Congressman tells the FTC to leave Google alone, does he have a point?

October 16, 2012
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    Go to Google.com, do a search for a local restaurant, and guess what’s shown first? That restaurant’s location on Google Maps. The results from Yelp are also on the first page, but buried towards the bottom. This kind of behavior, where Google prefers to shows users Google properties first instead of sending them away to another website, is what the Federal Trade Commission in the United States wants to stop. Democratic Colorado Congressman Jared Polis, who calls himself a “high-tech entrepreneur”, thinks the FTC should be careful when it comes to passing laws telling Google how to run their company. He has threatened to reduce the FTC’s power should they go ahead and bring a case against Google. How exactly will he do that? He doesn’t say.

    So who’s right and who’s wrong? That really depends on your political beliefs. If you think the government shouldn’t regulate businesses, then obviously the FTC are a bunch of Fascists. If you think the government should protect the people and pass laws concerning every little detail of modern life, then you see this as wonderful news. The thing is, governments are composed of people, and people, more often than not, don’t really understand how things work.

    If a competitor comes up with a better service, then what’s stopping them from becoming the next big thing? No one is actually forcing anyone to use Google. This isn’t the 90s when Microsoft put Internet Explorer in Windows and killed Netscape. Still, there’s a feeling deep within our bellies that Google has become a little bit shady by promoting their pages instead of linking to something that clearly has better information.

    We’ll be keeping an eye on this story since it has the potential to blow up. Imagine for a second if the FTC made Google stop linking to Google Maps? Pretty scary.

    Comments

    • ChristopherRogers1991

      Why is Google promoting their products any different than a store promoting theirs? Any grocery store is allowed to sell their own brand products. They can display them prominently, provide coupons, or do anything else they want to push their brand. In the case of grocery stores, the only difference is that the other brands don’t have their own stores (ie I can’t by frosted flakes at a kellogs store) which puts them at more of a disadvantage than services such as yelp, which I can access directly. I go to Google because I like Google products. If I wanted to use yelp I would go straight there.

      If services are going to cry about discoverabilty, and having to pay Google for sponsored link spots, they can advertise in more traditional avenues (ie TV, radio, magazines, etc. ). There’s no reason Google should have to put their products last.

      Also, there isn’t any set way for a search engine to give results. That’s why google, yahoo, bing, etc. can show different results for any given search query. If I search for dogs and they want to show me results about cats that’s their right. How they decide what to show me is totally up to them, which means if they want to put their products and services first, even if they are inferior, there’s nothing wrong with that.

      • GlueFactoryBJJ

        Don’t forget that Amazon promotes their products on their home page and, even though they allow other firms to sell in their marketplace, it appears that products sold through Amazon are given a higher priority.

        The main difference between Microsoft and Google is that Microsoft Windows had become an exclusive method of accessing computers and, through their contracts which required a Windows royalty payment whether Windows was installed on a PC or not, they actively hindered the ability of competing browsers (and other products, for that matter) to be installed.

        Google, on the other hand (which I, personally, do NOT use for search), does what any other company can do. It (effectively) PAYS to advertise their product options in their search result pages. Given that 97% of Google’s revenues are from advertising, every time they list one of their FREE options, they are doing so at the cost of lost advertising revenue (in that space). So there is a very real cost to them of doing this… which Microsoft never incurred (see above).

        This is an “apples and oranges” comparison and I believe that the FCC is off base here. Sure, Google does stuff that they need to be monitored over (mostly in the area of privacy), but THIS isn’t one of them.

        Scott

        • Marvin Nakajima

          The FCC would beg to differ and refer you to the FTC. :D

    • Zebelious

      “concerning every little detail of modern life”

      Really? We know which political side of the coin you belong to by referring business investment (i.e., Domain, Web Site development, and maintenance) a little detail of the modern life. You totally missed what businesses are concern about because you never owned anything that you wanted people to visit your web site for.

      “No one is actually forcing anyone to use Google.”

      You are either paid by Google or you are very inexperience. Google’s data doesn’t belong to them — the data is about the individuals, about what individuals own, and about the world we all live in. I can go on forever to show you how actually dangerous a comment like your is but I’m going to end my response with the following…

      No one has ever actually forced Google to be Google either.

      • Marvin Nakajima

        Bing is a good sized competitor. If advertisers are that bothered by Google’s practices they could band together for a boycott and move over to another search engine that better fits their idea of how search engines should advertise. The fact that they still remain means they value Google more than their desire to move elsewhere. Unlike IE on Windows and Safari on iOS, there is no need to download and install a competitor’s product (if available) in order to ‘switch’. A simple change in the URL will take you elsewhere. I don’t think there is any mention of Google buying out other mid-sized search companies to ‘absorb’ competition or forcing other search companies to use Google’s engine in the backend (Looking at you MS and Apple respectively).

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