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Google Says Microsoft Is Driving Antitrust Review 295

Posted by Soulskill
from the water-is-wet-film-at-eleven dept.
GovTechGuy writes "On Friday we discussed news that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott opened a probe into whether Google ranks its search listings with an eye toward nicking the competition. Google suggested the concerns have a major sponsor: Microsoft. In question is whether the world's biggest search engine could be unfairly disadvantaging some companies by giving them a low ranking in free search listings and in paid ads that appear at the top of the page. That could make it tough for users to find those sites and might violate antitrust laws. Abbott's office asked for information about three companies who have publicly complained about Google, according to blog post by Don Harrison, the company's deputy general counsel. Harrison linked each of the companies to Microsoft."
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Google Says Microsoft Is Driving Antitrust Review

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  • by pookemon (909195) on Monday September 06, 2010 @07:25PM (#33493498) Homepage
    When I Google "Bing" - you're first in the list of results. And second, and fourth....

    Of course that unfairly disadvantages Bing Crosby. But he's dead. Just like Windows Live Search.
    • by ep32g79 (538056)
      Hmm, when I Bing "Google" I get "Google Invents Most Annoying Bug of All Time"
    • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @03:14AM (#33495932)

      UK version of Google : "Bing" shows me the UK version of Bing first then bing.com

      UK Version of Bing : "Google" shows me google.com then google.co.uk ....

      This seems to be a trend with all my bing searches, the strictly correct but irrelevant answer first, then somewhere down the page what I actually asked for, whereas google tends to give the the relevant answer first more often than not ....

      This is probably just the way I look for things ... your experience may vary ....

  • It's free (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 06, 2010 @07:25PM (#33493500)

    Um .. it's a free service - if you don't like it use something else!

  • by kawabago (551139) on Monday September 06, 2010 @07:26PM (#33493510)
    Once again Microsoft chooses to litigate instead of innovate. I guess Bing didn't crush Google quite as firmly as Microsoft hoped so they had to find proxies to launch baseless legal attacks until they think of something else. The technology landscape would be vastly improved if Microsoft would just dissolve and go away.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by August_zero (654282)
      Google is hardly some poor little fish lost in a big pond with some big bad guppy bearing down on it. Google can handle itself at this point, no need to drag out the M$ rhetoric again.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by amiga3D (567632)
        Truth, my insightful friend. Google isn't the typical MicroSoft victim. They have their own huge army of lawyers and deep pockets. It make you wonder what MS's real goals are here. Is it just to spread FUD and hassle Google like they tried with SCO against IBM? Something even more nefarious. It ought to be interesting, eh?
      • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday September 06, 2010 @07:47PM (#33493636)
        The problem is that there is no monopoly here, no lock-in. Lets see here:

        A) No "default" lock-in, fire up a new OEM computer and chances are, Google isn't the default home page or search engine. Usually its one of MS's offerings.

        B) No e-mail lock-in, Gmail supports forwarding and also standardized access via POP

        C) No phone lock-in, Android is by far the most open of the popular Smartphone OSes beating both Windows Mobile and iOS.


        The only thing Google should possibly get an Anti-trust suit is with Google Book Search but that is mostly because of how fucked-up the copyright situation is in the US and not because Google is trying to be evil.

        Being good at something so people use your site is not a monopoly, it is competition.
        • by InfiniteWisdom (530090) on Monday September 06, 2010 @08:19PM (#33493846) Homepage

          I'm not arguing in favor of this investigation and don't believe the allegations, but you're wrong about the monopoly thing. A monopoly doesn't have to be complete, nor does there have to be a lock-in in order to fall afoul of anti-trust law. Standard Oil was not the only oil company, and had minor players. People were always free to buy from them. Windows was not the only operating system, you could always use Linux or buy a Mac.

          Standard Oil used its dominant position to stifle its competition. Microsoft used its dominant market share in Windows to snuff out Netscape. I don't think anyone can doubt that Google could decimate a web-based business by demoting them in search rankings.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by jedidiah (1196)

            > Windows was not the only operating system, you could always use Linux or buy a Mac.

            Yes. You could always use Linux or buy a Mac and end up living like the Amish.

            THAT was rather the point of Microsoft being a monopoly. I am sure you have grossly misrepresented the Standard Oil situation as well.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by hedwards (940851)
              No really, he hasn't misrepresented it. Standard Oil at one point refined 90% of the oil in the US giving it immense power in that field.
              • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday September 06, 2010 @10:00PM (#33494388)

                It is exceedingly rare to find a true, 100%, monopoly. It is just difficult to control any field to that extent. People need to remember Microsoft never had 100% control. Back during the MS anti-trust days, Apple was still in business, and their ONLY market at the time was computers. 100% of their products were systems that didn't run Windows. That right there is proof MS didn't have 100% control. To have that, Apple would have had to sell no computers. Also while it wasn't popular, Linux was on the desktop then. Maybe you discount Linux because it was free but you can't discount Apple.

                So you can't say MS was a monopoly despite Apple and then in the same breath say but Google can't be a monopoly because there are other search engines.

                If we say that monopolies are only cases of 100% control, well then we might as well just stop worrying about anti-trust because that'll almost never be the case. A big company could always find some tiny competitor, maybe who only exists in a single town (and only because the company allows it) and say "See? There's competition, we don't own ALL the market!"

                If we accept that it doesn't take 100% control to be a monopoly then you can't cry "But there's other search engines so Google CAN'T be a monopoly!" Sorry, but they can. If they are isn't up to us to decide, but they clearly can, despite other engines being out there.

          • Yes it does, Standard Oil was a monopoly because it was not better than its competition but rather relied on the government to fuel its practices, without the government. Plus, by the time Standard Oil was about to be broken up, competitors had effectively nullified its competitive edge.

            With Microsoft, it again used government help in the form of government contracts for computers, plus patents and copyrights with OEM bundling meant that it was a monopoly.

            Google really uses none of this. Google isn'
            • Standard Oil was a monopoly because it was not better than its competition but rather relied on the government to fuel its practices

              Petroleum derivatives had a well-earned reputation for being both unpredictable and lethal.

              Rockefeller delivered a retail product based on standard formulations and sold in honest weights and measures. "Standard Oil" was trusted.

              "Standard Oil" was cheap.

              The kerosene that cost 58 cents in 1865 cost 26 cents in 1870. Standard Oil [wikipedia.org]

              None too surprisingly, perhaps, the Standard's c

              • by Cylix (55374) *

                I would assume if this was the period when there were untrusted petroleum products then it would stand to reason that this was the era for visible gas pumps.

                After looking at a few of them I always wondered how bad the market must have been if the customers needed to see the gas being pumped into their vehicle.

                I would assume that is why trust was so high when today we rarely consider the quality of the fuel we purchase.

            • Any comparison between MS's "monopoly" and that of Standard Oil's or AT&T's is remote at best. No specially crafted "market" definition was required for the latter companies to be considered a monopoly like MS's monopoly on "desktop operating systems".

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by symbolset (646467)
            Actually, they can't. It's the quality of the results that makes Google search useful. Such an attack would eliminate the value of Google's product- credibility - and only destroy themselves. They would then be just another Bing. They know this, so this can't happen.
            • That's assuming they were totally blatant and obvious about it... like it Oracle suddenly disappeared from search results after they filed their suit. But if they really chose to use their search market to, say, dominate the mobile market there are so many subtle ways of doing it. Whenever someone searched for the iPhone, stories about the antenna problems could get higher rankings than their organic ranking would dictate. Stories praising the latest Android-based "iphone-killer" could float a closer to

          • by schon (31600)

            Standard Oil used its dominant position to stifle its competition. Microsoft used its dominant market share in Windows to snuff out Netscape. I don't think anyone can doubt that Google could decimate a web-based business by demoting them in search rankings.

            Assume for the moment that this statement is true (and I would argue that it is not.) Re-read that with the Sesame Street "One of these things is not like the others..." song playing in your head, then tell me why Google deserves to be under investigation again.

          • Market share was not the sole factor driving Standard Oil's proceedings. From the suit filed (reprinted from the Wikipedia article on Standard Oil):

            "Rebates, preferences, and other discriminatory practices in favor of the combination by railroad companies; restraint and monopolization by control of pipe lines, and unfair practices against competing pipe lines; contracts with competitors in restraint of trade; unfair methods of competition, such as local price cutting at the points where necessary to suppress competition; [and] espionage of the business of competitors, the operation of bogus independent companies, and payment of rebates on oil, with the like intent."

          • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday September 06, 2010 @09:41PM (#33494282)

            Yep, monopolies can be very much defacto situations. I mean technically, there is no barrier for entry to the search market. Just put up a website that does searches, people can use it if they like. No barrier at all...

            Except how it really works is that Google has become the one and only place most people go. It is who they trust, who they seek out, etc. What this means is that effectively, there is a nearly insurmountable barrier to entry. You have to make people aware of your site, and convince them to use it. Very hard. Could potentially be harder still since of course people find sites through Google, and Google controls a large amount of online ads. They could black list you quite effectively if they wanted to.

            These days, Google really does have control over what people see. If Google knows about it, people know about it. If it doesn't, they don't. That is very much a monopoly position. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but could be abused in many ways, and who knows may be is abused.

            I think too many starry-eyed geeks forget that just because Google and Apple don't like MS, doesn't mean that they might not be like MS in many ways. They aren't underdogs anymore, they aren't the little company fighting against the giant. They are both massive, powerful, firms with a lot of control over the markets they are in. That doesn't make them bad or anything, but does mean they deserve the same scrutiny as MS.

          • I'm not arguing in favor of this investigation and don't believe the allegations, but you're wrong about the monopoly thing. A monopoly doesn't have to be complete, nor does there have to be a lock-in in order to fall afoul of anti-trust law. Standard Oil was not the only oil company, and had minor players. People were always free to buy from them. Windows was not the only operating system, you could always use Linux or buy a Mac.

            Standard Oil used its dominant position to stifle its competition. Microsoft u

          • Standard Oil used its dominant position to stifle its competition. Microsoft used its dominant market share in Windows to snuff out Netscape. I don't think anyone can doubt that Google could decimate a web-based business by demoting them in search rankings.

            Yes, Google could do that. The difference is that Standard Oil and Microsoft didn't get in trouble because of what they were capable of doing, they got in trouble because of what they actually did. Now, if anyone manages to prove that Google was doing this (and it's hard to see what the real benefit would be, given the potential liabilities involved.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by hedwards (940851)
          Nope, they could for instance be in trouble for buying Double click, that was definitely a violation of antitrust law which the DoJ should never have allowed in the first place. Also if it turns out that there really is special priority given to their apps, that would also be a violation of Sherman. Not to mention that for the longest time there was some degree of ambiguity between when their apps were popping up alongside search results as a recommendation from Google rather than from their algorithm.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Darkness404 (1287218)
            The problem is, with virtual things there is no monopoly when there is no lock-in look at Standard Oil, they could nearly monopolize the oil industry because there aren't an infinite number of oil wells. On the other hand whats the overhead for opening up a competitor to Google Ads/Double Click, its effectively zero. A monopoly is bad because it monopolizes a limited resource, with an internet company there is no scarcity! Barring government intervention in the form of software patents, there is no barrier
        • by bronney (638318)

          Exactly. What giggles me most is that compliance here means that people should be able to search for Microsoft things on Google and Google should not put in funny routines and block out Microsoft. You see how funny this is? It's essentially whiny baby.

          If people are searching for Microsoft things, or searching other things and expecting Microsoft to show up, ON GOOGLE, it's too damn late for Microsoft.

        • by bloodhawk (813939)
          There is most definitely a monopoly and a huge lock-in. People keep making the mistake you are in thinking that you are googles customers, you are googles product and you are sold to their customers (advertisers), Their product is the users and they sell them for advertising as such they have a massive market share to the point that there is "almost" no choice but to advertise with google or lose access to a significant portion of the internet audience.

          It has NEVER been about who is your default search en
    • Once again Microsoft chooses to litigate instead of innovate. I guess Bing didn't crush Google quite as firmly as Microsoft hoped...

      I don't know what Microsoft expected with Bing, but I would guess that they are more than pleased with the marketshare they have been able to grab. Some of the things they've had to do to get that marketshare has been quite lame (deals with Verizon, etc), but I would be surprised if Bing's success has not already exceeded their expectations.

      • I'd love to see their stats on what browsers use Bing the most.

        I'd bet 95%+ are IE with Bing installed by default and the user hasnt worked out how to change it yet.

        I'd also love to know how many searches they get for 'Google' from people trying to get to Google just like how people search for 'Facebook'.

  • by amiga3D (567632) on Monday September 06, 2010 @07:27PM (#33493520)
    MicroSoft would never stoop to such a dirty trick. They have a long history of being open and above board in all business dealings. Just look how well they've treated the open source community over the years.
  • Surprise suprise... (Score:5, Informative)

    by InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) on Monday September 06, 2010 @07:29PM (#33493536)
    ...NOT!

    * Foundem -- the British price comparison site that is backed by ICOMP, an organization funded largely by Microsoft. They claim that Google’s algorithms demote their site because they are a direct competitor to our search engine. The reality is that we don’t discriminate against competitors. Indeed, companies like Amazon, Shopping.com and Expedia typically rank very high in our results because of the quality of the service they offer users. Various experts have taken a closer look at the quality of Foundem’s website, and New York Law School professor James Grimmelmann concluded, “I want Google to be able to rank them poorly.”

    * SourceTool/TradeComet - SourceTool is a website run by parent company TradeComet, whose private antitrust lawsuit against Google was dismissed by a federal judge earlier this year. The media have noted that TradeComet is represented by longtime Microsoft antitrust attorneys, and independent search experts have called SourceTool a “click arbitrage” site with little original content.

    * myTriggers - Another site represented by Microsoft’s antitrust attorneys, myTriggers alleges that they suffered a drop in traffic because Google reduced their ad quality ratings. But recent filings have revealed that the company’s own servers overheated, explaining their reduced traffic.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sangreal66 (740295)

      Mozilla -- an organization funded almost entirely by Google. They claim that Microsoft's browser unfairly blah blah

      What difference does it make even if these companies are Microsoft-backed? How does that affect the merits of their claim?

      • by iserlohn (49556) on Monday September 06, 2010 @08:01PM (#33493736) Homepage

        It's like all those doctors that testify on behalf of the drug companies. There is a reason why the law now requires big pharma to disclose how much money they are paying doctors in speaking fees.

      • If you can't figure that out i'm surprised you managed to figure out how to make that post.
  • by pecosdave (536896) * on Monday September 06, 2010 @07:36PM (#33493576) Homepage Journal

    I've dealt with Greg Abbott and the rest of the Texas legal system. The Texas court system is so obviously "Justice for those who can pay for it" and Greg Abbott personally only responds to things that will give him good PR or more money flowing to him that I'm surprised there hasn't been a probe. Google is the financial jackpot.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, well, I'm here to say that your mother gives excellent head.

  • Oh please. (Score:3, Informative)

    by technix4beos (471838) <cs@cshaiku.com> on Monday September 06, 2010 @07:45PM (#33493624) Homepage Journal

    This is a non-issue. People use google.com's website of their own volition. The search results come from Google's database, there is no hindering of businesses or anti-trust issue here at all since all of the information gleaned on the internet is already present. Google merely presents it how they deem necessary to match the search keywords.

    TL;DR: Fuck off.

    • Re:Oh please. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday September 06, 2010 @08:01PM (#33493732)

      This is a non-issue. People use google.com's website of their own volition.

      That has little or nothing to do with it. If Google is ruled to have sufficient market share for selling advertising based on search, then that gives Google a lot of power, including power to distort other markets. The law says, if they do have that power, it's illegal for them to use it to gain, including by harming competitors in other markets. Legally speaking Google cannot rank search results any way they please. They can do it according to impartial rules, but if they have large enough share, they cannot rank certain companies lower as way to gain in other markets.

      I seriously doubt, it is the case tat Google is breaking the law here. Likely this is just empty legal harassment, but hopefully the courts will determine that.

      • But that doesn't make sense.

        Why does Google have marketshare? It has marketshare simply because it is the best. When you get marketshare not from locking-in consumers, not by taking government money, not by getting special legal protection, Google should be able to do whatever they want because customers can switch pretty easily.

        It doesn't hurt consumers if Google messes with their search results because of these things. If enough people don't want them to, guess what? People will switch, just like
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by hedwards (940851)
          It doesn't matter whether or not they're the best, if they have the market share they are prohibited by law from using it to harm the competition. End of story. Additionally, they got to be that large in part by being allowed to violate Clayton and take on the ad space that belonged to Double click, that was a very clear violation of antitrust regulation. You don't just get to be the biggest or the best search engine without spending a lot of money on it, the search engine is paid for via ad revenue.

          We'l
          • Re:Oh please. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday September 06, 2010 @08:48PM (#33494036)
            The problem is that makes no sense. Pre-digital laws when applied in the digital world make no fucking sense and to apply them is stupidity.

            Monopolies are bad in the physical world because they take limited resources and monopolize them. There are only so many oil wells in the world, there are only so much (clean) water in the world, etc. when a single company takes control of them they can charge through the roof and make everyone else pay. But this isn't like that.

            Barring government intervention in the form of software patents, there are no limited resources when it comes to ads on the web, and barring lock-in with physical things or a -huge- company taking all available IP addresses/bandwidth or something, a monopoly can't exist that harms consumers.

            The idea that any company can monopolize infinite resources is laughable. Don't like Google? Use one of their thousands of competitors. Don't like DoubleClick, advertise elsewhere.

            The internet allows for unlimited resources, you can't monopolize infinity. Just because the law says something doesn't mean its right, correct and not fucking stupid.
            • by TubeSteak (669689)

              Barring government intervention in the form of software patents, there are no limited resources when it comes to ads on the web,... a monopoly can't exist that harms consumers.

              The idea that any company can monopolize infinite resources is laughable. Don't like Google? Use one of their thousands of competitors. Don't like DoubleClick, advertise elsewhere.

              I'm not sure what angle you're viewing the situation from, but it's the wrong one.

              Advertising dollars are not an infinite resource.
              Just as importantly, advertising 'inventory' is not an infinite resource.

              There are only so many dollars that can be put towards so many pageviews.
              Not only are pageviews finite, they are also not fungible.
              This is particularly relevant when you want a targeted ad campaign.

              Just to be clear, I'm not saying that anyone is behaving as a monopoly,
              but I am shitting on your notion that o

            • by Risen888 (306092)

              Barring government intervention in the form of software patents, there are no limited resources when it comes to ads on the web

              That's nonsense. There most certainly are finite advertisements to be sold, and finite people to advertise to. Just because it's on teh internet doesn't magically make it infinite.

        • But that doesn't make sense. Why does Google have marketshare?

          Irrelevant. It's like asking why Tom has a rifle. Maybe he uses it for hunting. Maybe he's a cop. It doesn't matter. When you have power, you're prohibited from using that power in ways that harm society. Mike doesn't own a rifle and he can aim his hands at people and squeeze with his finger all he wants. When he buys and is holding a gun, the law sees it differently. It's not illegal to gain a monopoly (in general) just as it's not illegal to obtain a rifle (in general). But you are certainly prohibited fr

  • Oh, come on. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pedantic bore (740196) on Monday September 06, 2010 @07:47PM (#33493640)

    Try finding three major tech companies that aren't linked with Microsoft in some way.

    And when the link is "the lawyers hired by TradeComet include some of the same lawyers Microsoft hired to do similar work in the past" and you're getting pretty close to playing "six degrees of Kevin Bacon".

    If there's a smoking gun somewhere, this ain't it. If this is the best Google's general counsel can do, maybe there isn't a smoking gun anywhere.

  • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash@omnifar i o u s.org> on Monday September 06, 2010 @08:16PM (#33493826) Homepage Journal

    The lesson they took away from the antitrust trial was "Antitrust is a way for competitors to use the government to interfere with your business." not "We were being evil and wrong and got into trouble for it.". The wrong lesson. They got off way too lightly and too many people were sympathetic.

    Since they took that lesson away, now they think they can do the same thing to Google. They might be right, but I hope not. Though if their allegation has merit (which I strongly suspect it doesn't) I will stop trusting Google and be pretty angry at them.

    • "Antitrust is a way for competitors to use the government to interfere with your business." "We were being evil and wrong and got into trouble for it."

      Well, in MS's case the first statement is a fact, the second an opinion.

  • by Kaz Kylheku (1484) on Monday September 06, 2010 @09:08PM (#33494150) Homepage

    Nobody can dictate to you what the output should be when someone connects a browser to your server (or cloud) to retrieve a form, types something into a field and hits submit.

    End of story.

  • by Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) on Monday September 06, 2010 @09:39PM (#33494268)
    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20100904101642564 [groklaw.net]

    Or did they break the story?
  • by OnePumpChump (1560417) on Monday September 06, 2010 @09:48PM (#33494316)
    The following two aspects of Bing are superior:
    Its ability to find porn in the video search is better than Google.
    The way the roads are drawn on maps are a bit easier to read than Google (but Yahoo is better still).

    Honorable mention: the new version of Google Images brings it almost down to Bing's level.
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday September 06, 2010 @09:53PM (#33494348) Homepage Journal
    All those searches from Microsoft.com for "Google Anti-trust violations"
  • So? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Monday September 06, 2010 @09:55PM (#33494354) Homepage

    Assuming this is true, so what? Google has tried to get regulator's onto Microsoft's ass. What's wrong with Microsoft returning the favor?

  • Googling MS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by varmittang (849469) on Monday September 06, 2010 @10:14PM (#33494448)
    Does anyone else use use Google to search for something thats on a MS website? I mean, their search on their own site is so horrible in finding what I'm looking for that I use google. I can't be the only person that does this.
    • Does anyone else use use Google to search for something thats on a MS website? I mean, their search on their own site is so horrible in finding what I'm looking for that I use google. I can't be the only person that does this.

      Yes, all the time for technical docs and downloads.

  • by similar_name (1164087) on Monday September 06, 2010 @11:49PM (#33495012)
    Search 'search engines' on Bing. Google doesn't even make the first page. Although it's picture is used to define what a search engine is. lol Yeah that's an unbiased search. Search the same on Google and Bing is listed second.
  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @01:17AM (#33495388) Homepage
    MS is just upset that when they used the desktop monopoly to gain an advantage in search by making Bing the default search engine in IE it didn't work so now they're just going to try and use the courts to give their shitty search an advantage.
  • I'm not buying it (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cheros (223479)

    I note with interest that Google seems to have developed a template defense when it's caught out.

    It always seems to ignore the actual issue and instead starts pointing fingers at others for "being behind it". With China it was the Chinese government (ignoring that Apple has managed to keep secrets for years in the same country), with Streetview it was the respective governments instead of Google quite simply breaking the law, and now this.

    Here's news: it ain't working. Get rid of the 10 year old who appea

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