If you decide to read the entire Op-Ed piece from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by Nextag’s CEO, Jeffrey Katz, you can draw your own conclusions as to where his argument fits in the Google monopoly fray. For me it’s the same shrill whine that has been spewed by everyone who feels they have been ‘wronged’ by Google or has a crazy entitlement attitude in a free market system. But that’s just me. Here is a sample of what Mr. Katz feels and let’s just say it’s not where I land in all of this at all.
It’s a position all business leaders would love to find themselves in—a massive IPO, dominance in the marketplace, and a blank slate from policy makers to do practically anything they please.
Google has enjoyed this unrivaled position for nearly a decade. It is the most popular search engine in the world, controlling nearly 82% of the global search market and 98% of the mobile search market. Its annual revenue is larger than the economies of the world’s 28 poorest countries combined. And its closest competitor, Bing, is so far behind in both market share and revenue that Google has become, effectively, a monopoly.
Translation: Darn that free market and the right of consumers to make decisions between several options and they keep picking the one they like the most! Darn it!
Of course, Katz is simply setting the stage for his rant with this opening salvo. He continues
At my company, Nextag, a comparison shopping site for products and services, we regularly analyze the level of search traffic we get from Google. It’s easy to see when Google makes changes to its algorithms that effectively punish its competitors, including us. Our data, which we shared with the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 21, 2011, shows without a doubt that Google has stacked the deck. And as a result, it has shifted from a true search site into a commerce site—a commerce site whose search algorithm favors products and services from Google and those from companies able to spend the most on advertising.
Translation: Darn you Google, you silly free market company that has created a service that many people like and rely on daily! Darn you for making changes that you feel might make YOUR product better and in the process hurt my product because it doesn’t meet your standards anymore for the reasons that you determined are best for your product to do its job in the best way possible! Darn you!
Katz goes on (and on and on and on and on ……)
As the CEO of a price-comparison company that benefits from Google’s search results, I openly admit that we—along with everyone else in the industry—have been impacted by these changes to Google’s search platform. In the past, we have benefited precisely because we’ve provided one of the best shopping sites on the Web—and Web traffic from Google used to follow accordingly. Google highlighted our services in search results over their own, because our services were better—and they still are. But Google’s latest changes are clearly no longer about helping users.
Translation: Darn you Google for exposing that maybe my service (which I can subjectively say is better than the rest and act as if what I say is equivalent to the word of God) is not staying competitive as the years roll by! Darn you for giving me all of the benefit for so many years that I may have put my efforts on cruise control and GPS but now you changed course! Darn you for exercising your right as a company (not a government entity that many seem to confuse you with) to do what you feel is right, then offering that result to the public to decide whether they like it or not, then dare to make money in the process. Darn you!
There’s more to Katz’s ‘argument’ so feel free to read it all but this was the kicker in my opinion.
We’re at a pivotal moment. Google has spent years trying to monopolize every avenue through which a company can reach users online—whether it is through search, advertising, email, mobile devices or browsers. But now that European Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia has given Google a July 2 deadline to respond to the EU’s antitrust concerns, let’s hope the company’s directors wake up and take corrective action for the sake of Internet freedom.
All kidding aside here. Google is threatening Internet freedom?! Really?! I thought that was China’s job.
If you want to see just how popular Mr. Katz’s views are read the comments following the piece. Let’s just say that most WSJ readers are not Nextag or Jeffrey Katz fans.
The trouble with all of this is that we are living in an environment where his type of screech owl approach could get some traction. Google helped to put a government in place that could very well take the side of a shrill voice like Katz’s because it could appear to fight Goliath (Google) on behalf of the all the little Davids out there because votes may be at stake. I am not saying that is happening now so you can unbunch your knickers. It’s simply a possibility just as much as the government leaving well enough alone and chalking up Mr. Katz’s rant to that pesky free speech thingy where anyone, regardless of whether they make any sense or not, can have a soap box. It is, after all, one of the things that makes this country great at times.
So how do you feel about this whole thing? Are you of the belief that Nextag is being screwed by Google or do you feel that Nextag’s position can be simply chalked up to them not being as competitive as Mr. Katz ‘knows’ them to be? Let’s hear your voice in the comments.
Oh, and Mr. Katz, if you have read this we would LOVE to get your two cents. So you know, we rank comments on a first come first served basis using the Facebook commenting system. If you have any issues with it call Mark Zuckerberg. I am sure he would love to hear from you!
UPDATE: Google’s response to Mr. Katz’s accusations. Read’em both and decide for yourself.