Google Cleared of Search Bias

By Patrick Corby

Google's dominance allowed in US - picture courtesy of Robert Scoble

Google’s dominance allowed in US – picture courtesy of Robert Scoble

The US Federal Trade Commission has ended their antitrust investigation into whether Google’s search algorithm disadvantages competitors.

The FTC investigation, that covered millions of pages over 19 months, concluded that Google’s algorithm betters search results for consumers instead of imposing blockades on its business competitors.

The close of the FTC antitrust investigation comes as a blow to competitors Microsoft, Expedia Inc and Yelp Inc who brought the lawsuit against Google. The claim made in May 2010 accused Google’s algorithm of favoring its own services over competition, giving Google an unfair monopoly.

Although cleared Google made two voluntarily product changes.

The first is that now websites can remove reviews from Google specialised search results without effecting Google main search. Second is that advertisers will be able more readily to compare search engine results using the Google Adword software.

Nothing in the decision is a serious blow to any of Google’s ambitions,” said the technology analyst for Gartner Incorporated, Whit Andrews.

The FTC made clear that disputes should try to be resolved through third parties before injunctions are sought.

This leaves Google free to extend its business without US federal concern in the $50 billion internet – search market. Google is currently developing features that could rapidly decrease the dominance of firms such as Microsoft and Yahoo in the internet – search market which is expected to grow 15% this year.

The Europe Case

It’s now up to European regulators, who have been investigating Google for similar accusations by Microsoft for two years, to to determine if restrictions should be placed on Google’s practices.

Holding a more dominant position in Europe than in America it is likely that Google will be subject to concessions from Europe from the investigation ending this month. If so this would be the first time Google’s business model came under regulatory pressure.

In the European case Google has until mid – January to come up with a proposal to resolve the investigation. If it does not and the case is found guilty Google could be fined 10% of its revenue totaling $4 billion.

Micheal Jennings, spokesman for the EU commission said “We have taken note of the FTC decision, but we don’t see that it has any direct implications for our investigation.”
I also write for The Upcoming which you can read here.

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