back to article Google harms consumers and strangles the open web, says study

Google’s favourable treatment of its own services results in consumer harm and will make the web less diverse, a study into search engine users’ behaviour has claimed. Heavyweight law prof Tim Wu, who coined the phrase “net neutrality”, is one of the authors of the study, which was supported by data from Yelp, a Google rival …

  1. Aitor 1

    Google maps

    Used to be great, and now each version seems to be worse... but hey, they can get more ads...

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: Google maps

      Adding a Hell Yeah to that - my last foray into the streetview decided I didn't need the minimap overview to know where I was. Instantly disorientated and point mooted.

    2. Dazed and Confused

      Re: Google maps

      Isn't this true of most SW? Every versions seems to be worse than the previous version, look at MS Office if you want an extreme example.

  2. Richard Jones 1
    Unhappy

    Yelp

    What on earth is yelp?

    Is it one of those dreadful listing sites with 101 names of companies you would never use to get goods they do not hold?

    If I could I would bar every one of my searches from every giving a listing site.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yelp

      Yelp is a pseudo "user review" site, which claims that they list reviews of merchants from real users.

      Until you read their disclaimer

      http://officialblog.yelp.com/2009/10/why-yelp-has-a-review-filter.html

      where they openly admit that they hide reviews from any source they don't like, that being any reviewers they have even the slightest doubt of. Read: not towing the Yelp party line of writing reviews that benefit Yelp through paid company participation

      http://www.searchenginejournal.com/yelp-filter-positive-reviews-business-refuses-pay-advertising/98695/

  3. naive

    Fools and Horses

    Wow i have my own translate site running on one Windows 2000 website, and now google always comes up with their translate. That is just mean, time for an angry letter to Brussels.

    May be google should pull the plug in the EU for a day or so, then we see how good the alternatives are, perhaps they even offer us some nicely rigged flash ad as a bonus.

    1. John Lilburne

      Re: Fools and Horses

      Good luck with that sunshone. When one French ISP blocked Google adsense the ad-pusher whined that it cost them $1million a day.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fools and Horses

      "May be google should pull the plug in the EU for a day or so, then we see how good the alternatives are, perhaps they even offer us some nicely rigged flash ad as a bonus."

      Then what happens when customers prefer the alternatives and reply to Google, "You will NOT be missed"?

      1. Preston Munchensonton
        Stop

        Re: Fools and Horses

        Then what happens when customers prefer the alternatives and reply to Google, "You will NOT be missed"?

        We can't have any of that capitalism stuff. Never will happen.

      2. Donn Bly

        Re: Fools and Horses

        > Then what happens when customers prefer the alternatives and reply to

        > Google, "You will NOT be missed"?

        Then we will have proved that Google is not and never was a monopoly, and that the claims against it are unjustified.

        Good or bad, Google is # 1 because people actually LIKE it, or at least they like it better than the alternatives -- which really goes to show that there is no accounting for taste.

        If someone builds a better mousetrap, people will abandon Google as they really don't have a stake in it.

        1. Sandtitz Silver badge

          Re: Fools and Horses @Donn Bly

          > Then what happens when customers prefer the alternatives and reply to Google, "You will NOT be missed"?

          Then we will have proved that Google is not and never was a monopoly, and that the claims against it are unjustified.

          No. Whether Google is a monopoly or whether they are abusing their monopoly power I cannot say. (the courts will) Also, monopoly per se isn't illegal. Microsoft was a monopoly 20 years ago or so even if there were other operating systems available. They just used their monopoly power to oust the rest of them out of business. Hence the US vs MS antitrust case.

          If a monopoly business was to somehow vanish overnight then other businesses would likely arise to meet the demand. Google has several different services but I know of none that couldn't be offered by any other company. If MS would have been terminated back then - other software providers would have filled the gap.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Fools and Horses

      "May be google should pull the plug in the EU for a day or so, then we see how good the alternatives are, perhaps they even offer us some nicely rigged flash ad as a bonus."

      But that is the point. Google were better, many of the others turning into "portals" rather than objective search engines. Google claim to fame was that they are better than that. But they have gone/are going the same way. If Google pulled the plug, would we even notice? In my case, probably not. On the other hand, if Google pulled the plug on ALL of their "estate" we might find stuff disappears that we didn't even know Google owned.

    4. big_D Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Fools and Horses

      I hope your translation site is better than Google's. If you use theirs, then the recipient of your complaint probably won't have a clue what you are trying to say - or it will be praising it!

      Interestingly the more formal the English, the less likely Google is to translate it accurately!

      I tried converting a handbook to German for work and thought Google Translate would save some time. It just made me laugh, then I had to translate it by hand.

      Things like "do not open the case, high voltage inside," translated into the German equivalent of "open the case, high voltage inside." Better yet was "do not open the case, no user serviceable parts inside," translated to the equivalent of "open the case, no parts inside." :-D

  4. Mike 125

    But it's the system.

    We appear to have a system which turns innovative genius into monopolistic monstrosity. Inevitably. Suggestions?

    1. oldcoder

      Re: But it's the system.

      Not necessarily.

      It all depends on WHO is backing the accusation.

      Industry groups? not a problem... unless they are funded by Microsoft, in which case, they become a MS front. And unfortunately, too many of them are just proxys for Microsoft.

    2. Dazed and Confused

      Re: But it's the system.

      So what's the alternative, most companies try to expand, any company with only a single product is in a very shaking position.

      Google aren't a charity. Whether we like it or not they are a successful company, they are good at search because they are successful as well as visa versa.

      What would happen if companies which provide any sort of Internet search were banned from providing any other services. How far would you like to see this sort of law taken? "If you sell coffee you are banned from selling tea"?

      Google have managed to get to a dominant position in the search market place despite the fact that every new PC sold these days is pre-installed using Bing as its search engine. Even if you go to the URL bar in IE and type in "www.google.com" it's doesn't go there, it does a Bing search for Google (BTW it doesn't do this for a lot of other URLs) yet even so millions of totally non technical users are managing to still get to use Google, presumably by choice.

      How much do their competitors spend on advertising their search engines? And why is this advertising not working?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But it's the system.

      "a system which turns innovative genius into monopolistic monstrosity"

      Well, as long as Krusty the Clown and his colleagues at USPO haven't been too generous in granting yet more patents for prior art, there's no real barriers to somebody coming up with a new search engine. And that's all Google have of any worth in the desktop space, really.

      Gmail, Maps, Google+, Youtube are all commodity services that I don't use, or could live without. And mostly they're flawed in some critical manner as well. If somebody comes up with an equal or better search engine, then Google (who have repeatedly shat on their "don't be evil" claims) will find the customers have gone.

      Same goes for Android. Whilst not loving either, I'd turn to Windows or IOS if the offer were right (or Android's were wrong). But for preference I'd rather have nice a phone running Sailfish, Firefox, or even Ubuntu, if they would iron the bugs out.

  5. Spindreams

    They should definitely at minimum split out Google search from everything else Google does. Google has such a dominant position with it's search engine and such an impact on the success of all online business that favouring its own services essentially means it is very hard for anyone else to compete. How much better would it be if Google search was run as a not for profit or even subsidised by an ISP tax to remove all paid adverts and only allow organic search results to be listed.

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Flawed study

    Interesting to see Andrew touting a study by someone who came up with the term "net neutrality", which he's rightly criticised at times.

    Google's value as an advertiser is heavily based on its value as a search engine. If I start getting the feeling that I'm poorly served by Google I'll be off to another search engine just like happened back in the day.

    If I want to do price comparison I usually don't use Google directly. I use Google to find different price comparison sites which I then generally bookmark. Google often gives a good, but insufficient, indication of the market.

    Where Google, just like Apple (and Amazon), is gaining an unfair advantage is in the add-ons to Android. Google Now, though I haven't used it very much, is very, very good at putting two and two together and getting four. It cuts out the search completely, so no competition case to answer, and may well become indispensable to many.

    The solution, for both Google and Apple, will be to prevent the vertical integration they're currently building. At the moment, however, there's no doubt that Apple is far more anti-competitive.

  7. Ole Juul

    Ad block and VPN for all

    Perhaps user education would be helpful here. I avoid Google services and I avoid ads. I also discovered that by using a VPN I can get search results which are more "neutral". It puts the world (and wide) back in WWW. The average user won't know how to do that stuff, but there is no reason why vendors like Firefox can't help people get a better experience. Or is there?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ad block and VPN for all

      "I also discovered that by using a VPN I can get search results which are more "neutral""

      Excuse me, but have you read this article yet? Kinda makes you wanna give up civilization and just eke it out in the wilderness...until you recall all the photography satellites...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hardly Independent Then?

    "supported by data from Yelp, a Google rival"

  9. ed1g1tal

    Pot calling the kettle black. Yelp needs to check it's own integrity first. Perhaps they are still sore about Google not offering them what they thought they were worth during the last acquisition attempt.

    http://www.wired.com/2010/02/yelp-sued-for-alleged-extortion/

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not again!

    For God's sake, people, just use the default Bing in your IE or Yahoo in Mozilla Firefox and get back to life, OK? Nobody's beating you into typing Google search URI in your browser.

  11. Fihart

    When Google was good.

    X years ago when a techie friend e-mailed me insisting that I must try this new search engine called Google.

    But now Google is bad. Brother looked for a hotel near my place and Google was cluttered with paid-for results for sites recommending hotels.

    So now use DuckDuckGo -- seems to work and claims not to track.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I look forward to the day Bing (who? - Google it) recommends Linux over Windows.

    1. Dazed and Confused

      What do we need to game its search results?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bing search is growing on me.

    However, I did notice a bizarre bug when using video search: If you look for "bondage" the SafeSearch settings ("strict", "moderate", "off") appear to be the wrong way round.

  14. John Crisp

    Yup in the early days Google were great, or better than the competition (ahhhh... those heady days of Archie Gopher Altavista Excite Lycos Yahoo et al!)

    But now they are just another listing site trying to shove shopping and other listing sites (that they probably own) down my throat. Selling what they want you to buy, not supplying the information you seek

    I only use them in desperation these days if DDG doesn't give me a sensible answer.

    I hate having to climb through 5 pages of guff to possibly get what you might be looking for instead of what they want you to see.

    Or you get two links, both in Chinese :-)

    Heroes to zeroes IMHO. Shame. Great idea.... but the call of filthy lucre bought out the morals.

    1. nijam

      > But now they are just another listing site trying to shove shopping and other listing sites (that they probably own) down my throat. Selling what they want you to buy, not supplying the information you seek...

      Strangely, that doesn't happen to me ... put in a search query, get results, get no listing sites. Are you sure it's Google you're using?

      1. Cpt Blue Bear

        Seconded. I get up to four marked paid results at the top then useful stuff. I think the OP has a browser hijack...

  15. Alan Denman

    So those against the open web are really for the open web ?

    And in the same context can we also pay someone to say that green technology companies are polluting the planet

  16. DrHow

    Google not only favors themselves sometimes, they also favor companies that pay for the privilege. When you search for a product, it is typical that the first result is paid for. There are additional paid for for links to the right at the top. I normally ignore all that and skip down to something more neutral. The point it that this behavior on Google's part is hardly anything new, and savvy users should already have learned to skip past the earliest returned results.

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