Is this the beginning of the end of Google's monopoly as a search engine?


Well this is something which we all go through each day - unconsciously. Have you come across someone who uses internet but has not used Google. For the netizens Google search engine is same as what a dictionary is to a school-going. Just imagine what would happen if you find that your dictionary does not give you the entire meaning or explanation of the words but rather an explanation that suits the publisher's commercial interest. Well something similar is the contention of European Commission(EC) against Google search. 

As per one of the analysis firm ComScore, Google search has over 80% market share in European Union(EU). The EC has been investigating Google since 2010 on suspicions of uncompetitive behaviour in the search market. In March this year, the EC informed Google of four areas where it thought the search giant may be abusing its dominant position. To address these concerns, Google has offered this month a proposal to EC. Some of the salient points of the same are -
a) Label promoted links to Google's own services so that users can distinguish them from other web search results and clearly separate these promoted links by graphical features (such as a frame);
(b) Display links to three rival specialised search services close to Google's own services, in a place that is clearly visible to users. 
(c) Google will offer all websites the option to opt-out from the use of their content in Google's specialised search services, while ensuring that any opt-out does not affect their rankings in Google's general web search results. 
(d) Google will offer all sites that focus on product search or local search the option to mark certain categories of information in such a way that such information is not indexed or used by Google. 
(e) The newspaper publishers will receive a way to control on a web page, per web page basis the display of their content in Google News. 
(f) Google agreed to no longer make any agreements with publishers conditional on using online search advertisements exclusively from Google, nor impose obligations preventing advertisers from managing campaigns across competing advertising platforms. 

The commitments made by Google to EC would cover the European Economic Area for five years. An independent Monitoring Trustee would advise the Commission in overseeing the proper implementation of the commitments. 
Last week, The European Commission has published the above proposal received from Google asking for comments from the market before it decides whether to agree to a settlement with Google and make the proposed changes binding on the company. 

Earlier in Feb 2013, a group of 11 European and US online businesses, as well as three German online associations, have written an open letter to European Commission competition commissioner to urge the EC to end its settlement negotiations with Google over search rankings and issue a Statement of Objections instead. The companies who signed the letter were Expedia, TripAdvisor, Foundem, Streetmap EU, Twenga, Visual Meta, Hot Maps and Euro-Cities.. They express their increasing concern that "effective and future-proof remedies might not emerge through settlement. They claim that Google systematically promotes its own services and demotes or excludes those of its competitors. 

It would be interesting to see what happens over the period of time. After the EC's decision it is obvious that other countries will follow suit. It seems the Competition Commission of India is also looking into the issue. A precedence set in Europe would help others to ink similar agreements elsewhere. 
Google has taken a time lead which is very difficult for other search engines to bridge. But such crack downs on anti-competitive behavior will help in bridging the gap, severely denting the monopoly that the Google enjoys in search engine space. It's too early to predict a trend reversal, but the Google era might have started its journey towards descend.

2 comments:

John Harris said...

This is a really excellent read for me. Must admit that you are one of the coolest blogger I ever saw. Thanks for posting this useful article.
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Shankar BLR said...

excellent news. thanks.

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