

I've been wondering..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37475780)

It's good to see the Senate is doing something, though. I was beginning to worry that they weren't doing anything. It may not be worthwhile, but at least it's something.

Re:I've been wondering..... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476084)

Nice to see that your tax money is not squandered on petty bickering leading to pointless laws that eventually just end up being circumvented.

Erh... waitasec...

Google being Anti-competitive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37475790)

I think there is clearly some truth to the anti-competitive behavior from Google here. I think it is clear that in many cases Google does favor its services over its competitors. This creates an unlevel playing field and definitely stifles innovation. However unlike the MS anti-competitive case, I think the line between being anti-competitive is blurry and in some instances it is very hard to pinpoint whether Google is purposely being anti-competitive or its one of the consequence of them changing their search algorithm all the time to combat SEOs. In the case of Yelp, I think it is very clear in my mind that they are leveraging their search engine monopoly to compete. The issue here is not whether the consumer has choice to switch to other service. The main issue here is that a company is leveraging its dominant position in one area (search) to leverage other areas (i.e. local commerce).

Re:Google being Anti-competitive (1)

znerk (1162519) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475898)

So, let me see if i understand you properly...

You're saying Google shouldn't be allowed to market its own products on its own web pages, hosted by its own servers?

Or are you just objecting to them dropping a link at the top of the page to the Google version of whatever product or service you happen to have searched for?

If you have an issue with using Google products, then... well... don't.

Problem solved, and I didn't even hit you with a surcharge. Have a nice day.

Re:Google being Anti-competitive (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37475992)

I think Google has every right to advertise their product on their own page so I don't mind them advertising at the top of the page or even on their home page, but I do have a problem with them ranking their own services higher in the search results and mixing it up with other results without clearly marking that they are giving their own results higher ranking. If they put up their services as 'ads' and then ranked them at the top of the results then that would be fine.

I don't have any problem with Google product as a consumer. I use them all the time (gmail, chrome, search, maps etc). The problem here is another new & upcoming business trying to compete in an online services and after some time Google creates a copy cat service (i.e. google locals vs Yelp) and mixes up the search results to favor their services without making that clear. As a consumer, you may think that does not effect you but this type of practice creates an environment where the playing field is not leveled and as a result new and innovative online services does not get a fair chance to compete. This will effect the consumer in the long run and it is the government job to come in the middle and analyze the situation.

I think you should read the Yelp transcript here (http://judiciary.senate.gov/pdf/11-9-21StoppelmanTestimony.pdf) and decide for yourself whether Google was being anti-competitive.

Re:Google being Anti-competitive (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476094)

I think what he objects to is Google "cooking" the results to rank its own subsidiaries higher than competitor. It's actually quite similar to the MS antitrust case, where they have been accused of using their market position to corner the browser market.

Google overcharges Microsoft? (1, Funny)

microphage (2429016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475812)

`On top of all that, Microsoft is alleging that Google overcharges them as much as fifty-fold for advertising prices as compared to other buyers', samzenpus

Take notice of the exact phrasiology eminating out of RedMond.

Google “shouldn’t be permitted to pursue practices that restrict others from innovating and offering competitive alternatives .. That’s what it’s doing now”, Jack Evans - Microsoft link [businessweek.com]

Re:Google overcharges Microsoft? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37475874)

They should follow Microsoft's example, and not overcharge anyone. And play fairly with all competitors. Oh, that's right, Microsoft is suing people for using Google's varient of Linux. And Microsoft is trying to get everyone to pay them for an OS they didn't make, and don't own.

Re:Google overcharges Microsoft? (1)

znerk (1162519) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475880)

... And here I thought it was going to be something along the lines of "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, for any reason" ; maybe with a healthy dose of IDFLY (I Don't F'ing Like You) fee.

Personally, I would charge Microsoft even more than Google has... "sorry, you're our competition; If you want to advertise with us, you'll need to pay the 'We don't like you' fee, the 'Microsoft sucks' fee, and a 'huh, thought you were the big boys' fee... for administrative purposes."

This is not anti-MSFT ranting, merely an observation of how I thought things worked (and if they don't, then I've got a civil suit against the local convenience store for throwing me out because I wasn't wearing shoes).

Re:Google overcharges Microsoft? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475948)

Things normally work that way, except when you're a monopoly in a certain area (hence why it didn't e.g. work back in 90s when Microsoft told OEMs that they'll be buying Windows licenses for all PCs they sell, or else they won't be selling any). Whether Google is a monopoly in online advertising or not is a different question.

Re:Google overcharges Microsoft? (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475966)

How much more is Full Retail then OEM, vs One of the many other MS licensing agreement choices (Like Select and Open)..

Yeah.. Hi Pot, quit yelling at the kettle..

Serious Business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37475818)

I thought Google was a business? Can't they charge what they want?

'Softies, time to call the WAAAAAmbulance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37475836)

What goes around comes around. The Redmond bullies are getting sand kicked in their faces.

The Google chairman was on a hot seat (5, Informative)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475854)

He failed to explain why Google results always came 3rd on product comparisons though.

The entire interview can be watched here [senate.gov].

Re:The Google chairman was on a hot seat (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476022)

I don't understand. What product comparisons? Based on what criteria? As far as I can tell, most of those studies were purely subjective assessments of what constituted good. Because if there was an objective assessment of search quality across an entire set of searches.... well, someone could build a better Google right and crush Google I'm its core area: search. But they don't.

I smell bullshit.

Re:The Google chairman was on a hot seat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476146)

As far as I can tell, most of those studies were purely subjective assessments of what constituted good.

If a vast majority of studies agree that something is good, doesn't that mean it's likely that that thing is in fact good?

Or would you argue that even if 99% agreed on a single point, because there was no objective standard, it must be wrong?

Re:The Google chairman was on a hot seat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476324)

Google's core area is search? Wrong, it's advertising.

Re:The Google chairman was on a hot seat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476038)

From the slide later in the presentation, he seems to be complaining about a block of product search results interspersed with web results.

Re:The Google chairman was on a hot seat (2, Insightful)

nbetcher (973062) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476152)

He failed to explain why Google results always came 3rd on product comparisons though.

The entire interview can be watched here [senate.gov].

Watching the section of the video you're referring to, he specifically answers that the reason they are third is because Google does a VERY good job at finding the ACTUAL product, versus (yet another) product comparison website. He states that if you were to use those other product comparison sites to find the same product, you will find they rank the product results (what website the product is ACTUALLY sold at) in their own method. Basically, Google does the best job, but doesn't make it the first link.

Say what you will, but I think we all know by now that Google tends to have the best search algorithms out there, mostly because they hire the best-of-the-best and because that is what the company was founded on.

Re:The Google chairman was on a hot seat (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476200)

I would like to see how Google's results compared to Amazon and other sites where you could actually buy the products. It sounds like when people search for a product Google is trying to find a place to actually buy the product.

And if the reverse were true.. (0)

Billlagr (931034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475862)

I'm sure that MS would provide a totally fair, unbiased, perfectly even playing field if Google were to advertise on Bing. But then..MS does need to make Bing profitable somehow..

Re:And if the reverse were true.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37475932)

"MS does need to make Bing profitable somehow.."

That ship has sailed.

Re:And if the reverse were true.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476112)

I'm sure that MS would provide a totally fair, unbiased, perfectly even playing field if Google were to advertise on Bing.

Irrelevant/Offtopic. Microsoft doesn't have a search monopoly, Google does.

Re:And if the reverse were true.. (0)

Billlagr (931034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476236)

Bullshit. There is more than one search provider. Granted one is dominant, but it does not have an absolute stranglehold on the service it provides. Anyone can choose not to use it. I haven't used Bing extensively, but when I have, it seems like a reasonable alternative.

Re:And if the reverse were true.. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476148)

Sure they did. After haggling for a decade, and when that didn't work so well, struggling and wiggling in an attempt to get out of the fines and not have to pay it, they even tried to whine at their big uncle, but it seems Uncle Sam didn't want to wage was with the EU over something like a Browser crisis.

So, essentially, I'd expect a decade to pass before Google has to rise its rear and change their algo. Which will have been changed a thousand times by then, and the war starts over.

Job security for lawyers.

Why is the being policed? (0)

il1019 (1068892) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475886)

Why is the being policed? Google doesn't have any requirement to be fair, do they? Who ever said the search results were unbiased? This just boggles my mind as to why this is even an issue - they are a private company. I think they should prioritize their links, it's in their best interest. I don't necessarily agree, but if you don't like it use a different search engine. No one's forcing you to use Google.

Re:Why is the being policed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476040)

Why is the being policed?

Because we are a country of laws.
 

Google doesn't have any requirement to be fair, do they?

They pretty much have a monopoly on search results. So, they can't abuse their position

 

Who ever said the search results were unbiased?

The Senator in the interview actually used a Larry Paige quote stating that Google objective was to be unbiased
 

This just boggles my mind as to why this is even an issue - they are a private company. I think they should prioritize their links, it's in their best interest. I don't necessarily agree, but if you don't like it use a different search engine. No one's forcing you to use Google.

And I believe that Microsoft had the right to screw over Netscape and that AT&T was fine to own pretty much own all telephone services. We aren't forced to use Google, but we use Google because it is the default choice on pretty much everything. The common user is not very smart. I've seen users using those malware search engines without any second thought. Yes, Microsoft is fighting and losing billions of dollars to try and be a player, but Google is fighting back by using its existing dominate position to prevent competition as opposed to winning via Marketing, Product Excellence etc...

Re:Why is the being policed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476080)

The last time I checked my stock purchases they were not a "private company" and we're very much publicly ran.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google
"..first incorporated as a privately held company on September 4, 1998, and its initial public offering followed on August 19, 2004..."

That said I see no harm in them providing free services and promoting them. As long as they are relevant they will stay relevant otherwise everyone can go use bing/yahoo, lycos or altavista for all I care, I certainty wouldn't have bought stock if I thought they were irrelevant though over priced.

Re:Why is the being policed? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476166)

The game changes its rules when a monopoly is in the play and it can be used to muscle into other markets with an unfair advantage. They could take over any online market they want to and there's very little anyone could do about it. Shoes, clothing, jewelry, you name it. People will search for those things and the first result takes them to a Google subsidiary.

Is that what you envision for free enterprise and free market?

Re:Why is the being policed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476204)

If that happened, then people would just quickly stop using Google since it's so simple to switch search engines.

Antitrust? (1)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475890)

FTA:

If true, the Microsoft allegations could be used to help the FTC build a case showing that Google abused its power as the owner of the world’s most popular search engine, violating the Sherman Act and other antitrust laws, said Andre Barlow, an antitrust lawyer at Doyle, Barlow & Mazard PLLC in Washington.

So if you're the most popular at something, you are suddenly held to higher standards?

I'm kind of confused here. Google may be the most popular advertiser right now but they're not the only one and certainly not the only successful one. How do they violate antitrust laws for charging various people/companies different rates? Couldn't Microsoft just as easily advertise elsewhere if they didn't like the pricing scheme? Sure it might not be as effective, but I'm not sure I like the idea that being "the best" means you aren't allowed to charge what you want.

That's not to say I support it.

Re:Antitrust? (0)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475960)

So if you're the most popular at something, you are suddenly held to higher standards?

Briefly speaking, yes, you are [wikipedia.org].

Re:Antitrust? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476046)

I don't have the feeling that Google has a >95% market share in advertising. Microsoft has (had) such kind of market share in desktop computer operating systems. That's a big difference.

As long as Google is not abusing search engine market share to muscle in on advertising market share or so, they can't be accused of leveraging a monopoly to gain advantage in another market, like MS did with the IE browser.

In how far they are allowed to exclude certain customers from their advertising offers, I have no idea. But I'd guess that'd only be an issue if they have a monopoly in that market - in that case one could argue that they use an advertising monopoly to gain unfair advantage over certain competitors. Yet I think Google is pretty far from having anything near a monopoly in online advertising.

Re:Antitrust? (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476178)

But that's exactly what they are accused of. The bickering is over Google ranking its subsidiaries higher than competing services, essentially using their market position as a search engine to gain an edge in other markets.

Think MS and IE. Do you think anyone would use that stinker if it wasn't bundled with the most used OS on the planet?

Re:Antitrust? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476256)

But that's exactly what they are accused of. The bickering is over Google ranking its subsidiaries higher than competing services, essentially using their market position as a search engine to gain an edge in other markets.

Do they have a monopoly in search? Their market share is big, many people will argue that they have a monopoly of course, but do they really? When does one qualify for monopoly status?

Think MS and IE. Do you think anyone would use that stinker if it wasn't bundled with the most used OS on the planet?

It was gaining quickly on Netscape before it was bundled already. At the time IE was considered by most to be the better browser, and as such it was gaining market share. Fair enough: let the better browser win. And then indeed MS started to bundle it in Windows. Including calling it an integral component that can not be separated.

Nowadays we have Firefox; back in the day we had Netscape 4.7 trying to compete with IE5.5 and later IE6. Having those proprietary extensions in IE that were used happily by more and more website designers didn't help Netscape much of course. IE6 was when it was released simply the best offering out there.

I think it's just been a stupid move (in hindsight at least) by MS. Without the bundling there still would have been a great chance for IE to kill Netscape. After all most people buy computers with software pre-installed; that includes an OS (usually Windows) and basic utility software such as a browser. Netscape was the one that was added by most, but with IE winning popularity likely the computer builders would have switched to providing IE instead. In effect almost the same as bundling, but without the anti-trust issues.

my irony meter just blew (0)

microphage (2429016) | more than 2 years ago | (#37475920)

"Google is being scrutinized by the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee for supposedly "cooking" their search results"

Are these accusations coming from the same source that scrapes Google search results and posts it as their own?

`Mr. Singhal posted a detailed post on Google's official blog describing how the company came to the conclusion that Bing was copying the Google search engine .. Google wants to compete with "algorithms built on core innovation, and not on recycled search results from a competitor"' link [wsj.com]

link [cnn.com]
link [groklaw.net]

Re:my irony meter just blew (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476074)

I know you couldn't be bothered to research, but taking user data from a toolbar and using it to facilitate long-tail searches isn't 'recycling competitors results'. Google engineers made a lot of noise, and the media lapped it up. A _tiny_ bit of research, and you'd avoid looking like another mass media Lemming.

Absolute stupidity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37475940)

Duh. What are web search results if not pure opinion? "Here are a million websites, give me the ones you think are most relevant to query X". If Google programs its search engine to return website A before website B, that's totally their right. If you don't like it, use Bing -- it's not like Google is a monopoly, especially in the states. The same applies to the advertising complaint: if you don't like that Google hates your guts, buy your advertising from somebody else since you aren't exactly short on choices -- I hear Yahoo! might have special prices just for you.

Reparations for IE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476042)

It's about time someone charged Microsoft for all the wasted time fixing websites for Internet Explorer!

Reparations for IE (1)

mikeytag (1835928) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476054)

It's about time someone charged Microsoft for all the wasted time and resources spent fixing websites for Internet Explorer!

Re:Reparations for IE (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476098)

"It's about time someone charged Microsoft for all the wasted time and resources spent fixing websites for Internet Explorer!"

No please Mike. Think of the children [saveie6.com]?

Pot meet Kettle, Black? (4, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476090)

I don't see Bing advertising Google nor Microsoft advertising Linux. It took many, many years and literally millions of dollars in fines for them to simply remove Windows Media Center from EU versions of Windows.

I think Google has explained before how part of their algorithm works - if the site is faster, it's higher ranked. Since Google -> Google crawling is probably in the sub 10ms delay range, it will be higher ranked.

Google does not have a monopoly, get over it already.

Beyond Reasonable Doubt (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476170)

Google for years has mandated their 15-minute refresh of Google News on browsers that "are not supported".

Ergo, the "hit"resutls of web sites favorable to Google are highly doubious, and in fact absurd.

Google follows M$ playbook to the letter and even better than M$ could ever execute because William B. Gates II is an idiot.

PS.

We need to trak the cash from the Solyndra and other Green Techs that got money. Basically, the money from the FED was in part diverted as cash into the offshore bank accounts of Barak Hussein Obama II and "Call me Joe" Bieden among others of the White House Staff. Ergo, the function of Solyndra was to act as a money laundering scheme for Obama and Phutsy Friends.

LoL Bernackie Baby

Are you kidding me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476198)

Google is a company. A company in a position to to control massive amounts of information. No one is denying these things. However, has EVERYBODY who uses the Internet forgot the phrase, "buyer beware"? What Google provides is not IN STONE, the end all be all for whatever you're looking for! It's one if they're doing anti-competitive behavior w/ regard to who they're doing money to money business with in their searches, but it's something else to claim because of their position, they must be doing something shady. It's the phreaking INTERNET people! BUYER BEWARE!!!

HEY MSFT! USE YOUR STUPID BING! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37476208)

If MSFT wants to advertise whatever on the net, go use that stupid Bing (or bong or whatever the hell it was). If MSFT was any good, they wouldn't need to buy anything from Google. As for charging... MSFT has overcharged people billions for years for the same product over and over and over. At least Google offers value for money. Everything MSFT peddles is crap!

Schmidt before Congress. (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476270)

I watched the whole committee session. Schmidt did reasonably well. Susan Creighton, a lawyer from Wilson Sonsini speaking for Google, not so much.

The chart showing Google Shopping almost always in the #3 position in organic results was interesting, and weird. I look forward to seeing more details on that in the SEO blogs.

Schmidt had a painful time replying to questions about Google's active encouragement of offshore pharmacy ads. [projo.com] He refused to say much. Part of the plea deal is that Google can't deny in public statements what they admitted in writing in their plea bargain. (If they do, the plea bargain is off and DOJ takes them to court on criminal charges.) So Schmidt can't claim Google did nothing wrong. He could have been more apologetic, though.

Susan Creighton had a rough time. Google pays Apple $100 million a year or so to be the default search engine on the iPhone. She was asked about that, and tried hard to evade answering the question, which was put to her several times before a grudging admission that Google paid Apple for that. That's a real antitrust issue - buying your way into a new market when you're #1 in a related market doesn't go over well.

Next the Senate is examing The Rolling Stones (1)

Demonoid-Penguin (1669014) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476338)

Group had monopoly on popular music and controlled the musical preferences of millions of people alleged George Michaels - The Stones cooked their musical influences and gave preference to R&B whined Rick Astley and Wham. Today the Senate interviewed Keith Richards who failed to explain why drum machines didn't feature more prominently in his music. Expect new laws to be passed to protect [insert music production company name here] from unfair market monopolies by popular musicians. (don't worry about the deficit morons, watch more television, get fat, drink more beer - this is your wage earner's tax dollars at work)

Next week the Senate will be investigating Chinese claims that NASA controlled the space race, and unfairly denied Chinese companies manufacturing contracts for the Space Shuttle.

P.S. There's a lot of jobs currently available for market researchers needed to interview people about their views about how Google is evil...

Not to piss on anyone's parade... (2)

idbeholda (2405958) | more than 2 years ago | (#37476344)

But doesn't it stand to reason that a search engine would have its OWN results towards the top anyways? I think it also stands to reason that they WOULD charge a direct competitor more in the first place. I also find it a bit ironic that Microsoft would complain about price gouging when they have been known to charge upwards of $150 for an operating system.
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