back to article Google accused of hard-coding own links in search

Update: This story has been updated with comment from Google. In a still-simmering Google antitrust complaint, UK-based vertical search outfit Foundem accuses the Mountain View web giant of using its search monopoly to unfairly favor its own services over those of its competitors. Google chief executive Eric Schmidt denies the …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. ratfox

    Big deal

    Whenever I look for something that looks like a place, e.g. "san diego ca", I always get a Google Maps link in top position, never a Mapquest link or whatever equivalent Bing has.

    My assumption always has been that the Google engine forcibly adds a Google Maps link, not that by some incredible chance, the best link was always that one...

    1. DavCrav

      Yes, big deal

      "My assumption always has been that the Google engine forcibly adds a Google Maps link, not that by some incredible chance, the best link was always that one..."

      Isn't this almost the definition of anti-trust? Using your dominance in one sector of the economy to put your competitors out of business in another?

      1. Jhokur


        No, that would be going to Google, searching for Mapquest, and being given only the choice of Google Maps. You choose to use Google, you will be presented with Google's options first - do you go to your favorite restaurant and complain they don't serve the same menu as the one down the street? The only way this guy (in the article) would be happy is if every time the page refreshed, it would randomize the order of links.

        1. fLaMePrOoF

          The flaw in your argument...

          Is that there IS another resteraunt down the street, but in Googles case there itn's another one for miles...

          Google has a monopoly on search, fair play to them, but with great power comes great responsibility; this is an inti-trust issue specifically because of this monopoly, together with the fact that Google has been lying about it's practices for years.

          1. John 174
            Thumb Down

            Google has a monopoly on search

            Since when? Granted, a lot of people use it, but it's not the only game in town by a long shot. When installing Firefox, you are given a choice of default, you don't have to use Google.

            When you install or update IE, the most popular browser, does it default to Google search? Last time I did one it changed my home page, in addition to my default search. That bother's me much more. Do you think Bing or Yahoo doesn't skew their results? They're proud of it.

            1. DavCrav

              Google does have a monopoly on search

              "Since when? Granted, a lot of people use it, but it's not the only game in town by a long shot. When installing Firefox, you are given a choice of default, you don't have to use Google."

              A monopoly isn't defined as 100%, otherwise you would almost never have a monopoly. Microsoft doesn't have 100% of the OS market, but it is a monopoly. I would consider 85% (I think that's the figure) as being a monopoly for legal purposes, and I think any sane person would do the same.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Maybe not so clear cut... in either direction?

        Minus the lawsuits and PR blitz, none of this is really news. Stock symbol searches like the CSCO example have been returning the Google Finance blurb at the top of the page for a number of years (5+ maybe IIRC)... and in a way, given that Google was primarily in the business of trying to drive as much traffic as possible to its site by making more and more information quickly available to the user off a simple search, the behavior is not really that surprising.

        I've found the stock symbol returns quite useful over the years and, TBH, I find it annoying when I try to use the universal search to look up an address and it doesn't auto return the Google maps blurb. As a consumer, I've never really seen this as some sort of anti-competative play - especially given that with at least a couple of these add-on services you had to pay to get the info (quickly and easily at least) prior to Google.

        I think there is at least one important distinction to make between this and the Microsoft case in that Google's business model (giving away stuff for free and making money off ads and page views) didn't really work pre-Google - in many ways they are responsible for the monetization of "free". I don't say this because I think they are some benelovent force and we owe them something for it... I say it because where Microsoft came second and used their monopoly power to take over an existing market, in at least some of these cases I suspect the plaintiff came into the picture after Google's behavior was established. That said, I don't think any of that has any legal bearing.

        This does bring up a host of interesting issues as the deliniation of markets for the purposes of anti-trust is not always well defined (see the recent complaints about maps and Android). With Microsoft and Netscape there was really no question about it - an OS and the browser were and still are considered to be distinct entities and markets (mobile OS' and the upcoming ChromeOS being notable departures)... but in this case we're talking about results on a search page. It very well could constitute an anti-trust violation - I just don't see it as being quite as clear cut as the Microsoft case and to some consumers - like me - who like the stock ticker blurb results up top as part of my UX... I would argue that removing it would be bad *for me*.

        I think in some ways this could enter into a strange Pandora's box depending on the outcome. Google could be green lighted to continue with their current model. I could also see a preference setting result along the lines of "agnostic search returns only"... or if the courts go all in with the plaintiffs Google would need to let users specify search returns from other providers in their site for an ever expanding list of categories (like Big or Yahoo maps for location searches, etc)... and if Google has to do it, I'd be curious if Bing would have to do it too. Lots to think about... although, maye the end result would be better.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        Yes, no big deal...

        Anti-trust law prevents anti-competitive behaviour, the main behaviours are:

        - Business cartels: forming an agreement between other major competing firms to fix prices and production output, reducing competing actions to increase profits by artificially propping up demand and prices.

        - Envelopment of the market through mergers and acquisitions: a company buys out the majority of competitors to secure dominance in a market.

        - Predatory pricing: charging lower than would be sustainable in a market for a business with which it is their core business activity in order to drive competitors out of the market.

        The only businesses that would be affected by this action from Google are sole providers of those services: maps, stock market data; and other similar entities to Google: Yahoo and Bing for example (Yahoo and Bing are also doing the same as Google, but the article doesn't mention that does it?) and between those parties this action promotes competition. I don't know any business that has the presentation of stock market data as its core business activity. So that really leaves the map providers, Streetmap, MapQuest, etc.

        Perhaps Google should be promoting these services in the same way it does with the finance search. That is all I have found though.

  2. Steven Knox



    a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps, as for finding the greatest common divisor."


    Nowhere does that definition preclude the use of keywords, or of favoritism toward a particular result. (It doesn't preclude manual intervention either, but since the generally accepted connotation implies the use of a computer, and nobody is arguing that every search is manually processed, that point is moot.)

    So the argument about algorithm and "hard-coding" is in fact a red herring. Both sides would do well to recognize this and move on to the real issue. The real issue is transparency and to what degree it should be forcibly applied to the processes of an effective monopoly.

    And for true pedantry, I'd like to point out that the colloquialism "smoking gun" is used to refer to incontrovertible evidence, yet the evidence provided in this article is circumstantial at best. Hence usage of the term "smoking gun" is not warranted.

    1. Mark 65

      Real Issue

      The real issue is anti-trust and their abuse of their monopoly. I fully expect them to get the same size of slap that MS got from the EU.

      So the evidence from the Google executive stating they put their stuff first isn't a smoking gun in your opinion?

      1. Steven Knox

        @Mark 65

        As for anti-trust, that was my point with the whole "transparency' sentence.

        As for the "evidence" of the executive's statement, I think that the worst lawyer in the world would not have trouble convincing a judge or jury that an executive didn't know what they were talking about. Besides, the debate isn't whether or not they put their links first (that's patently obvious), but whether that's done through manipulation or subversion of their page ranking or as a natural side effect of their ranking system. So, no, that's not a smoking gun at all.

        1. Wayland Sothcott 1

          They admitted it and it's been proved.

          1. They admitted putting the link first.

          2. It's been proved in the article that the algorithm that put CSCO at the top is a different one that finds the rest of the links on the page.

          The fact that the comma after CSCO made no difference to the results except the very first one is proof that google use a different algorithm to put that Google Finance result up. Most probably the same bit of code which offers google maps and google image results. They belong in the sponsored links section, not masquerading as the top results.

          It makes you wonder if they also bury their competitors results. It would be nice if they showed a little stock graph from Yahoo, but I expect they would want to charge money to put that in the sponsored links section.

          1. Ben Tasker


            I'm not sure the use of a comma constitutes 'proof' of hardcoding. If I was google, I'd probably have designed the algorithm like this;

            Is the search term a string of characters of less than the maximum used in stock symbols (5?)

            If so, can I find a matching stock symbol?

            Yes - Return Stock info

            No - Don't bother.

            In this scenario, searching for CSCO would return stock information. Searching for CSCO, would not return any exact matches. So I wouldn't return the stock info.

            You could set up a less exact query, but you'd probably then be returning stock info purely because someone entered a word containing a valid stock symbol.

            Just my 2p

            1. bobbles31
              Thumb Down

              This is exactly the point though

              the fact that that algorithm is used is a monopoly. Google purports to be a search engine to find the best page for the query entered, this algorithm effectively first checks the results to find a Google service that is relevant and gives that the coveted top spot, then displays the results below the google service.

              The point is that their are companies that supply finance information services but they are never going to get the top spot because Google themselves have a competing service and they will always put that first. If you allow it for Finance results where does it stop? If google setup a bank should the term "Current Account" return google banking in the top spot? If they decide to sell books (rather than just copy them) should Google Books appear top when you search for Harry Potter? That's anti-competitive ergo illegal.

              1. Oninoshiko

                mayhaps, but

                the best information to return if I request info on a ticker-symbol, is, most-likely, the information on the symbol.

                *cue shock and suprise*

                If all I want is todays high and low... maybe a graph. then putting that first *IS* the best result. pulling that info from big-G's finance service is trvial. depending on luck to get it is just silly.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Ermmm Ben ...

    When I go to it integrates nicely into the web browser, indeed it intergrates just like does.

    You say "With Windows, at least you could install another web browser. What does it mean to install another map program into Google? You can't." . What do you mean? Google is a company not a program so how would you install a program into a company? and if you mean using a Google search with Yahoo maps why not just use Yahoo's search with Yahoo maps.

    If you do not like Google's search results just use someone else's! Not like running a different one will change what programs you can run like running Microsoft's Or Apple's Os will, there is no tie in!!

  4. skila

    It's not rocket science

    So Google put their own results higher than other people. You don't need a PhD to figure that this might happen. Jeez, you don't like it, use another search provider!

    1. Blarkon

      Here's the problem

      No business on the Internet is now safe. Google starts a Travel Agency. Puts itself at the top. Destroys the ones who would have got to the top because they were "better" according to the algorithm because all the traffic goes to the top site.

      Google starts any business and puts it at the top.

      No business is safe because now all google has to do is decide to make an online business, and they can instantly give themselves massive market share an $ without actually being the best online business.

      No longer is it a matter of being the best because you rose to the top of PageRank - Google can do a half arsed effort with their own business and take the majority of the internet market share - by inserting their own business to make it look like that is the best of breed on the Internet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Google crushes anything with which it competes

        I mean, look how successful their mobile phone store was! Totally crushed all competitors.

        1. Stu Wilson


          Google Wave

          Google Video (does anyone even remember that before they bought YouTube)

          Google aren't the golden goose, they lay a few lead eggs now and again.

  5. Stan Smith
    Thumb Up


    IMHO, the first search result is actually much more useful.

    The system knows that the user was highly likely looking for information related to a stock; that being the case, I like that it inserts a direct stock result. It has links to other stock information providers, so it's not like they're hiding anything.

    When the search query contains the comma (or other characters), it's less sure that they are looking for the stock result alone, so it omits the direct inclusion.

    Just as the top result is often an automatic map when you Google an address or business, it might not be a "pure" search result, but it *is* useful. And that's why I use Google.

    1. Matthew 25
      Gates Halo

      WTF indeed

      You seem to have missed the point. Yes, its nice to get a stock quote, but should it be a Google stock quote or a stock quote from someone who trades in stocks and shares. This could from a user point of view be more useful i.e. you see the quote - you click - you buy. From Google's point of view, they want you to use their quote, their maps etc just as Microsoft want you to use IE.

      On a completely separate note, how would Netscape, Opera et al have felt if MS just said OK Windows has no browser. How would you download their browser to install it?

      1. Cpt Blue Bear

        WTF indeed indeed

        No I don't think he's missed the point at all.

        Google wanted to provide a stock quote so they used data from their own service. Have you ever dealt with stock trade systems? Their owners tend to regard their data as proprietary even when you can get it for free from anywhere. They get all antsy when a third party uses it. So Google using their own data is the only sensible route to avoid a Google News style lawsuit. As for the maps question, I suspect a similar reasoning applies since they are displaying a map, not just linking.

        The stock quote argument is also flawed because, in Australia at least, you don't click through to buy or sell.

        Second paragraph shows your age. You'd use the command line FTP to download whatever browser you like, just like we had to BEFORE MS bundled IE.

        Now this actual story: these guys (Foundem) are a shopping comparison site, FFS! I don't want them in my search results at all. Even when I'm looking to buy something I don't want to see them. Where is the "don't show price comparison sites at all" switch in Google?

        1. Jordan Davenport

          Re: Cpt Blue Bear

          I don't really see why Google should be forced to use more resources to grab data elsewhere from third parties that they already have, so I'll just respond to the rest of your post.

          Back in the 90s, my ISP provided Netscape Navigator to its customers on a series of floppy diskettes, which was more convenient than using FTP, I'd say.

          Regarding removing search results, Google supports boolean operators. If you want a fun project, you could write a browser extension or script that customizes Google search results based on filter lists, and you wouldn't have to deal with price comparison sites anymore.

      2. Lewis Mettler 1

        forcing the sale of IE

        Do you really think you have to buy IE in order to install any other software?

        Before Microsoft illegally forced the sale of IE, both Netscape and IE were on the retail shelf. Either could be purchased.

        Plus you do not need browser to download software anyway. Other services are available without a browser. So IE, Safari, Firefox, Chrome or what have you would be equally available with or without cost.

        Forcing the sale of IE is just that, a forced sale.

    2. Wayland Sothcott 1

      There are better stock quote sites...

      ...but you would not know that because you see the world through Google coloured specs.

      These type of things make a massive difference. MSN and Hotmail used to be the dominant social networking tools simply because they were installed by default on Windows. However people changed their home pages to Google away from MSN and logged into Facebook.

      Ofcourse Googles stock quotes and maps and images links are useful when searching, it's convenient. However you are being manipulated. They will abuse this position as much as they can get away with. If Google loses the plot and everyone switches to Bing then nothing really changes.

  6. BenPope


    Seriously? All that talk to point out what was blatantly obvious from the start?

    This isn't even new, you've been able to "google" for something like "60mph in km/h" for years!

    What's wrong with WolframAlpha for that type of thing (and a great deal more)?

  7. Unlimited

    "What system design could explain that disappearance?"

    if( searchTerm.isExactStockCode() )





    What an incredible system design. Who could possibly imagine such an algorithm.

    A person might think that Mr Edelman is being a bit disingenuous.

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Creative disingenuity...

      Yes, this person for one thinks that Edelman is being disingenuous, but I think it is a consciously illustrative act on his part.

      Us clever people (you, me and Edelman) all know that Google is a multifunction appliance, but to the rest of the world, Google is a search engine. Edelman is writing his argument based on the point of view of an average punter, because it is the ignorance of the average punter that Google is exploiting.

      Edelman's argument specifically avoids going into technical details as he would lose his target audience (remember that most judges aren't clever computer people like you and me).

      Google could technically open the APIs to allow third-party access to Universal Search.

      If they did this, they could use Pagerank and click-tracking to prioritise results based on usefulness. They chose not to.

      Their Universal Search results are presented alongside the results of two other searches:

      Pagerank and Adwords.

      What's the difference between Pagerank and Adwords search? Adwords is not neutral, and the results sit in their own box marked "Ads".

      Now, do Universal Search results look more like Pagerank or Adwords results?

      So Google encourage you to associate them with...


      It IS misleading.

    2. Wayland Sothcott 1
      IT Angle

      It's missing a bit

      That first item should be shown in a different colour to indicate that it's a sponsored link.

  8. Daniel Brandt

    This is news?

    This is news? Doesn't anyone ever learn anything about what goes on at Google?

    Seven years ago, made its first appearance with a tool that exposed the "Florida" update. You can still read about it at in an essay titled "The Great Google Filter Fiasco." In December 2003 Google blocked our server to suppress our evidence. Within another month they fixed their algorithm so that it didn't show dramatically different results by adding a "nonsense term." This "nonsense term" worked the same way that adding a comma to CSCO works today.

    Since then has been just a Google scraper without a side-by-side comparison with alternative results, although for a several years we offered a comparison with Yahoo's results. What you see on today are the so-called "organic" results from Google. This is the old-fashioned Google, before the Universal Search, the customized results, the personalized results, and the IP-location results. When the day comes that we can no longer find a usable Google interface that provides these results, and also shows up to 100 links per page, will give up.

    There is enough funny business going on with these "organic" results that should worry everyone. For example, read about how Google discriminated against my new anti-Wikipedia site for more than a year. I know that Google does "hand jobs" for sites they like, and also for sites they dislike. For years it was all about making more money while pretending to be objective. There's even a problem with "objectivity" -- PageRank was "objective," but only as a measure of popularity. As Google became a monopoly, PageRank operated as sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy, which undermined whatever objectivity it claimed.

    Today with Google, the appearance of objectivity is no longer on its agenda. Now it's only about making more money. When you get to a certain size with billions in the bank, you no longer care what people or governments think about you.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      Thanks Daniel!

      Your site,, has been my search engine of choice for quite a few years now, and I really appreciate all you have done for us "simple users". Check my previous posts...

      The day you give up the fight will be the day before I look for another search engine. Until then, keep up the fight, and this time, I am going to buy you a real beer, via paypal, rather than another virtual elReg beer.

      Bloody good show, that man! Come on, elReg commentards, big it up for SCROOGLE!!! Use it yourself. Tell your friends to use it. tell them WHY they SHOULD use it!!!


    2. BorkedAgain

      How odd.

      Just entered "" into by address bar (figured I'd give it a go) and ended up looking at a BING results page, with the results of a search for boobdex. Much porn. Sweet.

      So. Looks like shenanigans to me. Amusing shenanigans (if you have my sense of humour and are lucky enough to work from home, rendering NSFW reasonably safe) but slightly intriguing.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Wrong address, FOOL

        You should do a full system scan since you went to the WRONG SITE. It is a dot ORG site.

        Good luck,

        You may need it.

        1. BorkedAgain

          Yeah, I spotted that after I posted...

          Delighted (and relieved) to say I didn't click through to any of the links...

          Still, that's a mean, lousy trick for someone to pull. I'm sure I'm not the only FOOL who defaults to .com when entering new URLs. What a rotter. Shame that couldn't have shelled out the few dollars for a proper URL, too... (I kid)

          Oh, and that's a very sweet anonymous hat you're wearing there while throwing the old insults around. Suits you. Nice shade of yellow. :)

  9. Renato


    I really want those times when people didn't think Google equals the Internet or the computer back.

  10. Chad H.

    The cisco example

    Looks like an example of Google doing its job. If I type in a stock code, I'm probably looking for a graph of the stocks performance - and it has links there straight away above the graph to other financial information sites.

    Seems fair enough to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Me too

      Not to mention that where are the complaints of:

      linking to:

      Same with Yahoo too. top two results link to: and

      Personally I'd much rather Google provide a link to a site (theirs or otherwise) that they know provides me with the information I'm looking for than some site who's only way to attract customers is to whine. Unlike Google, they don't realise that providing a good, useful service is what attracts users.

    2. ArmanX
      Thumb Up


      If I search for CSCO, I want a result about that stock. Otherwise, whats the point?

      Try this simple experiment:

      Open,, and Search for CSCO. Right, so Google returns its own link right at the top - but so do Bing and Yahoo. Only Google also links to a bunch of other places, too. Huh. Ok, let's try again - maybe that was a fluke.

      Search for acne (as also suggested). Google returns the first link as Google Health; then again, Bing's first link is Bing Health, and Yahoo's first link is Yahoo! Health.

      Ok, fine, how about a search for restaurants?

      Google returns a few links, then a map with restaurants. Yahoo does about the same. Bing, notably, returns their results first!

      This proves something to me - people are perfectly willing to beat Google over the head about anything, but really don't care about fixing the so-called problem. Otherwise, they would point fingers at the other search engines, too.

      This is no more antitrust than Microsoft bundling Notepad and Mine Sweeper.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Google caught up to the neck in the cookie jar

    But many peopIe don't care... Is it apathy or are they the same people that used to compare Bill Gates with satan?

  12. Bryce Prewitt

    Who gives a shit.

    Look, I realize this is a hard fucking concept for most people, but I (1) can choose not to use Google, (2) don't pay Google for their services and (3) can easily, readily block Google from tracking me. If Google is ripping off their advertising customers by placing their own links on top then that's fraud, not an anti-trust violation.

    I hate Google as much as the next guy. They are evil and can be used for evil (as Register user "skedastic" knows all too well). They are most likely ripping off their REAL paying customers (advertisers). They steal content from other providers (ie music videos on Youtube) and make money off of it via advertising. They have no problem buying up competitors - whether they are competing against a Google service or for advertising market share. I am fairly sure that if there is a type of evil in the world to commit then Google will.

    That does NOT make them an antitrust, however. Neither does being the King of Internet Advertising. This is not the same world that IBM and AT&T thrived in. Google don't even exist on the same plane of reality. Trying to apply traditional anti-trust legislation against them is only going to result in a giant clusterfuck that benefits NO ONE and damages EVERYONE. I/you/we benefit from Google having one of the largest R&D divisions in the world - just as we all did from IBM and AT&T (until they used their position in the marketplace to stifle innovation). When they chose to break the law, they chose to in a way that had very real, very bad consequences on business and consumers alike. Until it is proven that Google are squashing competition, stifling innovation, damaging ecommerce (hahahahahahahahaha who gives a fuck, really) and putting the hurt on end-users (in a monopolistic way) then they're not guilty of a single god damned anti-trust violation.

    Guilty of fraud? Most likely. Guilty of violating privacy law? Most likely. Guilty of a whole lot of other shit that is most likely illegal (or will be soon)? Most likely. Putting their own search results at the top of a search they're most likely being paid to put a sponsored link on is a dick move and illegal, but it's not anti-trust. Waving the anti-trust baton around willy nilly is irresponsible at best and extremely damaging to innovation at worst. The government encourages companies to be successful because it brings in taxes and revenue to the US; stock markets encourage companies to be successful because it makes investors richer; the consumer encourages companies to be successful because of the innovative products they release - TO A POINT. We arbitrarily decide when that line has been crossed, and then we try our best to take those companies down.

    The fact that a bunch of competitors and a whole slew of self-interested/self-aggrandizing eggheads are looking for excuses to anti-trust the shit out of Google only betrays their desperation. Fuck Google in the ass, but do it right proper, by actually charging them for breaking laws instead of filing bullshit anti-trust charges against them. If the limp dicks who run the various governments of the world had actually manned up and said "Oi, don't invade our privacy, okay, or we'll charge you $10,000 for every infraction" and then "Make AdSense more transparent so we know you're not ripping people off" and then "No the DoubleClick merger IS NOT OKAY because you're big enough all ready, fuck off you twats" then Google would be a lot better off company and you wouldn't have a whole bunch of second rate wannabes finding every excuse possible to sue Google into oblivion.

    As far as Google goes, the best thing they could possibly do to squelch any anti-trust rumblings would be to FIRE ERIC SCHMIDT AND UNDO EVERY POLICY HE'S EVERY ENACTED. Within reason, of course, but you get the point. That guy is toxic, and if Google and the world governments come to ahead via anti-trust, then he's going to go down in history as being the worst CEO ever. He won't even be able to donate his way into our hearts like Bill Gates, he'll be straight up labeled a corporate disaster. It won't matter because he's rich and scummy, but the fact that Sergei and Larry don't take more pride in their "baby" is something they'll have to live with.

  13. JDX Gold badge
    Thumb Down


    Yeah sure. Apart from what if I spend $100m building a rival and Google just steal the top search result? This is EXACTLY what got MS a huge amount of bad publicity for squashing out "the little guy".

    1. Chad H.

      Hang on - look at that picture again.

      Look right between the stock code, and the graph.

      I spy the names of no less than four (and probably more) finance sites given equal billing to Googles site.

      Now if you've built a better financial site, thats fine, show it to me. But if Google's finance site is good (and most of the time we hear this "anti-competitive google" stuff it is coming from people who's sites are quite clearly shite) I see no problem with them actually promoting it. Google are under no requirement to pretend their other products don't exist.

      It would only meet the Microsoft example if Google didn't include their competitors at all - but they do, right up there on the same line that has their name in it (not unlike the browser select screen in Win 7?)

  14. alex dekker 1

    Microsoft shill

    "Whereas in the operating system context, if you installed Netscape and you double-clicked on a .html file, it would open in Netscape...It would be fully integrated in the relevant sense. But it's hard to see how Yahoo! Maps could get to be fully integrated with Google in the relevant sense. I don't think there's been any discussion of that.""

    Presumably the reason that there hasn't been any 'discussion' is because it's nonsense. Are you asking for Google to create a mechanism whereby you can ask it to offer links to '' when searching for 'baz', even if it thinks '' is better? An interesting idea, but of limited use methinks: you'd just go straight to if you thought it was the appropriate site. You can use Greasemonkey to edit Google results on the fly if you're *that* bothered. Of course you could always just use another search engine, run by some big, friendly, not-interested-in-making-money organisation, like, say, Bing.

    And would you hold yourself to such high standards? What if your daughter asked for a pony for Christmas, but you couldn't afford it; would you suggest your child seek out some alternate, richer parents because she would get her pony, and probably better life chaces to boot?

  15. jubtastic1

    I'll admit Google bothers me

    But statements like "Google is unfairly bundling its own services on its search engine, which controls an estimated 85 per cent of the market" are utter bullshit, Google doesn't control who visits their search page, people are using it because so far it's working for them, when it doesn't supply useful results they'll go elsewhere, its akin to saying "McDonalds, who control an estimated 85 per cent of the market for free burgers, are unfairly promoting their own menu on the free burger wrappers".

    "Corporation provides free tool that promotes corporations business" shouldn't be a story, regardless of what the corporation has said about the existence of self promotion in the past.

    Whole thing is yet more of the entitlement bullshit that seems to pervade the interwebs these days.

    1. MineHandle
      Thumb Down

      Google = Microsoft 15 years ago

      What rubbish.

      Google does VERY WELL control who visits their website. It PAYS several browsers to have Google as the default search engine in the browser. This is no different to MS paying computer manufacturers to install Windows as the operating system. No one is forcing anybody to buy a Windows PC. They could all go with Linux or a Mac. But choose not to. Just like most web users choose not to change their browsers default search engine.

      What then happened is that MS became so big that you effectively HAD to have Windows PC if you wanted interact with most other businesses. MS Office being the main reason, but there are others. Then MS started pushing it's own software/services preinstalled onto it's Operating System which I personally thought was great. No need for crap like RealPlayer. Just use the inbuilt Media Player. Or if you want, you can install something better (VLC perhaps). I don't think RealPlayer thought that. Are they still around? MS paid a small fine for that, but they didn't care, it just meant Bill G's estate was a few acres smaller.

      Well, it's IDENTICAL with Google now. So everyone now uses Google because it is the default search engine. It is also the best, probably. But we'll never know because, well, anybody trying to compete with Google on search is either a fool or Micorsoft. Now Google start pushing their services through their OS, sorry search engine. Want to compete with Google Maps on Google's search engine? Bad luck. You could try competing with Bing's Map (or even Google Maps) on Bing, but nobody goes there anyway so not much point. This is no different to trying to compete with Media Player on Windows. Bad luck. You could try competing with iTunes on a Mac - if you're a masochist. In the end your left with competing for market share on the Linux platform. Except those guys don't like paying for stuff.

      I for the life of me can't see why educated IT professionals can't see that Google is doing exactly what Microsoft did 15 years ago. Google IS the OS of the web. What do most people do when they turn on a PC? They go to the browser and do a search. Which takes them to Google.

      Now, I am not saying Google are evil. No more than any other coporation for sure. Nor are they infallible (in fact I see them being a lot less important in about 15 years time - they've missed the boat on social networking for a start), but they ARE a monopoly in the same way the MS were 15 years ago.

  16. James Woods

    if you can't take it don't dish it

    Google is off sueing our government (US) whining over issues with contracts. Google can't have it both ways.

    They wanna be in bed with the government and sue us at the same time?

    Let the anti-trust begin, let's see some taxing occur at google as well.

    If the people can lose their bush tax cuts the mega-corps can lose their tax shelters and tax loopholes.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Double standards?

    It's amazing quite how many comments here attempt to justify such blatant bundling and anti-competitive actions. Would those same people think it was fine if Bing were the dominant search engine and it was Microsoft pushing it's other services this way? I suspect not.

    It's high time Google was reminded that it is not above the law.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      RE: Double standards?

      "Would those same people think it was fine if Bing were the dominant search engine and it was Microsoft pushing it's other services this way?"

      Mr ill-informed I invite you to go and check your facts. Type into your browser and perform the exact same search... yes you also get stock market results, clicking on it takes you to Microsoft's MSN MoneyCentral... you may also notice that, unlike Google, there is a distinct lack of links to any other competitors.

  18. stuart Thompson

    not entirley biased

    Intrestingly i typed CSCO into my address bar and Google DNS auto directed me to the Yahoo! finance page.

  19. Mikel

    I don't care

    Yeah, if you google a stock symbol Google gives you the quote with a graph from, and links to that as well as several other finance sites, and blogs and news collections and images and every other thing relating. Oh, the horror! This is exactly the information I'm looking for when I Google a ticker symbol. If you use Microsoft's Bing Decision Engine, you get the graph from Bing finance, without the links to the other finance sites. If you use Yahoo's search site backed by the Microsoft Bing Decision Engine, you get Yahoo Finance in that section, and nothing else.

    Which is more fair? The one that links to all the other finance sites, or the ones that don't? And why is it that we choose Google over and over, and trust the links they give us? Because they're not afraid to put those other sites right up there next to their own. They strive to make us choose them not by forcing our choice, but by being best.

    Google isn't doing anything wrong here. In fact they're a standout for fairness among the crowd - even though as the author points out they are such a monopoly that they don't have to be. That's how they got to be a monopoly: by ceaseless dedication to service perfection. That's how they're going to maintain their monopoly - because when they lose that, it's over. Y'know, ordinarily I'm hugely against monopoly, but here's a rare case where I can get behind it.

    It only seems that Google has near-infinite power. If they start abusing it, it will disappear as if it never were.

  20. heyrick Silver badge


    I use this "feature" from time to time because, unlike a lot of search results, it "works".

    Google, type in ARMH. Bang, result, pretty graph. Right there. I don't need to visit another site, I don't need to worry if another provider will be all hissy-fit about Google sharing their intellectual property. I can see that I'm is steady, while Apple (AAPL) has had a more turbulent day.

    This is *similar* to the Microsoft anti-trust case, but has one enormous difference - nobody is FORCING Google into a prominent position. Alternatives exist. There's nothing to stop you erasing Google from your system and using Bing! instead.

    Google is simply providing salient useful results in a hurry for the attention-deficit crowd (i.e. people like me). I'd be a bit pissed if they stopped because somebody somewhere objected.

    Oh, the irony. I was going to suggest Yahoo! as an alternative, but when I typed ARMH into, I received: A.R. Materials Handling Ltd, ARM's website, and link three? Well, link three was a link to ARMH on Google finance.

    Oh, the irony - the sequel. (redirects to flagging GB). Typed in ARMH and the first link was the British Army website. Frigging idiots. "armh" != "army"!!! And immediately below that? Oh, the irony... the irony... a pretty little chart JUST LIKE GOOGLE's linking to and correct me if I am wrong, but both bing and msn are bits of Microsoftian on-line presence, no? Oh, and then followed like a dozen links to arm*y* websites. If you type in CSCO, the msn chart is top result.

    To flog a dead horse deader yet, CSCO on - link one is a yahoo news item, link 2 is yahoo finance. Meh, no pretty chart. [Altavista is, these days, just a rebranded Yahoo, same results]

    For information overload, try CSCO in Wolfram|Alpha.

    So, hey, why's this guy picking on Google. Does he have a conflict that ought to be declared?

  21. JaitcH

    Don't like Google? Go Bing yourself!

    Google provides a no charge-service to to most searchers.

    I have no problem with Google putting Google things up front. If they charged a search fee, then I would have a problem.

    Honesty can be tested. Pick the name of a piece of Google software for which it charges, then go and search for a serial number. You'll find them all, uncensored, and even more than on competitive search engines.

    Searchers always have the choice of comparing search results from a number of search engines and picking results on whatever criteria they think best fits their needs.

    As for mapping, looking for a test result in a developed country is hardly a test. Try a less populated country. Google has it. Go compare Mongolia map on any source and tell me which one gives the most information!

    Too remote, then try China or Ha Noi region in VietNam and then you will see why Google rightly gives itself the pole position.

    As I said, still not happy? Go Bing yourself.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    These aren't even search results

    Obviously Google has hardcoded logic to handle stock symbols, street addresses, news, things you might be shopping for, unit conversions, etc. People have been relying on these value-add features for years and years.

    These things don't even pretend to look like organic web search results anyway. Organic web search results in Google are left-aligned blue links with text excerpts in smaller black letters below them. Not a map, not a line graph, etc.

    Guess what, just checked and Bing does exactly the same thing, except MSFT doesn't even give you the choice of going to Yahoo, etc., with their little hardcoded case.

    Shame on El Reg for reporting this as front-page news.

  23. Alister

    Don't get it...

    How can you possibly compare what Google is doing here, with the Microsoft / Netscape scenario? Ok, so their top search result is to one of their own services - but it ISN'T the ONLY link provided - the user is free to click on one of the hundreds of other results returned.

    And, as others have said, you see exactly the same behaviour from Bing and Yahoo, they return their own services higher up the results set. So what is the big problem here? They are promoting their own product lines, yes, BUT NOT EXCLUSIVELY!!! They are not in any way stopping a user from totally ignoring their services and clicking on a different link.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    OMG - Massive antitrust suit filed against supermarkets...

    Last night my supermarket told me I could get a discount for buying a different product than the one I went in for this is SOOOO BAD it was thier OWN Brand product !!1!!11!!

    OMG they even put thier own product first in the aisle. this is SOO BAD sum1 Will DIE!!!1!!! OMG


    If you go into the google store you should expect to see google own brand products on the shelf!

    Go ask google what 2+2 is see what "search Results" are returned, this has never been an issue before why now? these 'feature' Links have been known about for a long time, its just now someone wants to create a stink, and it stinks like a smelly Bin_

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Google is above the law

    Antitrust? Legal action?

    The sorry truth is that Google is apparently above the law; the US Govt seem quite content to ignore Google's monopoly/excess/intelligence gathering.

    And the Streetview fiasco shows that other national Govts haven't got the resources or the inclination to confront them... even when they flagrantly break the law.

    So. Its a nice theory, but needs a work. 3/10, fail.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    acne ?

    I searched on 'acne' and didn't see any reference to Google in the top results

  27. Anonymous Coward

    "Do no evil"

    And the picture in Instant mode directs to:

    I never even noticed the links above.

  28. Tigra 07

    No Tit Required

    Google should be able to put whatever they like at the top of their search site.

    Just as i believed Microsoft should be able to stick IE in Windows (even though i don't use it)

    They invented their sites and OSs so i don't see why they should be picked on while apple can close off competition and stick whatever they like in their OS and phones

    1. Lewis Mettler 1

      but it is illegal

      The US Appellate Court did decide that commingling the OS with IE code was in fact illegal.

      If you really think that bundling products is okay you do not care to decide what food you eat or what clothes you wear. They could be bungled too.

      Do you want to be forced to purchase a Microsoft phone each time you upgrade your OS? You are forced to buy IE each time. What is the difference?

      There isn't any.

      But, search results are not forced purchases. Nor are they forced links.

      1. Tigra 07
        Thumb Down

        RE: Lewis, there's almost no point replying to that ramble

        "You are forced to buy IE each time. What is the difference?"

        The difference is IE is free, so you are not forced to buy anything each time.

        And i pointed out that apple doesn't have to supply multiple Internet Browsers with their OS, which smacks of double standards.

        So your defense there was crap Lewis.

  29. Owen Carter


    Surely this is only a problem for very, very, very stupid people.

    For the rest of us fixes it nicely and is fewer characters to type..

    @Renalto: Thanks.. that kinda restored my sanity after reading this article..

  30. Wayland Sothcott 1
    Big Brother

    Google lie?

    My first reaction was "Wow, this really proves they lie"

    My second reaction was "Duh, of course they do, why else would they build the most popular search engine if not to make money from fudging the results"

    First you have to make the best most popular most dominant product or service. This may cost you a lot and not make a profit. Then once everyone is hooked you can bleed it dry. Finally when your product or service is completely defunct it's competitor takes over.

    We see this whenever there are two competitors for one market. If there was only one and no alternative then the deliberate death of the product or service would be the death of the market. If Nick and Dave had not stepped in to save politics we would have had anarchy. Once they have broken all their promises we will vote Red Ed.

    Nothing will come of this except a few more people will wake up to the fact that those in power are supposed to lie to us and it's our duty to believe them.

  31. King Edward I

    This example is stupid.

    Sorry, but see that line there that says "Google Finance‎ Yahoo Finance‎ MSN Money‎ DailyFinance‎ CNN Money‎ Reuters‎"

    Surely linking to your competitors at the top of the results is a good arument against it being an antitrust situation?

  32. plrndl


    This is complete nonsense.

    The search for CSCO also returned a stock quote, sensibly assuming that this would be highly relevant to a search on a stock ticker. Naturally it used Google's own data to provide this.

    The second search specifically requests the string CSCO followed by a comma, which is algorithmically a different search, for which the stock quote is unlikely to prove relevant.

    On a related tack, "search engine optimisation" is a euphemism for trying to con searchers to visit a site that is less popular than its ranking would suggest, ie fraud.

  33. mccp
    Big Brother

    When does Google turn in to Big Brother?

    There is a very interesting trend in these comments. They seem to split into roughly three groups.

    The first set of commentards are those who are taking exception to the CSCO example, who mostly seem to have missed the main point of the article being about a defacto monopoly of search that could be used in an anti-competitive manner. After all, you could always go somewhere else, maybe AskJeeves. Oh. I see what you did there.

    The second set seem to think that there is no problem with Google adjusting search results to suit its own ends. For most of the Western world's Internet users (maybe Eastern and Southern as well for all I know) Google is the Internet. Even well educated, politically astute, people of my acquaintance think that Google == Internet. The trouble is then, that these people can easily be directed to sites that Google wants them to go to, or away from other sites. This seems to be an obvious monopoly position that can be used in an anti-competitive way. AFAIK this is against the law in most Western capitalist countries. In fact it sounds a little like a totalitarian state trying to control the proles.

    The third set of commentards, of which I count myself a member, are worried by the way in which Google has started to drift away from its original egalitarian search. Unfortunately we seem to be in a minority here.

  34. Hashem

    This is not anti-trust

    I have no love for google, I like my privacy and I dislike being tracked. Having said that, there is no way this is anti-trust.

    People use google as a search engine because... it turns up useful links in what is generally considered to be a good order. Or at least in a good enough order that it's useful to use google over any other search engine.

    If people feel google is prioritising it's own search results (which it almost certainly is) and those links are irrelevant, or not what they wanted, then they certainly would use some other search engine which prioritises different links.

    There is no problem of compatibility, a search engine is a search engine, it does the same thing no matter who is running it. The only difference is speed and relevance.

    What it really boils down to is this: Google Search prioritises links to other google products. These products are integrated into google search (See the stocks chart without having to click on the link). If people think that the link presented isn't the most relevant one, nothing is locking them into using a google product. They CAN go elsewhere.

  35. Vinod Raghavan

    They all do it!!!!

    I went to and searched for CSCO. The first result was from Yahoo Finance.

    I then searched for "Edinburgh" and the first result was from

    In fact Bing was probably the best on this. They came up with Comstock, Google then Yahoo on the CSCO search, but I think Comstock was "hard coded" as another search for "csco finance" came up with yahoo then google. Microsoft clearly have a contract with comstock.

    The point is that the search providers are trying to give users the information they want. To give the level of information they put on that first entry on the list, they have to choose one information provider as otherwise they would have to call multiple API's depending on the users preference and they would have no control on the speed of getting the data. By using their own servers to give the information they have control of the users experience.

    As others have said, the choice is there as users can go to yahoo, bing or any other search provider. The only thing you could possibly accuse google of is not labelling the search result as being prioritised to give the user appropriate information.

    1. MineHandle

      But they're not all the size of Google

      Just like all OSs default to a certain browser (usually their own). But only MS has been forced to make you choose which browser you use. Why? because of their market share.

  36. Pahhh

    Could be antitrust, not convinced though

    I think Google have the power to be provide anti-trust results. I think it probably is a real issue.

    I am not sure however if the example is clear cut. Its clear that Google tries to do some contextual search. It knows for instance that CSCO is more likely to by a stock ticker than anything else. It probably has algorithms for search results that are more relevant to the context. As such they can optimise their own pages to be search friendly to their own search engine.

    Try a search of "map XXXXX" where XXXX is your postcode. Do the search in Google, Yahoo, Bing. In Google number 1 link was Google maps (no surprise). Yahoo had completely random and generally useless links, Bing had Google maps 2nd .

    Problem is of course, Google dont publish how they do the ranking so they have an immediate advantage in knowing what to do to optimise their pages for search engines.

  37. Lewis Mettler 1

    those on record

    Those on record as objecting to the illegal bundling of IE with the OS from Microsoft can complain about what Google is doing.

    Those Microsoft salesmen never did that. Yet, now they jump up and call the antitrust card?

    Either you are for the correct enforcement of the law or you are not. If you only try to force the sale of IE yet complain about Google, then, well, you are only a salesman from Microsoft.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    I think it's easy to wave the finger... Google for something that really is not that clear cut. Google have a lot of services because they use their resource to bring new services to the forefront, any company in the same position would also want to integrate their different service together to provide a more intelligent and useful system, hence why you get Google Maps, Google Finance etc. etc. appear on the search results page.

    ‘But if you search on "CSCO," — rather than "CSCO" — those Google Finance links vanish, "What system design could explain that disappearance?" Edelman says’

    These systems are likely to have been built in separation and it is plausible have different algorithms to produce results. The search algorithm on the Google Finance service to find a company name or stock market identifier will definitely not be engineered to be as powerful as a language based search algorithm as required for Google Search, as the latter algorithm would be excessive. Google will most likely be passing the search input through to its other services to see if they yield results as well, which isn’t wrong or evil, it is simple common sense and as an end-user I certainly want these services to be as useful as possible by integrating it with other services in the portfolio.

    Is it bad news for the competition? Obviously, every time your competitor brings out better solutions than you it is bad news for you, but should Google do something about it? I think not, I cannot think of any business that is being undercut or circumvented with these services being their primary business function.

    You wouldn’t be able to go to Asda and buy a Tesco Home Insurance, but you can go to Google and view Yahoo Finance.

    It is delicate ground but I don’t think Google are doing anything wrong… yet. Google could prevent a shit-storm by integrating it searches with third party information services, promoting the third party… Or that could invoke another shit-storm by giving preferential treatment to select third parties.

    Prognosis… Google is big and is walking the tightrope above the angry mob.

  39. Chris Hunt

    What's the problem?

    It seems to me that Google look to see if the term entered might be better dealt with by one of their other services - Finance, Maps, Images, News etc. - and, if it does, puts a link to the other service. That way, if you want to get a stock quote you can just type CSCO into the search box on your browser (which you've chosen to point at Google), rather than having to make an special trip to the service concerned.

    His argument is undermined by the fact that the CSCO search result he's so upset about clearly contains links to Yahoo Finance,‎ MSN Money‎, DailyFinance, CNN Money‎ and Reuters‎ as well as the Google service. Doing the same search on Bing or Yahoo brings back similar links to each company's equivalent service (but without the row of links to competitors).

    And as to the bit about not being able to "install" other maps into Google results, does the Professor actually understand the concept of a web site? I've noticed that I'm unable to "install" my collection of favourite lolcat pictures into the Prof's own site, does that mean I can sue him over it?

  40. Mikel

    Squinting at Google

    If you've got to look this hard at Google to try and see evilness that isn't there, that's saying something.

  41. hahnchen

    How is the CSCO search evidence of hard-coding?

    So if you search for a stock ticker symbol, Google algorithms recognise what it is, and gives you finance links at the top.

    If you append a comma, Google algorithms do not spot that it is a ticker symbol, and doesn't give you the finance links.

    How is that "hard-coding"?

    People understand the difference between an auto-generated Google results widget and "natural" algorithmic results. Prominent placement of Google widgets may be an issue, but its not new, and it isn't "hard-coded".

  42. Just Joe

    So what?

    So this guy's argument is that if you search for CSCO the top link is for Google Finance? So what? Go to Bing and search for the same thing. What's the first link there? You guessed it, Bing Finance.

    Where's the outcry over that? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

    Fake news is fake. The guy who 'broke' this story is a shill for Microsoft and the news orgs just lapped it up.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like