back to article Why the Google antitrust complaint is not about Microsoft

Google should spend an afternoon with Shivaun and Adam Raff, the two very real people behind a recent EU antitrust complaint against its web search monopoly. To meet the pair - co-founders of the British price comparison site Foundem - is to know you would never describe them as Microsoft mouthpieces. They're computer scientists …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    How about this

    MS opens the PC market by allowing OEMs to sell PC with no OS or with a non-Windows OS.

    In response, Google will open up search results.

    Sauce, goose, gander.

    If anyone needs beaten (again) with the anti-trust stick; it's MS.

    1. Jason 50
      FAIL

      Get a clue...

      Did you realize that OEM's do not HAVE to use Microsoft's OS? They tried with Linux for a bit but no one was buying. Why would the OEM's want to shelve products that have such a low purchase rate? This is simple business sense.

      As the title says, get a clue.

    2. Rob Moir

      Did you read the article?

      Did you read the article or are you hard of thinking?

      You've just suggested that google punish people other than Microsoft because of a spat between Google and Microsoft.

    3. herry

      And

      what do you call this?

      http://www.dell.com/content/topics/segtopic.aspx/linux_3x?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Flame

        Re: Get a clue...

        "Did you realize that OEM's do not HAVE to use Microsoft's OS?"

        Sure they don't: shipping something else, are we? How about paying full OEM price rather than that special price we were giving you before? You know, the one everyone else pays when they're only shipping Windows.

        Get a clue yourself, preferably one involving Microsoft's lobbying for computers to only ever be shipped with *their* operating system because of "teh piratz". One which also imparts knowledge about how corporations aren't the squeaky-clean entities of fairness you seem to think they are might also come in handy, as well.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        @Jason 50

        I've got more of a clue than you it seems. MS ensured that there was no real marketing of the non-Windows OS machines and that they were on crippled hardware. MS ensured that the sale of Linux units was a failure so they could continue to strong-arm the OEMs.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        @herry

        I call that a tactic by MS to ensure that the sale of Linux units is a complete failure. It's ONE crappy netbook. AND you have to already know about it in order to find it.

        This, of course, does not address the fact that OEMs can't sell PCs without an OS. I'd go for that as an option, but MS won't allow it. High time the regulators brought them to book.

        Hard.

      4. Chemist

        Re : Get a clue.

        Selling to those that want without ANY OS was an option mentioned above.

        (In fact easier by far to build your own)

  2. jake Silver badge

    Whatever.

    Both google & microsoft are persona non grata around these parts.

  3. Richard Jones 1

    Oxygen of Publicity

    An interesting article thank you.

    The following comments in no way attack the foundation of the complaint which may validly address issues over restricted choice and anti competitive behaviour.

    However, while I had never heard of Foundem before the complaint was posted, I have poor experiences with most 'price comparison' and 'product finding sites'. For legal reasons, no names, but I have found these sites useless.

    When searching I want suppliers who can supply my need not pages of 'no hopes'. Negative experience means I now ignore such sites could others have had the same experiences?

  4. Peter D'Hoye
    Dead Vulture

    MapQuest sucks

    "Google Maps' rise at the expense of former market leader MapQuest is well-documented, and the filing argues it would be unwise to say this can be attributed to the superior design of Google's mapping service"

    Oh come on... I was a MapQuest fan and regular user, and the day Google Maps came along, I didn't hesitate to switch at once.

    MapQuest development was 0 (zero). The interface was old and slow. And the Google Maps showed up: easy to enter addresses, dragable routes,... MapQuest lost because of their own faults.

  5. Paul_Murphy

    Just tried mapquest.

    Not as good as google maps at least. Aerial and street level photography entirely missing for my neck of the woods, just a simple comparison shows that it doesn't fulfill my primary aim.

    Mapquest does look better for route planning, but I have a sat-nav for that.

    I might start using ask.com again and see how I get on, maybe it's time to start balancing my search engine use.

    ttfn

  6. ml100
    Stop

    Isnt Google a business?

    Surely they can do whatever the hell they want with search rankings?

    If we as consumers of Googles search disagree with unfair or irrelevant results then we have the freedom to go Bing/Yahoo! to our hearts content. Google isnt the only search in town and theres no obstacle to anyone choosing to "search" instead of Google for information.

    EU regulators should mind their business and get back to worrying about agricultural quotas.

    1. Rodrigo Rollan
      Stop

      I was wondering somthing along those lines

      As I read the article one thing kept ringing in my head: is there any actual law they are breaking by punting their (or their paying customers) products ? A good example would be: let's sue any of the major TV networks for showing lame products instead of good ones. Trash-food instead of healthy food. Expensive , polluting cars instead of green ones, etc.Let's face it: They are showing other results , only displaying their offer above others. I honestly think there is no way of contesting this.

      Obliviously ,there is no such thing as neutrality when their revenue comes from ads. They punt their Adsense customers over more relevant results because that's what they pay for. If people are predictable and choose the first results they can only be charged of playing the human nature card. It's like any commercial: they highlight the good things about a product, quietly omitting the bad things. Can you imagine if Marketing/Sales/Publicity agencies had to actually say everything good and bad about a product ? Now that's a law i´d like to see passed.

      Don't get me wrong: I am scared senseless of Google's power. They can pretty much rewrite history if they commit to do it ! Just pointing out that this is not the way to catch them with their pants down.......

    2. Nuno

      Yes and No

      From a user point of view, Yes, you can start using another search engine. From a business point of view, No, you cannot reach your customers if you don't show up in their search results.

      And since Google has a huge search quota, as microsoft in the OS world, they should be forced to respect fairness rules.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Do you feel the same way about Microsoft?

      After all, IE isn't the only browser, and there's no obstacle to anyone choosing to use Firefox or Chrome instead of IE?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      If they weren't a...

      ...monopoly, you'd pretty much be right. But once a company is a monopoly (or an effective monopoly) they have to obey certain rules and regulations. A classic example is MS (and the morons who don't understand why Apple does not face the same sanctions).

      MS and Google are both [effective] monopolies. They both need regulated (and hard) for the good of consumers, competition and global free trade.

      1. paulc
        Linux

        keeping Apple alive

        people need to realise that Microsoft kept Apple alive purely so they can point to Apple and say, "Look, there's Apple, we're not a monopoly"...

        http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/cyberspace/july-dec97/apple_8-6.html

        http://www.pcworld.com/article/5161/microsoftapple_deal_may_be_mostly_a_political_move.html

    5. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      There is something illegal

      It is called abusing a monopoly position. Competition laws the world over deal with this. Google have managed (for various reasons, including a very clever set of algorithms, and a lot of luck) have managed to dominate the world of search. If they use that dominant position to prevent competition in other areas where they are essentially a start-up; then that is illegal.

      Microsoft ran foul of this by including browsers and media players in a dominant position OS. You can choose to use another OS, but Microsoft have close to a monopoly position, so have to follow different rules. Note that Apple are allowed to bundle a browser, as are Red Hat. It is just Microsoft that can't.

      Google have been very effective at using their dominant position in search to squeeze out other apps. This is almost certainly anti-competitive, and if there is justice in this world, they will get found against in this or some similar actions. Whether that happens since Google are still considered "darlings of the tech world" whereas people consider Microsoft to be the evil empire. Personally, I think of it the other way around. Microsoft haven't taken a land grab of vast amounts of my personal data; and haven't stolen the entire world's books; and a bunch of other stuff.

    6. Mark 65
      FAIL

      Re:Isnt Google a business?

      I think you'll find that EU rules are constructed exactly to prevent this kind of bullshit. You have a monopoly, fine but you must play fairly and punting your own services as valid search results always in the top 5 doesn't cut it.

      "EU regulators should mind their business and get back to worrying about agricultural quotas."

      You really ought to get a clue mate. If it operates within the EU's borders it's subject to their regulations. Don't like it? Then stop operating there and using Ireland as a tax haven whilst you're at it.

      Do No Evil? Bullshit!

    7. Mark 65

      and whilst I'm at it

      "Google isnt the only search in town"

      A bit like Microsoft isn't the only OS in town, but it does have a monopoly and it does seem to come bundled with an awful lot of things don't you think? Firefox, iphone etc.

  7. John Lilburne

    Google thieves!

    Yesterday I discovered that a Google search for:

    hardman tewkesbury

    has as its links to take the geodata feed from flickr and pipe it directly into Google maps and Google earth overlay the images. Except that feed was only relevant for a sort period of time. Yesterday if you clicked the links it took you to Lisieux in France some 300 miles from Tewkesbury. What Google are doing is simple using the feed to draw people into their own apps.

    I'm currently removing geodata from flickr (1200 entries yesterday). Which is annoying as I know of at least Local Government sites that were using the data legitimately and a couple of United Nations sites too. Also the flickr maps application is lessened as many of the images were of things at the locations you'll not find elsewhere on the web let alone on maps.

    1. Notas Badoff

      Take that! and that! Owwww, I hurted myself (and others)

      Maybe I'm reading your comment wrong. Are you saying that, because Google is using your information also, and you *don't* *like* *that*, that you are going to take it away from them... and the local government, and the users, that you were previously benefitting?

      So... tell me, why did you do that work to begin with? (Could you be forgetting something you started with, like good motivations?)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eh?

    > "Google should not discriminate - at all - not even in favor[sic] of Google's own services," she continues, accusing Google of using completely different algorithms to rank results for its own services. The complaint also argues that when Google inserts its own services, it should clearly label them - just as it labels advertising on its search engine.

    Wait, so they shouldn't discriminate from their own services to anything else, but they should highlight their own services as theirs by using one of the most well known brands in the internet? I'll wager Google would love to put a little Google image next to all of their offerings in the search results, would make it much easier for us to find it!

    While they might have a point, they don't seem to know what to do about it.

  9. Desktop Mobile

    Capitalism

    So there you have it.

    A publicly listed company that has to act in the best interest of it share holders by law has found to be doing just that.

    I am not a Google fan just never bought into the Don't be evil or we are not Microsoft as it always seemed to me.

    Microsoft=Google=Apple=(Insert name of large multi national here)

    1. Rob Moir

      yes

      I'm always bemused by all the people who seem to think that whatever corporation is their special little friend. The way business works is that every publicly traded company is either trying to become a monopoly or it is, to some degree, failing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      *sigh*

      Here, I fixed it for you:

      Microsoft==Google!=Apple!=(Insert name of large, non-monopoly operator multi-national here)

  10. Paul M 1

    Search market?

    Whilst Google undoubtably has a monopoly on search, that doesn't mean there is a market for search. In fact, as we do not pay for search there is no market and if there's no market I can't see how the EU etc can be involved.

    Online advertising clearly *is* a market and Google may be called upon for this but as far as search itself goes I can't see how the various bodies could take action.

    1. JEDIDIAH
      Linux

      An offer you can't refuse...

      Google has no monopoly in search.

      There is nothing keeping me from finishing this and going and using Bing as my search engine for the rest of the day. This is a key element missing from previous monopoly complaints. I can't trade WinDOS for something else as easily as I can change my shirt. With Google I can.

      Google might have the biggest market share but that's something else.

      This isn't about the simplistic "number games" that some people like to fixate. This is about whether or not the company in question can force terms on everyone else.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Happy

        @JEDIDIAH

        "I can't trade WinDOS for something else as easily as I can change my shirt. With Google I can."

        I think you'll find that *was* a part of MS's defense. You *could* and you *can*. it was even possible for OEM's to install A.N.Other OS instead. The distribution agreement (which they were not allowed to disclose) meant pricing was down to how many Intel *processors* they sold. Hence the term "MS Tax."

        Note this (and other tactics they have used) have *nothing* to do with "product superiority" and *everything* to do with being able to dictate what other suppliers do and protecting their "right" to do so.

        That makes them an effective monopoly.

  11. Nick Kew Bronze badge
    FAIL

    Spammers hate successful anti-spam!

    Mapquest??? This is pure sleight of hand. Mapquest was never market leader in anything but a tiny market, irrelevant to many of us. Google maps is immeasurably superior. Awareness spreads naturally, just as awareness of the search engine spread in the first place, back in the late '90s!

    You might just as well blame google's original rise on google's monopoly!

    Universal product search? Again, users want what works. Experience tells us that shopping sites like kelkoo that make/made efforts to appear in google search results are a massive waste of time. Whereas google's results are genuinely useful, by virtue of google's long-standing concentration on what the end-user wants taking precedence over what the advertiser wants.

    If google is ever prevented from tweaking its algorithms to thwart spammers and special interests - including the entire "SEO" industry - it loses its value to consumers and becomes just another Yahoo. And if people wanted that ... we could vote with our feet right now!

    BTW, is this "Shivaun" for real, or is it just someone's attempt to transcribe "Siobhán"?

    1. Brian Morrison
      Thumb Up

      Her name....

      ....is spelt like that on FoundEm's site, so I assume it is correct.

    2. Steve Roper

      You'll probably find

      That her name is spelt Siobhan on her birth certificate, but she spells it Shivaun these days because she's probably sick and tired of people calling her "See-ob-han"!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I do not buy it

    I am not a fan of some of Google recent inroads into promotion of its own technology. However, one thing I can notice is that:

    1. Google Maps has been the only engine that has worked well with non-IE browsers and worked well embedded into other people's websites during the period described here. Its market rate graph is not surprising.

    2. The sum of all negative price comparison market share rate changes on the price comparison graph does not make even a small fraction of the Google graph. In fact this graph is a justification to what Google has done. It clearly shows bad, low quality service market and an emergence of a superior competitor that has expanded it to several times its old size.

    IMO Google should be limited with regards to the promotion of its own services on search. This should be done purely based on the standard definition of SMP in the law book (Significant Monopoly Power).

    These graphs actually give an argument to Google for breaking the law with regards of using SMP to enter new markets. They allow it to claim a "public benefit" exemption. So anyone trying to raise an antitrust case with these graphs in the preso is a total idiot.

  13. FaustiesBlog

    Boycott it, before it becomes a monster

    There's an excellent meta-search engine - StartPage.com, which not only gives you IP anonymity, but utilises a host of other search engines and is very customisable.

    Why not boycott Google? It's becoming another monster corporation which is also lobbying government to get our medical records online and is involved in the privacy-invasive 'smart' meters they want to put into our homes.

    Smart meters allow them to control our electricity usage remotely. Look it up! It's on my blog, under "Surveillance". Big Brother Watch also covered this.

    http://faustiesblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/smart-meter-specification-big-brother.html

    The point is, they would not be able to lobby governments so successfully if they weren't so big. Make a choice and make a difference.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Say What?

      What tin foil hat wearing rubbish.

      1. The BigYin

        @Say What?

        Smart meters aren't here (yet) in the UK but the poster is right, they will be able to control power consumption (switching off non-essential items when demand spikes to smooth out the load). That's before we even consider how long it will be before these meters get hacked and what (if any) recourse consumers have against incorrect billing.

        The same mentality can be see again in the Labour (and Tory?) backed policy of having a remote system control the speed of your vehicle. This is what the Galileo satellite system is for.

        This is the same mentality that is giving us mandatory ID cards, the DNA database and the CRB check idiocy (not so much the idea of a check, but the crazy way it has been implemented).

        Tin foil hat maybe, doesn't make them wrong though.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sooo....

    So, why not use another browser, or build your own. I've never heard a group of people complain so much about something they use for free. Hello, Google is a business, not a free service. Go try Bing or whoever is left.

  15. Martin Usher
    Thumb Up

    The Google mousetrap works better

    That's all. I'm not a Google fanboy and I won't hesitate to give other products a try but Google always comes out at or near the top because their products are well thought out and give a great signal to noise ratio.

    There are exceptions. After a brief honeymoon with Chrome I'm back on Firefox. Chrome's fast but I prefer the Fox's look and feel. Its also more robust and has better add-ins.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      It's called abuse of dominant position

      This is a problem precisely because does a competent, reliable job as a search engine. If most of the search returns are ordered according to their relevance a user has no reason to think Google owned links get preferential treatment. If Google were a servicing only a tiny fraction of the search users and if their services were of a lower quality over all there would hardly be a problem, and even if there were, users would easily overcome it by switching to another search provider.

      As it is, they not only abuse their users' trust, they also abuse their dominant position in search, which is forbidden under the EU legislation (and in most other jurisdictions according to similar concepts). It is as if a physician would start prescribing preferentially drugs manufactured by a company he has acquired. If his/her office is the newest of several located on the same street, it's not such a big deal, although an investigation in the potential conflict of interests might still be in order. If he's the only physician in the village, with the nearest second opinion 10 miles away, then you have a serious problem.

  16. Colin_L

    I absolutely loathe metasearch results

    Sorry, but I did not point my browser to Google (or Bing, or whatever) in order to find a craptastic list of would-be search results that usually:

    - have minimal context

    - tons of ads

    - do not have what I'm looking for

    So honestly, I'd like to see all metasearch filtered right out. Google never asked me, but if their searches are as self-tuning as they like to tout-- then they already know and are listening. Right?

  17. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge
    Pint

    Hmm.

    Interesting the first post to an article carefully explaining how Foundem are not a Microsoft shill is "Google should not be forced to open up unless Microsoft are also." Says some interesting things about how much people actually read the articles around here.

    Also, I decry the Google fanboyism! Google make some swank apps, it's true. This doesn't mean Google should be granted the ability to run roughshod over the little guy. Once Google has crushed all competition in a given market, (let's say the mapquest/google maps/etc. market,) where is Google's incentive to innovate at all? Won't it simply stagnate the way IE6 did once Microsoft had murdered Netscape in the face with a soup spoon?

    Regardless of the cool stuff that some of our favourite large multinational companies make, do we really want to encourage the collapse of tech companies into nothing more than “a handful of tech titans and their sycophantic orbiting mini-corps?” Do all of the commenttards here prefer that the tech world become one of Microsoft vs. Apple vs. Google vs. Sunacle, and oh yeah there might be some hardware guys somewhere, but we don’t care about them any more? As soon as they crush all the little guys, it takes one meeting to form an informal cartel, and we the consumer are boned for the next 50 years.

    Right now at least these tech titans have to worry about each other. They also have to keep an eye on some of the smaller established companies like Amazon, Adobe, SAP, PeopleSoft, etc. Companies that own tech markets they don’t yet dominate. Once they get big enough to spread horizontally into every tech market possible...exactly where do the VMWares of the world come from?

    VMWare came out of left field and shook the entire x86 market up. It caused some of the biggest players at the time to put the brakes on and completely rethink their strategies. You could even argue it helped spark this whole “cloud computing” thing, though I leave it open to debate if that was a good thing or not.

    The point is; if we cheer on the Googles, the Microsofts, Apples or Sunacles of the world...we may rapidly find ourselves in a situation where the only choices are between a limited number of competing “complete technology stacks;” none of which have any innovation and all of which are overpriced.

    I know there are some hard core capitalists out there who believe that the “rights” of a company (and it’s shareholders) to make profit should trump everyone and everything else’s rights. Those people can never be dissuaded from this belief. To the rest of you though; do we ever want to allow our tech companies to become “to big to fail?” Do we ever want them to get to the point that “there are a limited number of corporations all with non-interoperable software and hardware; you pick one company to be loyal to, and you are then loyal for life?”

    I don’t say any of the above as flamebait, nor am I accusing anyone of anything; I am asking my fellow commenttards to think about the questions raised. As always, thoughtful discussion of this is a goot thing.

    A pint for anyone I've offended with my ranty questions; offence was not intended.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Urf

      The point I was trying to make is that people are looking at Google and going "Oh my, monopoly" whilst completely ignoring another huge one that is right in their face. Google and MS are two of the largest monopolies on Earth and they (especially in the case of MS) restrict free-trade and competition.

      They both need regulated. And hard.

      1. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge

        @AC

        There are plenty of monopolies about that need regulation. Google and MS are just examples. And frankly...MS have reformed themselves quite a bit since the turn of the century. MS are evil...but they are a predictable kind of evil. They really have become the devil we know, and frankly are for less terrifying than any of the alternatives. Sure, MS have a (sort of, diminishing,) monopoly on Operating Systems. They face some stiff competition everywhere else.

        Intel not only have a monopoly on the x86 market, (and very near semiconductors in general,) the pretence that AMD provides any competition, checks or balances whatsoever is incredibly thin.

        Google basically own the entire Internet. It's easier to find chunks of the Internet market they don't completely dominate and list them; it takes fewer pages.

        Apple kicked the holy living shite out of the consumer electronics market; dominating personal media players and cell phones. They haven’t been before the beak for anti-trust. Yet. This is only a matter of time.

        Sunacle (more or less) have the "big stonking database" sector under their thumb. They also sit on a pile of technology that when wielded properly could turn into a very profitable vertical stack of goods allowing a horizontal expansion of the company to go toe-to-toe with any of the above.

        IBM has a mainframe monopoly; and enough bright minds to be a threat anywhere else they choose to play.

        EMC/VMWare are exceptionally dominant in the virtualisation and storage fields. Their influence is disproportionate, and borders on monopoly power.

        That’s before you get into all the Telcos, Utilities and rightsholders industry groups. There are many, many examples in there of either outright monopolies or cartels of companies that combined most certainly are.

        The thing is that these companies are shrinking; eating each other one by one. They are even combing across industries; moving towards a vertical integration that would offer them multi-sector monopolies that are truly terrifying. (Comcast/NBC anyone?) To complain about Microsoft in a thread about how Microsoft isn’t remotely behind this complaint to Google smacks of nothing but sour grapes.

        Faced with all the megacorporate threats in the world, Microsoft is the *absolute least* of our worries. Ballmer just isn’t that bright and frankly they’ve had the shit kicked out of them by regulators so many times that they’ve gotten tired of licking their wounds. If you can’t see the difference between Microsoft in the year 2010 and Google in the year 2010, then you are simply blinded by the past. I’d be far more worried about any and ever company mentioned above than Microsoft, sir. Microsoft bear scrutiny from time to time; to make sure they haven’t fallen back on old ways. So long as uncle fester is in charge of that company though, I don’t think we’ve got to worry. If he got too uppity, then the people in charge of all those other companies would eat him alive.

  18. Jason Paul Kazarian
    Boffin

    MapQuest and Google Maps

    I use both, sometimes to find directions to the same place. I can't speak for Blighty, but in California, MapQuest is more accurate. Google's overhead and street images are more up-to-date, tis true, but that doesn't mean much if the basic function doesn't work.

    Why doesn't Google work sometimes? Because it fails to complain sometimes if the input is bad. Mapquest always normalizes (USA based, at least) addresses to the postal service, making sure the city and postal code actually match. Feed Google GI and you get GO: it's all understanding, you see. Feed Mapquest GI and it gives a list of specific choices asking what you meant.

    How ironic. I just realized that Google Maps is a directions service that doesn't ask for directions!

  19. Ebeneser

    Barriers to Entry

    Normally when a monopoly exists its because the monopolist erects barriers to entry, and people have no choice... eg Microsoft and their dominance of PC outlets and incentives for companies like Dell to ship only Windows or get less attractive volume discounts. Or Microsoft building IE into Windows 98, so that most people wouldn't be bothered to download Netscape as there was already a usable web browser integrated into the system. Theres normally an attempt to limit consumer choice for the benefit of the monopolist, and damage to competition results.

    People go to Google.com/Google.co.uk etc to perform a search because they believe that its the best way to find something. Google don't guarantee that the order results come up meets some universal law of fairness. You use Google, you accept a Google slant, you use Microsoft Bling, you get a Microsoft slant (after all its the algorithms stupid).

    Barriers to entry? Try pointing you web browser at another search engine... its not difficult.

    I fail to see how this case can have any merit. You visit a company's web site and surely that company can present you with information in any way it sees fit, if you don't like it, you go somewhere else, its hardly lockin.

    And the MapQuest complaint is a joke, MapQuest was always crap, Google Maps is massively superior, Google Maps with StreetView is a level of magnitude ahead (and no, Google didn't cut off MapQuests air supply, it just came out with a better product). The filing says "it would be unwise to say this can be attributed to the superior design of Google's mapping service", of course it would be unwise as it would undermine the raff's case for goodness sake.

    As far as I'm aware two types of monopoly behaviour exist, those where a company is a monopoly and those where it isn't. The first things that has to happen in order for any of this rubbish to have a prayer is that the Search Engine market needs to be clearly defined and identified as a market where a monopoly can exist (like the market for desktop operating systems). Then once that market has been clearly delineated, Google have to be proven to have a monopoly in said market (in a similar fashion to what happened to Microsoft).

    Once Google have been identified as being a Monopoly in a well defined market, then their behaviour should be curbed to meet the extra restrictions placed on monopolies ... look how Microsoft have suffered over the years from being a Monopoly and having to open up their systems .... (humour) ....

    So before Google are officially classed as a Monopolist, they can do what the hell they want ...

    I guess its just a matter of time before the Raff's crawl back under their stone and maybe invent something that doesn't compete head-on with one of the most successful companies of the modern era ...

    1. Robin 2
      WTF?

      Barriers to entry???

      Let's see.

      Microsoft has been forced into FORCING users to choose a browser when buying a new Windows PC. This is fair enough, except that all of the main browser vendors other than IE default to Google's search engine (Opera, Firefox, Chrome, Safari). So the argument: no one is forcing you to use Google is pretty hollow. No one was ever forcing users to use IE. You can download any of those browsers MS are now forcing you to choose from for free. Surely in a "fair" world, all those browsers that are FORCING google as the default search engine should be FORCED to give you a choice on browser install as to which seach engine you want. IE, btw, gives you a choice to configure this on install. The others don't.

      Further, part of the argument against Google isn't about the end user. It's about the business. Given Google's dominance, if you want to succeed as web based business, you practically HAVE to advertise on Google - yet this advertising mechanism is about as transparent as MSs OEM deals with hardware manufacturers was in the 90s. ie NOT AT ALL.

      Finally, Google's search in 2010, in my mind, is the EXACT equivalent to MS's IE6 in 2000. It's the market leader to such an extent that it is a monopoly. But how has Google search actually IMPROVED in the last 5 years? I've not noticed any discernable improvement. In fact I think it's got worse. More and more sites linked to from Google's first page are just rip off's, stealing content from elsewhere and simply don't cut the mustard. Google is stifling innovation on the search market because it's impossible to compete with such a giant.

      Don't get me wrong, Google produce some wonderful apps, but they're search and adwords products are a monopoly that needs to be controlled.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Desktop not Browser Monopoly

        MS have a Desktop Monopoly, which they used (illegally) to increase IE's market share. Being forced to let users choose web browsers is simply punishment for illegal activity.

        Default search engines is a separate issue, and I'd welcome an examination to see if the various browsers choose Google as the default because they want to, rather than because Google FORCES them to. If the browser search engine defaults are being FORCED, then its correct to take action agains Google. If they're not, then you have what is commonly known as free choice working in the browser/search engine market...

        1. Robin 2
          Thumb Down

          Google more equal than others?

          Mozzila would not exist without the revenue they get from Google for being their default browser engine.

          How is that different from pretty much any PC retailer going out of business if MS does not supply it with Windows?

          The argument about users being able to choose a different search engine is invalid because users could equally well choose to go with Linux or Mac. But of course people need a Windows PC because everyone else has one. Likewise, people pretty much need to advertise on Google because that's where we all searchy. This is a monopoly and anybody claiming otherwise is being biased. Monopolies have to abide by certain competition rules. Thus Google DOES need to be investigated, which is the whole point of the article.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Google is smarter than us, get the EU to sue!

    I see the Raff's lips move but all I hear is whine, whine whine. They create a competitor to a successful company and product and complain when they don't succeed.

    Google should be free to do what they like to their own services, if users don't like it, they will leave. I'm sure we've all used Alta Vista, but who does now? (And, by the way, Bing sucks.)

    Google services get the market share mostly because they create superior products and product integration.

    1. blackworx

      Maybe do some reading

      I've never used Foundem, and no doubt in common with most price comparison sites, it's probably a bit naff, certainly compared to Google Product Search which I have to admit is pretty slick. Regardless, Foundem's problem was not that they were unable to compete on merit, because Google saw to it that they never even got the chance to try. With the ability to stifle competition so effectively Google is also stifling others' innovation, which is where, as with IE, the consumer starts to lose out.

      So either you're happy for that to happen, and were there waving the flag for Microsoft as well, or you've decided the Raffs are just whinging sore losers without actually bothering to find out what it is they're whinging about.

  21. EvanR

    Google Supporters = Illogical?

    Most of the commentators on this blog are the same people who decry Microsoft doing things like bundling productivity software, security software, entertainment software, and web browsing software with their operating system suite. Many of you have voiced great support for the anti-trust suits brought against Microsoft on that very issue. Yet almost all of you sit here and state that there is nothing wrong with Google using its core product to bundle new products in new markets to drive out competitors.

    Google is doing exactly what Microsoft has done in the past. It is bundling all of its new products with its main product to quickly drive out all competitors. You cannot be against Microsoft bundling products and yet be for Google bundling products! What makes it even more dangerous is you could argue that it is even harder for the customer to fight against Google’s bundling since Google holds enough control to prevent you from even knowing there are alternatives and if that, how to find them.

    Google seems to most certainly hold a monopoly on the search advertising market and seems to clearly be using it strength in that area to drive out ordinary competition which is anti-competitive and *illegal*.

    1. blackworx
      Thumb Up

      Thank you

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who's been thinking this

      http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/571203

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Nope.

      There's quite a difference between the two - Microsoft was predatory and deliberately anti-competitive, while Google is much more benevolent.

      1. blackworx
        Stop

        Google Benevolent?

        You're right, there is quite a difference between the two. For a start, by any real measure of benevolence (i.e. not some wishy washy notion of consumer benefit) Microsoft wins hands down. I'm not trying to say they weren't predatory and deliberately anti-competitive as well, but Google is easily as dangerous a predator only its methods are different. Instead of attacking it just smothers. And, as I said before, at least Microsoft never tried so hard to make itself out to be so bloody nice all the time.

        Either you people truly believe Google is doing nothing wrong, or you are shills. Which is it?

  22. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Troll

    Lots of sock puppets out today

    The 1st post AC looks like a oompah lumpah to me.

    The classic monopolist defense is *always* "We're *not* a monopoly, people always have a choice. People use us because we are just *better* than the competition."

    IBM used. Microsoft used. Now Google are using it.

    Old BS never goes out of style.

    As for "erecting barriers" (more strawman BS). You *could* set up your own search engine tomorrow. Quite true.

    Do you have the cash to build a server network capable of carrying 10% of *all* internet traffic?

    Can you get Intel to specially screen their processors for *you* to allow running at higher temperatures?

    Monopolists have *multiple* strategies to protect their monopoly. If you don't know this you're either ignorant or a shill.

    My gut feeling is the more capitalist point of views are probably from the merkin side of the Atlantic. Yes, publicly quoted companies have a *duty* to maximize return to their shareholders *within* the laws of the countries they operate in. Companies (or groups of companies) which have dominant market shares have been more regulated than others.

    The classic example being the the US telephone network, being run for c50 years by 1 company as a regulated monopoly. it gave us Unix, but *all* innovation took place at *its* pace.

    Troll warning because there is no "sockpuppet" icon (Shari Lewis's Lambchop?)

    1. Ebeneser

      Pots and Kettles

      There's a difference between being a large company and being a monopolist. Just because you're big enough to get custom parts out of Intel doesn't make you a monopolist.

      I agree with the classic monopolist defence bit though, I've never heard a monopoly say that they were a monopoly and didn't support choice, pretty much common sense regardless of your size.

      I think you'll find barriers are classic monopoly behaviour rather than straw man BS, you capture a market, you defend it ... with barriers... not too difficult to understand.

      Usually a monopoly exists where a court finds that a particular company wields monopoly power in a particular predefined market. Not because a bunch of people KNOW, or THINK its a monopoly, or even because of some tenuous thread of logic whose only supporting plank is the conclusion it eventually reaches.

      Even when a monopoly exists, it still has to be proven that 'bad things' are happening before anything can be done. Saying 'they're big so they must be bad' is normally pretty accurate, but in itself isn't sufficient for a court to limit what a company can and can't do.

      Google promoting their own products is something that most people would find normal acceptable behaviour. And the only way that's every going to change is a court finds that they're a monopoly in a predefined market and then decides to restrict their actions... until that happens... nothing will change.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    illogical

    try typing www.bing.com...

    'seeming' monopoly broken.

    try typing apt get install Ubuntu...

    oh no, all that Microsoft software is still there.

    Now that's what I call a barrier to entry.

  24. petur
    Thumb Down

    @EvanR

    There's a big difference: Google is open. They want interoperability, you can get your data out of they docs services in any format you want. You also get all the stuff for free.

    Microsoft is closed. They only want you to use their shitty office app, using proprietary formats that nobody else can read (and once they do, they change the format or invent a new one). Anything you want/need costs you a lot of money.

    1. Robin 2
      Stop

      @petur: Is that your definition of open?

      @petur: "you can get your data out of they docs services in any format you want"

      You can do that in Excel, Access and Word as well. Does that make MS open?

      How is Google Open? Their entire chocolate factory is closed except for the few bits of code they release as open source. The only reason Google want interoperability is because this benefits them as they have no legacy products "to protect" and is therefore a way of getting one over MS. I don't see much interopreability in Googles ad engine....

      And google is not free either. Adverts there cost money. With this they make the billions that allows them to cross subsidise pretty much everything else they do without having to worry about turning a profit on that work and yet they charge for more or less everything that is not feeding into their search engine data (and even some stuff that does).

      The point is: don't be fooled into thinking Google are saints. They are now a massive business with (as has been pointed out) shareholder value to take into account. You can't "Not be evil" and satisfy shareholders expecting rediculous returns on their investments.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Poorly thought out argument

        Google want interoperability as they want more usage of the Web. More Web users = more web searches = advertising revenue.

        They deliver free products as complementary to their main product, search. They understand that more Google users = more Google searches. Someone with a better understanding of economics could explain this one better than me.

        Google obviously does have to take into account shareholder value, but also remember that in their IPO they declared that they intend to do things differently and they gave a bil to google.org. Any investor that crys foul is a fool for not doing their research first.

  25. petur
    Go

    @Robin: apples, oranges,...

    Since when must a company give away its code for free to be open? Compared to the code MS is sharing, Google is sharing a lot. And they are adding extra stuff every day. And they shift quite a bit of money into the open source community. Search for GSoC (Google summer of code).

    And if you find that an app with ads is not free, then there's a lot of free applications using the ad model that need to change name.

    Of course Google is business and must make money, but it's a company, what the hell is wrong with making money? With all the free stuff (that actually works better than payware), I'll let them make the money...

    1. Robin 2
      Stop

      @petur

      So all of a sudden it's OK for to make lots of money, but not MS? Talk about being hippocritical. How does GSoC have anything to do with being open? It is simply engagin the community. This is something MS have been poor at, admittedly. But they are actually very good at that now.

      Everything in your comment can be equally applied to MS. Google gives away stuff that is not core to it's business. It does not give away ANYTHING that is core business.

      MS give away lots of developer tools and they support a lot SME's with very cheap access to a whole host of goodies through things like it's partner programme.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Again, foolish

        Google gives away practically all its products. It's core business is search - provided for free.

        They don't give up their search source code, but why would they be obligated to?

        1. Robin 2
          FAIL

          You don't get it do you?

          Google gives away stuff for free to get it a stranglehold in a new market. Would anybody be using Google Docs or Google Maps or YouTube if you had to pay for those services (as good as they may be)? But these services have pretty much obliterated their respective markets. This is no different to MS giving away IE or Windows media player on it's OSs in order to get a stranglehold in those markets (as well as because, well, basically your average joe public would expect these to be shipped with an OS).

          Being Open and giving stuff away for free are entirely different things.

        2. Robin 2
          FAIL

          @AC: Wrong!

          Google's core business is NOT search!!

          Google makes little or no money out of search. It's core business is ADVERTISING. The purpose of Google's entire search engine is to get eyeballs on ads.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Legal Knowledge Not Required

    I love reading the comments posted here. Anybody can opine on the subject without any knowledge whatsoever of what antitrust law actually says. All it takes is a like/dislike for Google/Microsoft and you can construct an argument without any reference to the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act or Article 102 TFEU. Everybody's an expert!

  27. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Happy

    @Ebeneser

    "People go to Google.com/Google.co.uk etc to perform a search because they believe that its the best way to find something."

    Establishing that "Trust" in the results you will get means that when you start biasing the results towards *your* customers people are less inclined to notice of it. Note this is *not* the same as using the one of the Google comparison services, where you *expect* to be looking at stuff sponsored by suppliers.

    "Barriers to entry? Try pointing you web browser at another search engine... its not difficult."

    This comment is either from someone who is *deeply* ignorant of Google's infrastructure (covered on several occasions by El Reg) or a shill. monopolists have *multiple* strategies to make barriers to entry.

    "I fail to see how this case can have any merit. You visit a company's web site and surely that company can present you with information in any way it sees fit, if you don't like it, you go somewhere else, its hardly lockin."

    Upton Sinclair commented that no man's ignorance is so great as that of a man whose livelihood depends on his ignorance.

    When a supplier can *dictate* what their customers pay and when, they have a monopoly. When they can manipulate what people are *allowed* to see that they can destroy competitors (or customers who don't see their point of view) it's a monopoly.

    If you're ignorant perhaps you have learned something. Otherwise I think Mr Sinclair's comment applies and I'll wish you happy ignorance.

    1. Ebeneser

      @john Smith

      Establishing Trust, its the same for anyone you trust, if they bias the results your're less likely to notice, hardly an indication of a monopoly.

      Multiple barriers to entry? If they're so obvious why not name some ...

      Interesting dead author quote, not sure how it fits here but interesting none the less.

      So Apple are a monopoly because they can dictate how much people pay for iphone, and all the extra apple only bits ... closed market maybe, monopoly i don't think so. The discussion revoles around the definition of a particular market in which the monopoly exists, you have to define the market before you can assert that a monopoly exists, big equals bad doesn't cut it.

      All I've learned from JS is that Upton Sinclair is a dead author, so I guess I'm less ignorant in some small way than I was before ...

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Troll

        @Ebeneser

        And I have learned that you view that your inability to consider a multi billion dollar investment in hardware infrastructure and bandwidth and the repeating of of the Apple strawman argument means your either a shill or a troll.

        I put trolls on a diet.

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