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What an Anti-Google Antitrust Case By the FTC May Look Like 167

Posted by timothy
from the follow-the-competitors'-blueprint dept.
hessian writes "It's not certain that Google will face a federal antitrust lawsuit by year's end. But if that happens, it seems likely to follow an outline sketched by Thomas Barnett, a Washington, D.C., lawyer on the payroll of Google's competitors. Barnett laid out his arguments during a presentation here last night: Google is unfairly prioritizing its own services such as flight search over those offered by rivals such as Expedia, and it's unfairly incorporating reviews from Yelp without asking for permission. 'They systematically reinforce their dominance in search and search advertising,' Barnett said during a debate on search engines and antitrust organized by the Federalist Society. 'Google's case ought to have been brought a year or two ago.'"
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What an Anti-Google Antitrust Case By the FTC May Look Like

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  • Still Free (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 25, 2012 @04:53PM (#41771249)

    Just pointing out, you have the easy option of typing www.bing.com in your address bar if you don't like their results.

  • Sour Grapes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Thursday October 25, 2012 @04:54PM (#41771263)

    Why *wouldn't* they prioritize their services and the services of their partners? It's NOT a public service agency, it's a private business, of which there are several significant competitors.

  • Hold on. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeng (926980) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @04:56PM (#41771289)

    Are they guilty of anti-trust issues if the algorithms put their results first, not due to manipulation, but due to popularity?

  • Re:Still Free (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @04:57PM (#41771305) Homepage Journal

    Just pointing out, you have the easy option of typing www.bing.com in your address bar if you don't like their results.

    ... and you've always been able to go online and download the browser you prefer through Windows, but that hasn't stopped the US or EU governing bodies from slapping Microsoft with nigh endless anti-trust suits.

  • Re:Sour Grapes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NinjaTekNeeks (817385) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @04:59PM (#41771327)
    Exactly. Search brings in no money, however related goods, services and ads do. So you give out the free search and encourage the user to utilize a related service related to the search to bring in the money, simple and effective business plan.

    Also it's not like bing, yahoo and msn search don't do the exact same thing. Bing pimps its services just like google does, hotmail on the front page and a host of other offerings once you actually search.

    Just Horseshit legal wrangling try to slow Google down.
  • I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Andrio (2580551) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @05:09PM (#41771401)
    How come no one goes after Apple? They downright refuse anything that competes with their equivalent app. How is that not antitrust?

    I'm not trying to troll or start a flame war. I really am just curious.
  • Re:Still Free (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @05:31PM (#41771605) Homepage Journal

    you've always been able to go online and download the browser you prefer through Windows

    Only after starting Internet Explorer then... wait, I already have a web browser? Why would I want to download another one?

    Your laziness != anti-trust behavior on the part of Microsoft. Now, if Windows somehow tried to prevent you from downloading/installing an alternate browser, I would understand, but that's just not the case.

    Not to mention, if Windows didn't come with any browser whatsoever - how would you go about downloading a new one?

    This is pretty much how IE6 became the behemoth that it is. IE has an unbreakable advantage over every other browser: it's owned by the vendor whose OS is a monopoly in its market. That's why.

    Does OSX come, by default, with any alternate to Safari? No? Then why is MS treated like some kind of James Bond villain, but Apple isn't?

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @05:34PM (#41771617)

    Thomas Barnett is the "Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust" and also a former lawyer for Microsoft.

    Thomas is pushing for antitrust legislation against Google, right now. Thomas has previously Thom rejected Google's claims against Microsoft.

    Looks a little suspecious to me.

  • by Cyberllama (113628) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @05:35PM (#41771633)

    So wait, which is it? Google is unfairly prioritizing their own services, or unfairly indexing others? Yelp is their competitor. They have their own competing service in Google Places.

    You can't have it both ways. You can't say on the one hand that they're "stealing" when they index other people's content and you can't argue that they're being anti-competitive if they don't have enough of other people's content, or other people's content not highly enough ranked. And, bottom line, Google has flatly denied that they do this. They have been explicit in stating that they do not tinker with their algorithm to make their services show up higher than others--so unless you have some evidence they're lying, then what's your case going to be?

  • Re:Still Free (Score:4, Insightful)

    by compro01 (777531) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @05:43PM (#41771707)

    Now, if Windows somehow tried to prevent you from downloading/installing an alternate browser, I would understand, but that's just not the case.

    Which is somewhat what they did in preventing OEMs from bundling alternative browsers, which is what got them sued.

  • Re:Still Free (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 25, 2012 @05:43PM (#41771711)

    It may seem ridiculous today but the internet was a very different place when Microsoft did the things that brought on that lawsuit. Micrsoft succeeded in drawing out the drama for a decade, but the fact remains that they did some very very very dirty things.

    Today I with a few keystrokes and clicks I can install chrome in less than a minute and never see IE ever again.

    Back then it could take hours to download a browser suite over a modem, and installation was faily complicated compared to installing chrome today. Most people got their browsers on disks from their ISP (Or just used IE because it was already there)

    The old microsoft OSs really did go out of their way to force you to use IE. For kicks, and to play some old games, I installed windows 98SE in a VM. I forgot how many hoops you had to jump through. Until you deleted icons off the desktop, windows would try to force you to sign up for MSN before letting you use dial-up networking. (Not even remotely kidding) The whole experience was designed to force you to use IE, and it was pretty hard for the average user to use anything else.

  • Re:Sour Grapes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by miltonw (892065) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @05:43PM (#41771725)

    Ah, but that is not the proven fact you pretend it is. There is no proof at all that Google tweaks its results to put its own services at the top of the list. You have assumed guilt that has never been established in order to "prove" that Google is guilty.

    Even companies are assumed innocent until proven guilty. That's called "justice" and if you don't like it, tough.

  • Re:Still Free (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @05:47PM (#41771765) Homepage

    No. I disagree. The landscape for the internet was damaged horribly by Microsoft's defacto dominance and their tying the browser with the operating system. In fact, Microsoft has even managed to harm MS Windows by taking this route. (By tying the browser to the OS, they have made having multiple versions of MSIE impossible as far as I can tell.. please link me to proof if I am wrong.) And by tying the browser to the OS, a vulnerability in the browser is a vulnerability in the OS and everything hosted by and accessible to the OS. Additionally, they used their OS dominance to affect other markets via their browser and its Microsoft-only compliance. It threatened the very framework of the web at large.

    As a result of all the suits against Microsoft, the landscape has changed to favor a standards compliant direction. This is a huge improvement which would never have happened unless Microsoft was discouraged from their intended path.

    I don't have an opinion about Google's tactics as to whether or not they are unfair. Users have never been locked into Google. Users choose which search engine they want to use. Bing is the default for "most default desktops" out there anyway. Google doesn't force users to decide which search engine they will use or lock them into anything. Their level of lock-in with Android is a little disturbing but even that's quite a bit of a choice... I could go without access to the Play store... there are alternatives but I can't imagine trusting any of them just yet. Or I could simply go without using any of those services at all.

    I don't think what Google does even compares with what Microsoft has done. Google has created a very popular service. I see it as rather similar to TV channels. We all know, for example, that the news on Fox is slanted in a particular way and favors particular parties over others. If Google should be sued for not being 100% neutral, then perhaps Fox should be sued under the same requirements.

  • Re:Still Free (Score:4, Insightful)

    by poetmatt (793785) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @06:20PM (#41772045) Journal

    which is why bing (microsoft, oracle, and apple - all in concert) wants to shut down google. The reality is that this is going to either invalidate antitrust altogether, or encourage more antitrust investigation from the EU and the US onto all three of them. They're literally creating evidence by pushing for this.

  • Re:Sour Grapes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @07:14PM (#41772485)
    "They are leveraging it to promote Google Finance, Maps, Flighs, so on."

    You really don't understand how this works. It's exactly the opposite. They promote Search, Finance, Maps (what's Flighs?) so they can sell ads.

    "The search engine ad market" is not something subject to a monopoly, anymore than "the market for Chevrolets" is, which was my original point. It's the advertising market, which is very much bigger than just Google. Google doesn't even have an ad presence on Bing or Yahoo or Yandex or Baidu (as a seller - they appear to actually pay for ads on those sites), so a claim that they've "cornered the search engine ad market" is simply laughable. They've cornered the Google search ad market, just as GM has cornered the Chevrolet market. That in no way gives them a monopoly, of any sort.

    Beyond that, they certainly haven't cornered the advertising market, even if you limit it to the Internet - there a lots of "free" services paid for with advertising - Facebook is an example, as is craigslist. But, I suppose you'd just say that Facebook has a monopoly over "the social media advertising market."

    Meh.
  • Re:Still Free (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gadget_Guy (627405) on Friday October 26, 2012 @03:14AM (#41774993)

    Did you know that one of the biggest things microsoft got in trouble for was forcing companies to not allow them to bundle other browsers with computers they sold?

    You and your other Anonymous Coward friend are wrong. Microsoft never forced companies not to install other browsers. If you look at the judgement against Microsoft [webcitation.org], you see that:

    "Microsoft did manage to bundle Internet Explorer 1.0 with the first version of Windows 95 licensed to OEMs in July 1995. It also included a term in its OEM licenses that prohibited the OEMs from modifying or deleting any part of Windows 95, including Internet Explorer, prior to shipment. The OEMs accepted this restriction despite their interest in meeting consumer demand for PC operating systems without Internet Explorer.
    ...
    Microsoft knew that the inability to remove Internet Explorer made OEMs less disposed to pre-install Navigator onto Windows 95. OEMs bear essentially all of the consumer support costs for the Windows PC systems they sell. These include the cost of handling consumer complaints and questions generated by Microsoft's software. Pre-installing more than one product in a given category, such as word processors or browsers, onto its PC systems can significantly increase an OEM's support costs, for the redundancy can lead to confusion among novice users. In addition, pre-installing a second product in a given software category can increase an OEM's product testing costs. Finally, many OEMs see pre-installing a second application in a given software category as a questionable use of the scarce and valuable space on a PC's hard drive."

    And later, when discussing Window's use of IE in some cases despite the user selecting another browser as a default (eg. Windows Update), the ruling states:

    "By increasing the likelihood that using Navigator on Windows 98 would have unpleasant consequences for users, Microsoft further diminished the inclination of OEMs to pre-install Navigator onto Windows."

    So you can see, there was no ban on other browsers for OEMs. They were not allowed to delete portions of Windows (including IE), but they could add their own browser if they wished. Microsoft added IE in the hope that OEMs would be disinclined to bundle Netscape Navigator.

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