Monday, 11 June 2012

Is Google A Monopoly Or Do People Just Prefer It?

The Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece from Nextag CEO Jeffrey Katz, calling Google a monopoly and slamming the company’s business practices. This is nothing new, of course. We see these types of complaints all the time, and various government bodies continue to give the company a hard look.
The European Commission has even given Google a July 2 deadline to come up with changes to its search results. A Google spokesperson told WebProNews, “We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission.”
Do you think Google should be regulated? Let us know in the comments.
Google, apparently recognizing the huge audience Katz’ piece was likely to find, decided to address the article in a blog post, and dispute six of the claims he made. Google SVP, Engineering, Amit Singhal took on the argument.
“Let me be very clear: our unpaid, natural search results are never influenced by payment,” Singhal writes. “Our algorithms rank results based only on what the most relevant answers are for users — which might be a direct answer or a competitor’s website. Our ads and commercial experiences are clearly labeled and distinct from the unpaid results, and we recently announced new improvements to labeling of shopping results. This is in contrast to most comparison shopping sites, which receive payment from merchants but often don’t clearly label search results as being influenced by payment.”
“As we’ve said many times before, we built search to help users, not websites,” he writes. “We don’t make changes to our algorithms to hurt competitors. We make more than 500 changes a year (each one scientifically evaluated) in order to deliver the most useful results for our users – and we now publish a monthly list of algorithm improvements. Every one of those changes moves some websites up and some sites down in the rankings, but the most important thing is that users are happy with the results.”
“Our algorithms are always designed to give users the most relevant results — and sometimes the best result isn’t a website, but a map, a weather forecast, a fact, a quick answer, or specialized image, shopping, flight, or movie results. And that’s not just Google; Bing, Yahoo and other search engines do the same thing,” he continues.
“All major search engines — including Bing and Yahoo — long ago evolved beyond the simple ‘ten blue links,’ and we believe that our users are often best served by providing better answers directly in search results,” he adds. “And if users don’t like our results, they can try Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, or even Google Minus Google.”
In the WSJ piece, Katz wrote, “Google should grant all companies equal access to advertising opportunities regardless of whether they are considered a competitor.”
Interestingly enough, I saw a Microsoft ad while searching through my Gmail earlier today. I saw one again in the middle of writing this article, while viewing an email about Google.
Look what I get when I search “search engine” in Google:
Google Search
Singhal addressed this part of Katz’ argument as well: “We don’t prohibit competitors from advertising on Google — in fact, many of our largest advertisers are also competitors. Our auction-based advertising system, which takes into account relevance and bids, is designed to provide a level playing field on which placement is not automatically awarded to the highest bidder.”

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