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Google Responds To FTC With “You’re Looking For What, Exactly?”




In response to the FTC’s letter telling them that the commission is conducting a probe into Google’s business, the search giant has put together its first response. As you might expect they are playing it cool.

From the official Google blog:

At Google, we’ve always focused on putting the user first. We aim to provide relevant answers as quickly as possible—and our product innovation and engineering talent have delivered results that users seem to like, in a world where the competition is only one click away. Still, we recognize that our success has led to greater scrutiny. Yesterday, we received formal notification from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it has begun a review of our business. We respect the FTC’s process and will be working with them (as we have with other agencies) over the coming months to answer questions about Google and our services.

It’s still unclear exactly what the FTC’s concerns are, but we’re clear about where we stand. Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that, if we focus on the user, all else will follow.

I particularly like the part about being unclear about the FTC’s concerns because the FTC is probably trying to cut as wide a swath as possible to cover as much ground as they want. Why? Maybe it’s because they don’t want to be shown up by the European Commission and its Google inquisition inquiry. Your guess is as good as mine.

There are several things that this announcement has brought to light.

People don’t really love a winner – We preach the American Dream all the time but we often look to bring down those who have done the best job of achieving it. There is no real logic to this so I won’t try to find any. It just happens that way and it’s really too bad.

Politics, not common sense, drives all activity from Washington – We are headed into a potentially volatile political cycle in the states. Any activity that can be created to make someone politically look like they are riding in on a white stallion to save the pathetic masses from the big bad corporation will be attempted. There might a stampede of white stallions on this one. I suspect that the likes of Chuck Schumer and Al Franken will be stepping up to the mike about Google’s evil empire any day now. Oh joy.

Google gets vilified when it should be canonized – I have said this on many occasions in the past and I still firmly believe that the incredible economic crap storm that we are in right now would be much, much worse if it wasn’t for Google.

The company is not perfect. No company is because it involves human beings (although there are suspicions about that regarding Google but that’s for another post). However, the Internet economy has been enabled and has flourished despite the complete incompetence of politicians on both sides of the aisle which has run this economy completely into the ground. If you think it’s bad now, imagine if Google had not created this alternate economic model for people to latch onto and be hopeful about. Imagine the steaming pile of dung that this economic climate would be if Google hadn’t gotten as big and important as it is?

Supporting a candidate doesn’t ensure anything – Google was decidedly pro-Democrat in its support during the last election. Appears that the favor bank is looking like the rest of the banks these days; flush with potential but unwilling to give.

Monopolies are actually legal – Did you know that? It’s not illegal to be a monopoly. It’s just how that power is used that is scrutinized under very subjective eyes that want to be re-elected. Google’s trouble is that it built the best mousetrap that created incredibly high barriers to entry. Even they struggle with their success. An article today noted how Google struggles with everything breaking at scale.

Also, it appears that much of Google’s programming is antiquated. That’s likely due to the fact that it had to get to scale to be as useful as it is and making changes to the latest and greatest technology mid-stream could bring everything to a grinding halt. they couldn’t afford to do that.

If you look at from that perspective alone it could very well be that Google is vulnerable even without an FTC probe hanging over their head.

There are others behind this – You can’t possibly think that Microsoft (or other Google wannabes) hasn’t been trying to pull some strings in back room dealings inside the Beltway to get something like this probe off the ground. I have no evidence of that but it makes a lot of sense.

So there is so much more to discuss but there will be plenty of time in the interim between this announcement and any findings or charges (if that even happens at all) that are brought against Google.

In the meantime, I would suggest we all just go about our business and climb on the back of Google to hopefully ride out this miserable economy. It’s obvious that the traditional institutions aren’t going to get it done.

But hey, what better time to go after one of the few bright spots and try to bring them down a notch? Good thinking FTC!

What’s your take on the targeting of Google at this point in time?

  • David

    I agree completely.
    It don’t think it makes sense and I hope this persecution doesn’t make legal sense either (often both are mutually exclusive).

  • Kelly Davis

    Don’t your first point & your last point contradict each other? Is this a bunch of socialists trying to bring down a successful company, or is it the competition trying to use government against the big fish in search?

    • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

      Either / or. People will root against the big player which is being manipulated into a bad spot by competition. I don’t see them as contradictory. Of course, at least for today, we have a free country so opinions can be had by all.

    • Kelly Davis

      I guess I don’t see ;the people’ rooting against Google, and definitely not just because they are a big player. I personally like Google, and I use a lot of their products. I do feel some animosity towards microsoft, but in both cases the feelings arise from their products and their business practices, not how much of the market they “control” or how big they are.

  • mike

    I would think this was started, or was expedited, by their “manual action” against JCPenney early this year.

    If there’s one thing the government doesn’t like, its that a big company affecting another big company. Anyone in SEO knows that their manual action across multiple search terms translated to millions of lost revenue. For example, the difference in revenue for a site in #2 vs #6 for search term “books” is easily at least $1M depending on the month.

    Now take a look at JCPenney which suffered practically for everything even for terms containing their own brandname, consider that they lost a lot of revenue, consider THEN the number of blue collar, probably unionized, americans employed by jcpenney – now you have a picture of why the government is interested.

    When this goes mainstream, in the battle for public opinion, who do you think will win, the storied american company employing thousands around the country, some in your own backyard? Or the faceless tech giant making a bajillion dollars a year headquartered in Mountain View? That’s a bit of a problem isn’t it?

    Google also owes JCP for their action. JCP didn’t make a fuss, didn’t complain, but instead went and saved Google by going on a media blitz on tv, paper and the web. That action helped them get back into Google, on Google’s terms, and helped them rebound from the loss. If it turned out that Google’s manual action was the death knell of JCP, the government would have been guns ablazing charging into Mountain View.

    But in the first place, JCP “cheated”. Did they? Google just enforced their rules! Ah, yet another thing the government has issue with. Last the gov looked, Google is not a federal agency, not able to legally enforce any regulations, dole out demerits or send out fines. And yet that’s exactly what they did to JCP.

    Make no mistake, all big companies out there employ some or all the same tactics JCP used. It just so happened an NYT contributor noticed it, gave Google a heads up he’s going to write an article about it and voila, manual action. As far as the gov is concerned, they are the only ones with regulatory powers, not anyone else, most especially not another big company.

  • Leta A. Dally

    I just pray I don’t end up having to use Internet Explorer yet another horrid program brought to you by the true enemy – Microsoft.

  • http://www.dippinslash.com/ Dippin Slash

    I can’t imagine the Internet without Google in it. I don’t think that Google is doing those things where the company is accused of.