October 16, 2012

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.

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