The news part of this story is that the European Commission (EC) has launched an anti-trust investigation against Google. I suspect that this is heard with little surprise considering the amount of chatter recently about Google’s dominance in the marketplace. I would think it is safe to say that Google has been preparing for this day for quite some time and suspecting that the first official volley in this war would be from “across the pond” considering the EC’s apparent obsession with controlling everything with regard to the marketplace. Now, Google is being brought to task for imposing penalties on sites and allegedly being a barrier to trade.
The investigation comes under the Lisbon Treaty’s “abuse of dominant position” powers and is the first time that Google has been targeted by the European Union.
Telegraph.co.uk can reveal that the Commission has written to Google with a series of questions over how its search functions operate and also questioned the way it sells advertising. It acted after complaints from the UK search site Foundem, a price comparison site; Ciao, an online shopping site owned by Microsoft; and ejustice.fr, a French site which details legal cases and solicitor services.
What is of interest is here is who is bringing the complaints to the forefront. Foundem has a history of going after Google and has been “exposed” in some ways as the site that cried wolf since it can be shown why Google doesn’t think the site worthy of high rankings.
The second in that list though is Ciao, which is a Microsoft owned site. Now, we may be getting to the heart of the matter. While Foundem and their complaints can be seen as whining that they should be at the front of the line despite having little or no merit for the claim, the Microsoft connection in this case gets even more complex as we learn
Ciao was bought by Microsoft in 2008 for nearly $500m (£324m) and is now called Ciao Bing, after Microsoft’s search engine. Foundem is a member of ICOMP, an internet pressure group which receives funding from Microsoft.
A spokesman for ICOMP said that it was backed by a number of companies and was only interested in promoting transparency and fair competition on the web.
Whoa there big fella! Foundem is a member of an Internet pressure group that receives funding from Microsoft? If all of this is absolutely true then this whole thing starts to smell pretty funny and the source of the stench may be traced back to Redmond, WA USA. Oh, and for the spokesman’s line of transparency and open competition on the web? C’mon, we’re not that stupid. It looks more like you are the home for wayward web whiners (is that the European version of WWW?).
Google has responded initially by stating
“We’ve always worked hard to ensure that our success is earned the right way, through technological innovation and great products, rather than by locking in our users or advertisers or creating artificial barriers to entry.”
Google went on to further note that the plight of Foundem could be better addressed if they went out and “foundem” some original content. Hey, is that a secret that Google has been keeping from us all these years? ;-). By the way, the penalties have been lifted and Foundem is claiming that their traffic went up 10,000 percent overnight. Geesh, do these guys sell hyperbole on their site?
So while having a 90% market share in the UK is certainly something to raise an eyebrow is it because Google doesn’t let others play or is it because they have the better mousetrap AND nothing, including a Microsoft owned property, can challenge them? If you put any merit in the comments following the article neither Foundem nor Ciao nor the European Union seem to get a lot of love.
So what do you think? Monopoly by Google or manipulation by Microsoft? Do you think this will go anywhere?