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Google Accused of "Cooking" Search Results and Charging MSFT Too Much 285

Posted by samzenpus
from the piling-on dept.
cozzbp writes "Google is being scrutinized by the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee for supposedly 'cooking' their search results. In an independent study comparing search results for products, Google Shopping consistently ranked 3rd. Eric Scmidt denied these accusations at a Senate hearing Wednesday." On top of all that, Microsoft is alleging that Google overcharges them as much as fifty-fold for advertising prices as compared to other buyers.
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Google Accused of "Cooking" Search Results and Charging MSFT Too Much

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  • by zbobet2012 (1025836) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @10:57PM (#37475738)
    Where the competition will do literally anything, including tipping the ears of politicians with insanely expensive lobbyist to run you through the mud.
    • Yup. But google doesn't have a monopoly in search. So should be able exclude Microsoft from their index if they want and leave to users to decide if they want to search and customers if they want to advertise. And also please continue charging them too much for advertising. If you don't like it, return the favor.
      • Yup. But google doesn't have a monopoly in search.

        Google has a higher percentage of the search market than Microsoft has of the OS market; Slashdot constantly tells me that Microsoft is a monopoly. Doesn't that mean that Google has a monopoly?

        • Not technically true, unless you're looking at Microsoft as a percent of the TOTAL OS market and not just Desktop OS, which would be a bit. Even years later, MS still has a tighter grip on the Desktop OS market than Google does on search. Google commands 65% of US search vs Microsoft's 79% of Desktop OS. Back when it was under scrutiny, I do believe Microsoft had well above 90%.

          At any rate, as others will point out, Microsoft's problems stemmed less from having a monopoly and more with the manner in whic

    • by MHolmesIV (253236) on Thursday September 22, 2011 @01:14AM (#37476484)

      So... Uh... Google currently outstrips all other tech companies in PAC contributions (money raised from employees for the purposes of lobbying). I suspect they've been in the "big boy leagues" for a while now.

  • by LWolenczak (10527) <julia@evilcow.org> on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @11:01PM (#37475772) Homepage Journal

    I'd hate to say this, but company $A having an algorithm that might be tuned however they damn well please does not constitute cooking... unless, there is a master defined algorithm that every search provider must follow. Yes... I can see the goose-stepping algorithm enforcement brigades now.

    Now, are we going to start with the "In Soviet America Jokes", or are we going to just define the algorithm Führer and get over with it?

    • by brusk (135896) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @11:23PM (#37475908)

      Your definition of cooking is not the only, or even most, reasonable one. Sure, a search company can devise whatever algorithm it wants, but I think people have come, rightly or wrongly, to expect a baseline of impartiality in results from Google. If we define "cooking" against that expectation, it could include any tweaking that biases for or against certain pages because of Google's other interests. Ranking their own services higher in the results than where they would appear if a single algorithm were applied across the board would then be "cooking."

      The question of what to do about this is a separate one. I might, for example, decide that the best course of action is to publicize Google's actions so that users of their search will be aware of this bias. There's no need to leap from pointing the practice out to legislating a master algorithm.

      • by AftanGustur (7715)

        Ranking their own services higher in the results than where they would appear if a single algorithm were applied across the board would then be "cooking."

        I think microsoft usually refers to that practice as "compatibility"

      • by msclrhd (1211086)

        If I type something like "pizza hut in manchester" in Bing, I get a link to Bing Maps as the second item. If I type in something that has images like "london" I see a link to Bing's Image Search in the top 5-6 results. Searching for something video related puts Bing Video Search at #1 which aggregates from YouTube and others. This is no different to what Google are doing.

        If Google are going to get regulated for favouring their own services for things like this, so should the other search engines.

    • by MrDoh! (71235)

      This might be a play to get the Google code published under senate orders, so their competition can use/abuse it.

      • The code or the algorithms? The algorithms (as Google themselves have stated) change every day and the code is kind of useless without the algorithms.
    • I don't care if they add ginger and thyme or manually put their link as #1, this is purely political, not unethical. It's their index and they're not owned by the government.
    • by quickgold192 (1014925) on Thursday September 22, 2011 @02:03AM (#37476662)
      I thought the same thing - I expect to see Google shopping results third in product searches just like I expect to see Google image results about 3rd in concrete-noun searches. It's another very specific Google search that's integrated into Google web search. What boggles me is that Scmidt denies it like it's illegal or something. Like you said - it's not "cooking" results. It's integrating services. (Of course, and it's true, "integrating services" has been illegal since the 90s, apparently. Ask Gates about that one.)
  • Cooking? (Score:3, Informative)

    by dubsnipe (1822200) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @11:13PM (#37475838)

    Oh come on. I remember Microsoft's Bing doing some toasting> of their own on Google/a. [slashdot.org]

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @11:16PM (#37475854)

    He failed to explain why Google results always came 3rd on product comparisons though.

    The entire interview can be watched here [senate.gov].

    • I don't understand. What product comparisons? Based on what criteria? As far as I can tell, most of those studies were purely subjective assessments of what constituted good. Because if there was an objective assessment of search quality across an entire set of searches.... well, someone could build a better Google right and crush Google I'm its core area: search. But they don't.

      I smell bullshit.

      • I smell cooked bullshit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nbetcher (973062)

      He failed to explain why Google results always came 3rd on product comparisons though.

      The entire interview can be watched here [senate.gov].

      Watching the section of the video you're referring to, he specifically answers that the reason they are third is because Google does a VERY good job at finding the ACTUAL product, versus (yet another) product comparison website. He states that if you were to use those other product comparison sites to find the same product, you will find they rank the product results (what website the product is ACTUALLY sold at) in their own method. Basically, Google does the best job, but doesn't make it the first link.

      Sa

    • I would like to see how Google's results compared to Amazon and other sites where you could actually buy the products. It sounds like when people search for a product Google is trying to find a place to actually buy the product.

  • FTA:

    If true, the Microsoft allegations could be used to help the FTC build a case showing that Google abused its power as the owner of the world’s most popular search engine, violating the Sherman Act and other antitrust laws, said Andre Barlow, an antitrust lawyer at Doyle, Barlow & Mazard PLLC in Washington.

    So if you're the most popular at something, you are suddenly held to higher standards?

    I'm kind of confused here. Google may be the most popular advertiser right now but they're not the only one and certainly not the only successful one. How do they violate antitrust laws for charging various people/companies different rates? Couldn't Microsoft just as easily advertise elsewhere if they didn't like the pricing scheme? Sure it might not be as effective, but I'm not sure I like the idea that being "the bes

  • by guruevi (827432) <evi @ s m o k i n g c u be.be> on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @11:55PM (#37476090) Homepage

    I don't see Bing advertising Google nor Microsoft advertising Linux. It took many, many years and literally millions of dollars in fines for them to simply remove Windows Media Center from EU versions of Windows.

    I think Google has explained before how part of their algorithm works - if the site is faster, it's higher ranked. Since Google -> Google crawling is probably in the sub 10ms delay range, it will be higher ranked.

    Google does not have a monopoly, get over it already.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by Rockoon (1252108)

      I don't see Bing advertising Google nor Microsoft advertising Linux.

      Search for "Linux" on Bing and if your eyes are open then you will see the advertisements on the right hand side for Linux stuff.

      The key thing is to have your eyes open. If they are still shut, you wont see them.

      Search for "Google" on Bing and if your eyes are open then you will see the advertisement on the right hand side for google.com

      The key thing is to have your eyes open. If they are still shut, you wont see them.

      The choice is yours. You can either open your eyes, or remain a jackass ignorant

      • by Nick Ives (317)

        That's because MS appear to have removed their adverts. Apple still seems to advertise on Google fine.

        If MS wants to get all butthurt that's their problem.

    • by Henriok (6762)

      Google does not have a monopoly, get over it already.

      Ha ha ha! You made a funny!

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday September 22, 2011 @12:23AM (#37476270) Homepage

    I watched the whole committee session. Schmidt did reasonably well. Susan Creighton, a lawyer from Wilson Sonsini speaking for Google, not so much.

    The chart showing Google Shopping almost always in the #3 position in organic results was interesting, and weird. I look forward to seeing more details on that in the SEO blogs.

    Schmidt had a painful time replying to questions about Google's active encouragement of offshore pharmacy ads. [projo.com] He refused to say much. Part of the plea deal is that Google can't deny in public statements what they admitted in writing in their plea bargain. (If they do, the plea bargain is off and DOJ takes them to court on criminal charges.) So Schmidt can't claim Google did nothing wrong. He could have been more apologetic, though.

    Susan Creighton had a rough time. Google pays Apple $100 million a year or so to be the default search engine on the iPhone. She was asked about that, and tried hard to evade answering the question, which was put to her several times before a grudging admission that Google paid Apple for that. That's a real antitrust issue - buying your way into a new market when you're #1 in a related market doesn't go over well.

  • Group had monopoly on popular music and controlled the musical preferences of millions of people alleged George Michaels - The Stones cooked their musical influences and gave preference to R&B whined Rick Astley and Wham. Today the Senate interviewed Keith Richards who failed to explain why drum machines didn't feature more prominently in his music. Expect new laws to be passed to protect [insert music production company name here] from unfair market monopolies by popular musicians. (don't worry about t

  • But doesn't it stand to reason that a search engine would have its OWN results towards the top anyways? I think it also stands to reason that they WOULD charge a direct competitor more in the first place. I also find it a bit ironic that Microsoft would complain about price gouging when they have been known to charge upwards of $150 for an operating system.
  • Maybe Google is recovering all of the money lost due to crashes, corrupted files, and all the other nonsense we had to put up with because you paid hardware manufacturers not to put anythig else on their computers.

    Every time I click and Vista doesn't do anything, I use google to find something entertaining to watch until Vista responds. Using FireFox. With NoScript.

    I wish they would give it to me, but as long as they are taking it from you when my government couldn't, I'm perfectly fine with that. I use

  • Context (Score:5, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday September 22, 2011 @01:31AM (#37476552)

    Google was accused of cheating a client today.

    Those bastards!

    The client in question was none other than Microsoft.

    Those magnificent bastards!

  • This most be one of the worst stories I have seen, and it is only fitting that it comes now that the founder has left.

    Those sentences don't even make any sense in the sequence they are given. The links are pointless. And the name is Schmidt, for Pete's sake.

  • When would be about the right time to do an AT&T on Google and split is up into baby google's?

    1 year, 5 year, 10 years, never?

  • I always center click MS adv. when I see them. I like to send MS money to the Pages I visit. Maybe like me a lot of people is doing the same thing.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday September 22, 2011 @07:44AM (#37478066) Homepage Journal

    On top of all that, Microsoft is alleging that Google overcharges them as much as fifty-fold for advertising prices as compared to other buyers.

    That's fine. I allege that Microsoft is overcharging me as much as fifty-fold for a Windows license as compared to OEMs. A class action suit against Microsoft by all non-corporate windows users ought to be worth approximately sixty bajillion dollars.

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