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Google's FTC antitrust deal: Top takeaways and challenges

Ian Paul | Jan. 8, 2013
Google executives are breathing a sigh of relief after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently decided not to pursue an antitrust case against the search giant. But Google did not get off free; the company made some concessions about how it deals with its search index, advertising programs, and smartphone patents.

Google executives are breathing a sigh of relief after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently decided not to pursue an antitrust case against the search giant. But Google did not get off free; the company made some concessions about how it deals with its search index, advertising programs, and smartphone patents.

For consumers, the agreement means you can expect to see more Google products at the top of Google search results. But the search giant won't be able to use its search index as a means to pressure other companies for their data.

Google also has to play nice when it comes to licensing some of its patents, which could be bad news for Samsung, according to one patent expert.

Here's a look at three major takeaways from Google's settlement with the FTC.

Google can get more integrated

Expect to see more Google products topping your results page when searching so-called vertical topics such as flight information and making shopping-related queries. The FTC decided that Google's manipulation of its search algorithms in favor of its own properties was justifiably an innovation and not detrimental to consumers.

So Google doesn't have to worry about getting in trouble if you see a review from Google-owned Zagat for your local Italian bistro instead of something from Yelp. If you get more Google+ results instead of Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter pages, as you do with Search Plus Your World, that's fine with the FTC, too.

Competitors can stay organic

One of the most concerning complaints leveled against Google was a claim from Yelp in late 2011. The local business review site said Google in 2010 began to use Yelp reviews in results for Google Local (also known as Places) without Yelp's permission. At the time, Google would typically list a business in its search results with its location, phone number, hours of operation, and some reviews from around the Web including sites such as Yelp, as well as some Google user reviews.

When Yelp asked Google to stop using its reviews in Places, the search giant told Yelp that its reviews could be dropped only if Yelp agreed to be removed entirely from Google's web search index, according to a statement by Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman. Considering Google owns about 67 per cent of the U.S. search market, according to metrics firm comScore, a request to be dropped from Google's search index is pretty close to dropping right off the face of the Web.

Under the Google-FTC agreement, Google won't be allowed to offer what Stoppelman in 2011 described as a "false choice." Instead, Google has promised to "provide all websites the option to keep their content out of Google's vertical search offerings [such as Places or Shopping], while still having them appear in Google's general, or "organic" web search results on Google.com.

 

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