back to article Google's Euro antitrust offer: Fine! We'll link to our search rivals

Google's rivals have been given one month to weigh up the advertising giant's now-public proposed changes to how it runs its European search business. The deadline to "test" Google's offer of commitments was set by Brussels' competition chief Joaquin Almunia, who is investigating allegations that Google unfairly promotes its …


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  1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Another dodgy practice...

    I use AdblockPlus (of course) but I can't seem to turn off the block of 3 sponsored links that appears (eventually) at the top of a google results page. The real pain is that it takes several seconds for the ads to appear after the main results have rendered, so I frequently end up trying to click the top result and suddenly ending up clicking the top sponsored link as it materialises under my mouse pointer. This is bad news for the rubbish sites that advertise at the top, as they end up paying for dud clicks.

    Anyone know how to hide that block of ads?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another dodgy practice...

      Anyone know how to hide that block of ads?

      Sure. Use

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Another dodgy practice...

        "Sure. Use" Welllllllllll, no. I just had a look. I did a search for something I've been using recently - the top of the page has three clearly sponsored adverts for things tenuously linked to the search term.

        I won't be swapping just yet.

    2. Andy Fletcher

      Re: Another dodgy practice...

      For pity's sake, just stop using Google.

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Another dodgy practice...

        There are search rivals? Actual viable alternatives?

        1. Ian Yates

          Re: Another dodgy practice...

          YMMV, but I've had good experiences with duckduckgo

        2. Andy Fletcher

          Re: Another dodgy practice...

          Not for me there aren't, no. So I added up what I see as the "cost" of using Google, weighed it against the benefits and decided benefits won.

  2. Aoyagi Aichou

    Oh no!

    Google promotes their service using their other service. We can't have that, please redirect your searches to Sincerely, the not-abusive-at-all Europian Uniin regulation department.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Oh no!

      Might is right eh?

  3. ratfox

    Some of these already exist

    If you Google for AAPL, you can see a chart showing the stock price of Apple. Under the charts are three small, grey links, pointing to Google Finance, Yahoo Finance and MSN Money. I assume this is the type of links Google has in mind, though it may have to make the links bigger and more visible.

    Google still has a clear advantage in the fact that clicking on the chart brings you to Google Finance, but it was not always so; it used to be that the chart was not a link at all, and you would have to choose one of the three small grey links in order to get more details about the Apple stock price.

    Of course, from the statement of Foundem, it seems doubtful that they will declare themselves satisfied unless a guaranteed percentage of the Google traffic is redirected to Foundem… They seem awfully certain that one of these three links to rivals will belong to them.

    1. wowfood

      Re: Some of these already exist

      Not only that

      offer all websites the option to opt out from the use of all their content in Google's specialised search services, while ensuring that any opt-out does not unduly affect the ranking of those websites in Google's general web search results,

      - offer all specialised search websites that focus on product search or local search the option to mark certain categories of information in such a way that such information is not indexed or used by Google,

      - provide newspaper publishers with a mechanism allowing them to control on a per-web-page basis the display of their content in Google News;

      There are already htaccess properties you can set to block googles web crawler, and I'm fairly certain I remember seeing a script file you can upload and link to in the header of a page which would do the same.

      It's almost like the concessions are already in place, but google is just pointing them out a bit more clearly.

      1. ratfox

        Re: Not only that

        Actually, that is a bit different. Without even going into htaccess properties, the robots.txt file allows you to tell Google which pages of your site it is allowed to crawl. But the problem of web sites is another one.

        Currently, either you allow Google to crawl a piece of information in your site, or you don't. And if you do allow Google to crawl it, Google can analyse it and display it to the user in all kinds of ways.

        So you are in a Catch-22 situation: You might have super nice information on your web site, but if you don't allow Google to crawl it, then Google will not show your web site in results, because it does not know you have the information. And if you allow Google to crawl it, Google will show your web site in results, but it might also display the same information in a big splashy frame on the right side, and then users will not click on the link to your web site, because they have your information already. They don't need you anymore.

        The way I understand it, under the new propositions, web sites will be able to allow Google to crawl their web sites, but stop it from showing the information in the big splashy frame, so that users will click on the link to your web site. It is slightly more work for the users, but your contribution is better rewarded.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Comparison websites. .

    ... as a user will I have the ability to block the complete crap that sites like foundem clutter my search results up with?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Comparison websites. .

      From one Anonymous Coward to another, you are clutter in my gene pool search, can I have you blocked at birth?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Comparison websites. .

      You can do that already with Google. I recommend using Personal Blocklist by Google, available free of charge. Just type Personal Blocklist into the search field in the chrome web store.

  5. Don Jefe

    Positive Spin from Schmidt

    I can already see it: 'As previously noted Google is a large contributor to the EU economy. Our aggressive drive to leverage taxation strategies gives us the financial bandwidth to defend our job creation strategies. Even now a new trustee is being established by the EU to assist us in better competition management. This trustee will be composed of some of the best legal, financial and technical minds in Europe with the large taxpayer funded salaries these individuals deserve. The trustee will assist Google by identifying missed opportunities in the competitive and privacy elements of our growth strategy. We look forward to working with this trustee at the new suite we are building them in the growing 'Silicon Roundabout' technology development area'.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Positive Spin from Schmidt

      Wow. I guess my humor was off today...

  6. Alien Doctor 1.1

    Will they also force...

    my local car showrooms into displaying and selling models from other manufacturers, I find it so hard to buy a VW when I'm in the Ford showroom in Bristol?

    1. wowfood

      Re: Will they also force...

      And I demand they start selling pepsi in the coca cola vending machines.

      I mean Apple are already doing plenty of marketting work for Samsung, we should see more of this cooperation.

      1. Alien Doctor 1.1

        Re: Will they also force...

        I fully agree old chap - and in addition to Pepsi they could also add bottles of Hobgoblin.

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Will they also force...

      When Ford buy all the showrooms and prevent any builders buying new ones, wait and see.

      1. Alien Doctor 1.1

        Re: Will they also force...

        an interesting analogy, but surely a manufacturer should be able to market their products in any way they see fit (as long as my ad-blockers can zap the buggers)?

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Will they also force... @JDX

        I can sort of see where you are coming from, but that isn't happening in reality. Google aren't "buying al the showrooms", nor are they "preventing any builders buying new ones". At this moment in time, they have an excellent product that many people want to use. No-one else has yet produced a similarly efficient search tool with easy connection to lots of other useful tools (maps, calendars etc). If anyone did, they would no doubt announce it in relevant media (here, for instance), and lots of techies would go and look at it. If it was found to be good, people would report it on various blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Its credibility would go up, its Google (and other search engine) ranking would go up, and word would spread rapidly. Google is not preventing any of that happening - what we need is the next useful innovation, assuming there is one (some things are right and the only changes are incremental).

        Not liking Google because they collect data on users (just like the majority of other big brands) should not cloud your judgement on the actual realities of the situation.

  7. Samuel Deakin

    EU should back off

    It anyoys me so much, each time I go to my web brower I have a choice to type whatever serach engine I want, In my opinion Google can priotise there own adverts over anybody elses they built it and they are not forcing anybody to use their search engine, you have a choice each and every time.

    If the EU don't like it try using Yahoo.

    We Mircosoft if I want to buy a PC from HP I have no choice to what OS I have it comes with Windows or windows.

    Gets me mad

  8. Keep Refrigerated

    Que Es Search?

    I can only see (3) and (4) being relevant since Google is already doing (1) and (2) to a degree and it would only require a bit more tweaking.

    I assume Foundem and the other MS proxies will not settle until they've drawn blood. They don't want a fair solution, they want Google to lose some serious cash - it's about hindering rivals after all, not about fair competition or the end user.

    As long as I don't do a search for something I'm looking to buy and get offered Foundem as a valid result, or another search engine as a valid result then that's fair to me.

    I suspect if Google was forced to start redirecting people to Foundem, only to duplicate their personal search efforts, Google would start to lose mindshare - and profits - rapidly (but not to Foundem - to Bing or DuckDuckGo or someone else).

    Foundem? fuck 'em!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bad news for consumers.

    In short, Google are being asked to promote inferior Microsoft offerings alongside theirs.

    When I search for restaurants in a foreign town, I don't want to see results from Bing Maps, they are rubbish.

    Google got where it is today by making great products that people WANT to use. This decision is basically them to offer up inferior offerings along them.

    More nonsense from the EU, that's supposed to protect my interests, like I am some kind of idiot that can't make up my own mind. It was bad enough when the UK ICO make every website annoy me by asking for permission to use cookies, in a way that's more annoying than cookies ever were, that alone put the internet back 5 years, this is almost as bad.

    Companies should be competing on an even playing field, the EU have just titled that playing field against Google. How is that fair?

  10. volsano

    Plus ca change

    This is reminiscent of the court orders of half a century ago on airline availability search systems,

    Those early, specialised, search engines had a start-up habit of favouring flights operated by the AVS engine's operator. Legal rulings forced them to be "objective" - to the benefit of all:

    Passengers (via their travel agents who ran most of the searches) need only search one system to find all flights, rather than multiple ones.

    The better AVS systems could outcompete those from smaller operators, and eventually consilidate a grip on the market; today, there are only a couple that matter.

    Fairness of display as a route towards further monopoly? It worked for the airline search engines; looks like Google is learning a valuable historical lesson.

    1. Caesarius

      Re: Plus ca change

      What a very interesting chain of events.

      Personally, I would have no temptation to look at other search engines if Google did everything I wanted:

      Disable Google Instant Results

      yes: I can do that

      Specify search term meta data

      yes: "mandatory_term" -exclude_this_term,

      no: "SpecifyCaseButNotMandatory"

      Speed up searching by omitting things I didn't search for

      That would include ads, so I do not expect satisfaction!

      Show all hits regardless of proprietary considerations

      All a matter of trust. I will be as loyal as a puppy until the day I can prove they have betrayed me.

      After all, I switched from altavista for two reasons

      1. Google seemed to be quick, and found many relevant hits

      2. Altavista promised me an email account for life viz and then changed it to I dare you to tell me you wouldn't be embarrassed to use it!

      So why wouldn't Google wipe out the competition simply trying to be the best?

  11. MrJonno

    There is about as much need for more that one search engine as there is for more than one desktop operating as system.

    A monopoly search engine cannot be used to promote its other products to pay for itself, that is a gross abuse of the market

    1. Keep Refrigerated

      @Mr Jonno

      And yet the EU has yet to address Microsofts dominance of the traditional 'desktop' and force OEMs to provide alternative OSes as a pre-installation option!

      For me that would do a lot more good than forcing a search engine to provide extra hyperlinks, when navigating to a competitor is 2-clicks away.

      1. MrJonno

        Re: @Mr Jonno

        No it forces Microsoft not bundle Internet Explorer as a default browser. There being a monopoly on search engines is unfortunately pretty inevitable but how Google exploits that monopoly is something for the regulators

  12. magrathea

    Our politicians seem determined to 'solve' as many non-problems as they can. - I mean 'non-problem' as far as the average Joe is concerned

  13. Justice

    We'll thcream and thcream and thcream 'till we're thick...

    So, Google came up with an excellent search algorithm, developed it, advertised it, gained the trust (to an extent) of it's user base and climbed to the top of it's class while all the other search providers scoffed and sat on their laurels.

    Now, when these former giants of the internet search world are pathetic shadows of their former selves, they think it's unfair that Google advertises the products it built on it it's own success.

    This is a real 'toys-out-of-pram' moment.

  14. Trustme

    Stupidity reigns again

    Using the "logic" of this supposed "anti-trust" complaint, I presume they will show consistency and ban Ford advertising the fact it sells vans as well by using advertising on it's company cars, will stop Sky advertising it's broadband services on its websites without listing all the competitors above it's own services, and essentially stop any company that has become successful from advertising its other products on the grounds it's "anti-competitive".

    Yes I KNOW Google get paid to show adverts, and they need to show adverts fairly, and they do, right underneath telling a customer that has actively searched for a product using THEIR search engine that they also offer that product. They have built a successful vehicle that billions of people use, and they promote their own products using that vehicle, That's not anti-competitive, thats COMMON SENSE and GOOD BUSINESS PRACTICE. Anti-competitive would mean hiding or omitting a competitor's advert after it has been paid for, which they don't do, but putting their own products at the top of searches entered for that product is exactly what they should do. This is just Eurocrats looking for an opportunity to wring some more millions out of Google on a trumped up charge so they can enjoy a few more all-expenses paid, 3 week "fact finding missions" to the Bahamas.

    The other option for Google to defeat this latest round of "making shit up to create arbitrary fines" is to simply stop accepting adverts from people who are competitors in those areas on the grounds it would be unreasonable to expect them to promote a competitor's product on their own website. Sky aren't obliged to promote Virgin Media on their website, Ford aren't obliged to promote Vauxhall on thiers, so why should Google be obliged to promote rival servcices on thiers?

  15. Tikimon

    Forget anticompetition, Commission Sales warp the service

    Let's look at one (somewhat relevant) analogy. Retail shops.

    I used to work for an outdoor store. When asked for product recommendations, I gave the ones that seemed best suited to what the customer asked for. They could reasonably trust that I was guiding them to products that would meet their wants. That's sort of an "Honest Search Result".

    Commission-sales shops instead will recommend higher priced items to increase the sale and payoff. The customer's interests are being eroded here, and we begin to see "Dishonest Search Results". The customer is not being given the information they specifically asked for, nor what will best serve their needs.

    Let's add another layer of self-interest. The commission retailer also selectively pushes its own store brands, even where a competitor's product might better meet the customer's wants. Now we have "Totally Dishonest Search Results" that ignore the customer's desires to support the retailer's business model.

    And that's Google. The promise of Better Search has been eroded by paid placement and self-promotion while pushing the competition down in the ranks.

    I won't comment on whether antitrust action is appropriate, but their business plan is screwing their famous Search pretty heavily. I use Duckduckgo for my primary search. It seemed like sparse results at first, until I realize the "missing links" that Google had were mostly BS. Your mileage may vary...

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