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Google's response to the European Commission fine (blog.google)
211 points by leavjenn on June 27, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 228 comments



I think it would be worth adding these opinions of other US-based companies:

"A number of US companies - including Oracle - published a joint letter addressed to Vestager this week in support of penalties against Google for “anticompetitive conduct.” It said: "As you near final decisions in the Shopping and Android cases, Google and its allies will no doubt continue to press through its lobbying and public relations machine the fiction that any adverse decision amounts to European 'protectionism'. "As U.S. based companies, we wish to go on record that enforcement action against Google is necessary and appropriate, not provincial. We have watched Google undermine competition in the United States and abroad. Google operates on a global scale and across the entire online ecosystem, destroying jobs and stifling innovation."

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/06/27/google_hit_with_reco...


Also worth noting that the FTC investigators reached the same conclusion as the EU.

http://graphics.wsj.com/google-ftc-report/

"Staff concludes that Google's conduct has resulted - and will result - in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets. Google has strengthened its monopolies over search and search advertising through anticompetitive means..."

Their bosses, though, voted 5-0 to not take action as recommended.


Common origin does not disprove animosity or self interest.

One wonders what NewsCorp or Oracle concerns are in ecommerce search, but then you remember that they had well publicized scuffles with Google.

The last record fine was against a US company, as were recent tax related fines, patterns are harder to refute.


"patterns are harder to refute" -> there is also a pattern, how big US tech companies avoid tax payments in EU, it even has a name ("double irish sandwich")


...and as a result a hefty fine under an unrelated law should be levied? Europe is and should be a place where laws are more than just tools with which to punish disfavored parties. If the double Irish should be illegal, then make it so, and hold on tighter to the straight and narrow path.


Double Irish is treated illegal as "illegal state aid". Would it be legal in US, if Delaware decided to give some foreign company (registered in Delaware) only 0,1% tax on everything they earn in the US? I thing the federal court would rule such "state aid" as illegal...


Which is legal. The Apple case was about "illegal state aid" of all things.


So either EU is grossly incompetent to stop such thing at EU members level or they just think acting against individual companies will generate more fireworks and public support.


It's more that the EU doesn't have the political will to do what is perceived as the common good here.

Ireland has a selfish interest in attracting tech companies, and the rest of the EU can't bring enough political leverage against them to change the legal structures that make Ireland preferable for headquartering.


Equally Luxemburg is another EU location abused by corporations for TAX reasons. Ironically it was set up By a Mr Junker ages ago, who then went on to run the EU and has made much rhetoric about TAX avoidance and yet managed to do nothing to fix, in-part a situation he created. Which given his knowledge and experience in the matter, you would of thought he was ideally placed to fix now. He has not alas.


No political will? What about the EC's order for Apple to pay 13B € in unpaid taxes?


Ordering an US corporation to do something is entirely different from making a member state change their laws.


Can you show how you have established that there is a pattern? I was actually looking for a list of all the entities fined by the EU Commission. Seems like you have some data.


I'm sure EU court have based its decision on a number of different factors.

The letter from Oracle is just one of them.


Court? the problem is that these fines don't go through any court.


The fines are applied by the Commission, but the companies can appeal to the EU's general court and then to the CJEU.


So just like FCC decisions in the US then.


The FCC isn't the right equivalent here, the FTC or the DoJ are, and they have to successfully sue in federal court for their fines to stick.


Disclaimer Oh I contain multitudes how can you process this comment? Sorry it's not reduced to one non-dissenting ideological line, but contains ideas you may have trouble reconciling. Abort now if ambiguity crashes your harddrive.

Can you process that I am both: happy that Google is fined.

And also: it's a bit rich of Oracle to say that. Larry: "It's not enough that we win. Everyone else must lose!"

But losers are always gonna hate and pile on the winner. They wouldn't be making up their own fictions of Google's "evil" if they hadn't lost.

Are they gonna take responsibility for their failed business practices? Or keep blaming the Giant? By golly, if they were successful they'd have a mighty different view.


That's fair. Any official statement by a corporation is total horseshit 100% of the time.

Corporations literally exist only to protect and grow their bottom line, and are engineered to reflexively throw everything else under the bus--employees, the environment, the general public, reason itself--to defend that goal.

Their statements will never come out and admit this, however, because it compromises that goal. Thus literally, literally everything corporations say in an official capacity is a lie, almost without exception. The subtext is always "we are doing this primarily because we believe it will help us make more money".

The best we can do in a capitalist society is create smart regulations that channel that inevitably self-serving motive to align as closely with what's good for society at large as possible.


> our data show that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches.

If you would link them correctly, there wouldn't need to search again, but would be on the search results of that other site with their (usually better) results.

Also, considering that product search results are sponsored, usually the top results at product search are crap. There are three things that people usually prefer links to when they search for a product: 1. High quality product information - that's usually the website of the manufacturer. Amazon is not too bad in some cases but smaller retailers usually lack a lot of useful information. 2. Best offer - when you pay for being a top result on Google product search, then it's hard to claim you will be able to provide the best price. 3. Buyers feedback - sites that are larger usually have more prior buyers and thus more feedback. Google's very own ratings (which the scrape from other sites that allow them I guess) is usually crap compared to what you find on Amazon.

So basically, if Google would want to provide actual useful search results, this would just be a link to the manufacturers marketing site, a link to the best offer and/or the result page of a price-comparison site, and a link to Amazon and/or comparably large local retailers. Results based on who payed most is not what people usually want, don't try to argue that this is true.


> If you would link them correctly, there wouldn't need to search again, but would be on the search results of that other site with their (usually better) results.

If I wanted to search Amazon, I would have searched Amazon, not Google. The last thing I want is to search for some product on Google and get a list of search results pages from other companies as a response instead of a listing of the products I'm actually searching for. It'd be like if I searched for some random bit of information on Google and the top result was a link to the same search results page on Yahoo.

> usually the top results at product search are crap

According to the line from Google you quoted above, most of their users disagree with you on that. I'm one such user. I don't typically use Google's shopping results as the _only_ source of product information for me, but I do occasionally use them as one source.

You also seem to be misunderstanding what the links they show actually link to. Buyer feedback and product information for individual products are available on the landing page (from a third party site, I might add) you get to when you click on a link to a product. The main difference is that you get to the product page directly rather than having to go through _another_ search results page from a third party to find what you're looking for.


>The last thing I want is to search for some product on Google and get a list of search results pages from other companies as a response instead of a listing of the products I'm actually searching for.

The OP isn't talking about Google linking to 'search results pages', but link to the actual product itself. You're already in agreement with them, so stop arguing :)

The only problem here is that Google seems to think that its mission is to setup a tollbooth on the internet rather than indexing information and just responding to search queries.

>According to the line from Google you quoted above, most of their users disagree with you on that. I'm one such user.

An advertising company says "Our users think our ads are awesome" - You'll have to excuse the people who don't take that seriously.


> The OP isn't talking about Google linking to 'search results pages'

Really? It certainly sounds like that's what he was talking about:

> wouldn't need to search again, but would be on the search results of that other site

In any case, linking directly to the actual product is _already_ what Google does. So if that's the goal, then what's the issue?

> An advertising company says "Our users think our ads are awesome"

That's another thing about this ruling that I don't get. Google's "Product Search" results are essentially paid ads, and they're explicitly marked as such. (Example: https://imgur.com/m5rGqLa)

With this ruling, isn't the EU pretty much saying that Google isn't allowed to display ads on their search results pages, because those ads are displayed at the top of the page, thus "giving prominent placement to Google's own service"? That's ridiculous, right?


Google was not fined for displaying ads, but for promoting its services, illegally, via product tying. Google search should be responding to a query with relevant web pages that their crawler indexed. Instead, they insert a popup that links to their shopping service and try to make a buck off of that. This is the first complaint, the second is that they demoted rival shopping services from their search results.


I can't really speak to the second complaint, since I'm not privy to the internal workings of Google's ranking algorithms (though I have anecdotal evidence that the overall quality of Google's search results in these situations is just fine), but as for the first one: as a consumer I very much like Google's integrations between search and their other services. Those integrations are one of the main things that makes Google's search engine better than its competitors. Being able to search for a nearby business and immediately see whether it's open, with a link to get directions to it on Google Maps, is incredibly useful. Same goes for the product results being discussed here, and for other services like Google's built-in calculator, dictionary, image search, etc.

If such integrations are illegal under EU law, then in my opinion the law is harmful to consumers and needs to be changed. I'm not an EU citizen though, so I don't really have a say in the matter. I can only sit back and hope this ruling only results in the quality of Google's search results being gimped in the EU, and not in non-EU countries.


>Being able to search for a nearby business and immediately see whether it's open, with a link to get directions to it on Google Maps, is incredibly useful. Same goes for the product results being discussed here, and for other services like Google's built-in calculator, dictionary, image search, etc.

A lot of that is not a service provided by Google. They simply scrap data others have created and insert their ads. Its a sophisticated form of rent seeking. If you tried to do that with THEIR services they'd shut you down ASAP - e.g. If you ran a meta search engine which collected search results from all other search engines, google will immediately block your access once you got popular.

I'm totally for this fine, and hope that Google mends their ways. They do have a good search product that I enjoy using but promoting their unsuccessful services by integrating it with a successful search product is wrong and harms competition. I want the web to stay open, and Google's promotion of their closed platforms is troublesome. Unfortunately, Google spends a lot on lobbying and cozying up with the government, so I doubt we will see such enforcement in the US.


> A lot of that is not a service provided by Google. They simply scrap data others have created and insert their ads. Its a sophisticated form of rent seeking. If you tried to do that with THEIR services they'd shut you down ASAP - e.g. If you ran a meta search engine which collected search results from all other search engines, google will immediately block your access once you got popular.

You are aware that the opposite applies too, right? That whoever doesn't want Google scrapping results can block their crawlers?

No, you don't, you have mistaken Google for something other than a private company. Only you've made that mistake arbitrarily, as evidenced...

> I'm totally for this fine, and hope that Google mends their ways. They do have a good search product that I enjoy using but promoting their unsuccessful services by integrating it with a successful search product is wrong and harms competition. I want the web to stay open, and Google's promotion of their closed platforms is troublesome. Unfortunately, Google spends a lot on lobbying and cozying up with the government, so I doubt we will see such enforcement in the US.

... Here. You are aware that Google search itself is closed, right? You either aren't or your grandstanding regarding the "open web" is completely empty words.

Of all the arguments in favor of this ruling I've read, this one is by far the weirdest.


>You are aware that the opposite applies too, right? That whoever doesn't want Google scrapping results can block their crawlers?

The point was, 'whoever has the power, makes the rules'. Google skews search results whenever it wants to promote its services. Given Google's dominant position, this harms competition. The EU is addressing this.

>... Here. You are aware that Google search itself is closed, right? You either aren't or your grandstanding regarding the "open web" is completely empty words.

An open platform has absolutely nothing to do with the source code. For e.g. Linux would be an open platform even if you had no access to the source code. This is because you can run any software you want, poke at any and all bits in memory, call any API you want, extend the OS using documented APIs in any way you want, etc. OSX and Windows are open too, with some caveats relating to their app stores. iOS and Android are not open platforms.

Google is creating tightly integrated closed platforms where they control absolutely everything, and doing anything that is not "blessed" by them is automatically illegal and violates their TOS For e.g. If you came up with a better commenting system, you can't create an app that lets you watch youtube videos and comment using your own system. If you came up with a better stock ticker, you can't compete with google because typing 'apple stock quote' popups up their own service and there is no way to get that top spot. Such integrations combined with their dominant market position harms competition. Anyway, i've spent way too much time on this story so this will be my last comment. Need to get back to work ! :)


Heh, now you're complaining about a site having its own commenting system. And that Android isn't an open platform.

Your definition of open and closed is hilariously misguided, I see absolutely no reason or point in accepting it. And, as your entire argument hangs on that faulty definition...


The response from google fails to really address the point from the EU Commission, that they used their monopoly position in search to drive business through their product price comparison service. The utility of the service and the "value of those kinds of fast and easy connections" are immaterial to the reasoning behind the fine.


They are really twisting the commissions ruling to enact sympathy.

"The commission said it did not object to the design of Google's generic search algorithms or to demotions as such, nor to the way that Google displays or organises its search results pages: "It objects to the fact that Google has leveraged its market dominance in general internet search into a separate market, comparison shopping."


So we can expect a similar decision against Apple bundling their own apps in iOS, or Microsoft promoting OneCloud in Windows, or Amazon not selling Google Chrome & heavily promoting their Firestick, or Bing doing exactly the same thing as Google (the only difference I see is the placement)?

I think it would be better if Google made it clearer that the shopping search was all adverts, but otherwise this seems idiotic. Every large tech company leverages its dominance in one area to compete in a different market.


Anti-trust law in US & EU depends upon actually having significant market share. iOS has a significant minority share compared to Android, so it doesn't matter that Apple is bundling their own apps. The same logic applies to Bing, which employs many of the same anti-competitive tactics Google has used historically, though because market share is so low Microsoft will not garner any sanctions/fines (unless it becomes more comparable to Google.)

EDIT: per the OneDrive argument on Windows, I think you might have a point - though Windows is pretty open to deep integration with competitive services like Dropbox or Google Drive, so my guess is that MSFT would just have to offer an easy way to uninstall OneDrive, maybe? (or at least disable it.)


We have seen similar action against Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple in the EU... So, yes.

> this seems idiotic. Every large tech company leverages its dominance in one area to compete in a different market.

Then they will continue to be fined for anti-competitive behaviour. Which is also illegal in the US, the US just doesn't enforce their existing laws.

It is "idiotic" that the US fails to enforce existing US law. It isn't "idiotic" that the EU does.


But this is relatively meaningless with the current fine structure. Unless the EU's is drastically different, the fine never comes close to matching what the companies are making with these anti-competitive practices, ergo the companies are not sufficiently disincentivized to stop using them.


and to be honest, fines are not going to solve this.

Why? making fines to large and forcing companies to pay them up to the point that it hurts them will result in a severe economic impact, which will destabilize te economy.

For real gross conduct people should be held responsible in the company, even to the point that they might be personally responsible. People need a vested intrest to not do this kind of behaviour.


> making fines to large and forcing companies to pay them up to the point that it hurts them will result in a severe economic impact

Yeah, that's kind of the point. If it's not large enough to cause an economic impact then what good is it? If speeding fines were $10 and didn't subtract points from your license, I'd sure be speeding a lot more.


Correct. It's a lose-lose situation, and therefore should be avoided.

Your "speeding tickets" example demonstrates this beautifully. We all know people who need an externally imposed speed limit, a scalar number that is so OBVIOUSLY SILLY it doesn't even take into account primary safety factors such as the weather, surrounding traffic situation, vehicle condition etc (as drivers do instinctively). People who worship that number as the source of "safeness"... because some bureaucrat somewhere said so. These are sad, broken people; actually dangerous to be around when driving.

Put differently: a person who cares about the fines and "points deducted from their license" more than their own safety and self-preservation, is a great adept for the Darwin Awards. Applies to businesses equally.


If you expect any regulation, be it speed limits or anti-trust legislation, to have an effect on the situation the penalties for violating them must reflect that, i.e. there needs to be a real reason for the business/individual to obey them. Financial penalties are the most direct way to do so.

Where speed limits are often arbitrary and I think rather useless to maintain safety, to say that also applies to anti-trust and monopoly regulations is a stretch. People tend to forget that the first of these sorts of laws grew up next to companies like Standard Oil and US Steel, companies so large they literally held a stranglehold not just on the people who did business with them, but even to a great extent on their competition. Who's to say Google isn't a monopoly? Not so very long ago with a few keystrokes Google changed the fortunes of hundreds if not thousands of media companies by cracking down on linking and changing how their algorithm worked. Whether or not you agree with their decision (I do, but that's besides the point) is irrelevant; the fact is that Google has the power to greatly influence the flow of traffic on the web, and this power is completely, 100% unchecked and rife with opportunities for abuse.

And as for your co-opting my speeding metaphor, it's also worth noting that while speeding itself isn't so awfully unsafe, plenty of other things that will cost you "points on a license" are also things like drunk driving, reckless driving, driving without insurance, driving vehicles that have damaged components, etc. in other words: things that not only affect your safety, but the safety of those around you.


Their links are shit outside of the US as far as I can tell. At least they are in the Netherlands. It constantly links to US/UK stores (amazon) which are useless for me, since I'm not paying thrice the product price for shipping.

It also doesn't know about most of the sites that actual Dutch price comparison sites (tweakers.net/pricewatch) know about, which always give me a better deal.


I agree the products in the shop results are pretty bad. But i don't need the EU to protect the few dozen commercial comparison sites in the netherlands. At least google is honest about the links being sponsored. Tweakers is not.


How so? If something is advertising it is clearly labeled and green at the top, right? Or is there more going on?


Sorry to burst your bubble but all prices on pricewatch are paid for.

"Tweakers.net brengt 24 uur per dag, 365 dagen per jaar informatie over technologie, consumentenelectronica en daaraan gerelateerde onderwerpen. De bezoekers van Tweakers.net hebben een bovengemiddeld groot budget voor de aankoop van hardware, software en consumentenelectronica. Om deze mensen te informeren over de laagste prijzen en beste aanbiedingen worden deze bijgehouden in de Pricewatch. In 2014 werd de Pricewatch door het Nederlandse publiek uitgeroepen tot Beste Vergelijkingssite. Op dit moment bestaat de database uit ruim 800.000 producten met 2.5 miljoen prijzen bij ruim 350 winkels. Heeft u een webshop en wilt u deze graag aansluiten bij de Pricewatch? Neem dan contact op met onze verkoopafdeling via pricewatch@tweakers.net of telefoonnummer 020-204 2133"


That's just a sales pitch to have companies (proactively) push their current prices to Tweakers. Where do you see anything about paid listing there?


Any price not paid for is automatically removed after only 3! days. So effectively > 99.99% are being paid for but they still maintain the illusion that it is user generated content.

"Om de Pricewatch actueel te houden vervallen handmatig toegevoegde prijzen na automatisch na drie dagen. Bedrijven met een Pricewatch Manager abonnement kunnen een onbeperkt aantal prijzen toevoegen."


Yeah but it is still sorted based on price and they have a lot of meta data on the products and the stores. I don't see any problem. In the end they link to the sites themselves so it's not like you pay more via Tweakers.


There is no problem. It a great site! I prefer it over any other comparison site and google shopping big time.

The problem is the EU 'protecting' these commercial enterprises by fining Google 2.24b euro. A bit high and bit unfair because google at least discloses the links as sponsored unlike the sites being protected.


Then we fully agree ;)


My impression has always been that comparison sites have affiliate deals for everything they link you to. They're certainly not transparent about that (I'm sure it's in small print somewhere), but I assume it must be the case.


They're not doing it for charity, that's for sure. Not forgetting also one of the biggest affiliate networks in Europe has connections with a media company that has been very active on the lobbying front.

I'm not a fan of the shopping ads but I don't think anyone is mistaking these for anything other than what they - which is paid ads. Comparison sites, oth, in general don't do a good job of disclosure or even comparing prices.


tip: I never use "google search". I get far better results when I search on google maps instead, as I usually want to find something "here and now" and google maps helps on that, and as a bonus, it doesn't display any ads ;)

If I am to do a proper search while at home, on my desk-lap-top I use DuckDuckGo or go straight to Amazon, Argos, Maplin, etc websites depending on the item category.


It might be beta because I had never seen it before, but I got a 'sponsored pin' in google maps the other day. Identical to other location pins except a different colored and marked as sponsored.


I also never ever use it, I always opt for local price-comparison sites (like tweakers.net's pricewatch in the Netherlands).


Yep, Germany too.


That's not my impression - Google rarely shows me non-german shopping links. However their regular results results often tend to be a little too german / national for my taste.

One example are reviews (as in "{some product} review") - I often find that my search results are biased towards german reviews while I'd really prefer to see international reviews from the people most qualified to do so.


I disable country redirection by visiting http://google.com/ncr (once -- it sets a cookie, so beware[1]), but now I'm in the same boat as the gp -- I never get search results tailored for my location. Still better than the alternative.

[1] I've been doing this since forever. The earliest reference I could find for the feature is from 2004. Incredible: http://www.tech-recipes.com/rx/769/google_goto_generic_engli...


That's complete rubbish. If they were really interested in helping customers get to the products quickly the products would be displayed underneath each websites search result.

What they really want is for the retailers to pay for the privilege of having their products at the top of the page.


That's a good point


"Our data show that people usually prefer a built-in browser on their start menu by default, not browsers they need to download/install/configure manually"

-Microsoft 20 years ago


Of course everybody prefers a browser to be pre-installed, but Microsoft did way more than that. They strictly harmed users to protect their Windows monopoly from the threat of Java apps.

Java applets distributed via the web (executed by Netscape Navigator) had the potential to displace Win32 as a preferred API, thus making Linux and other OS's able to compete with Windows in terms of application offering.

Some OEMs wanted to sell Windows computers with Netscape Navigator preinstalled, because it was way better. Microsoft told them they wouldn't sell them any Windows license at all if they did it, forcing their hand.

Microsoft further preinstalled their own incompatible version of Java, to try and make Java apps non cross-platform. They did the same with Internet Explorer's own incompatible version of web standards, when web apps started to gain popularity.

Windows' monopoly was maintained in part by Microsoft purposefully spending resources in actions that only harmed Windows users (and consumers in general).


"That's the joke."

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xECUrlnXCqk

The comment you are replying to is showing by way of parallel to Microsoft that this polemic from Google is an absurd defense: your entire comment is something I would imagine the person you are replying to agrees with, which is precisely why they made the comment they did, as it demonstrates in a visceral way how absurd it is to be trying to give Google a free pass just because their product is useful.

You seem to be going around this thread making the same mistake in multiple contexts, such as when you replied to me in this other linked thread, which makes me wonder if you are paying much attention before commenting :/.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14646976


> your entire comment is something I would imagine the person you are replying to agrees with, which is precisely why they made the comment they did

Let that person reply then? I'm refuting the parallel between the two cases, even if you don't see it.

Microsoft prevented other companies from selling computers with Netscape Navigator preinstalled.


...before getting €2bn in fines, a good part of it for "forgetting" to show the browser choice popup for 6 months, in Win 7 ServicePack 1, after successfully showing it in Windows 7. Looking back, they did really play cat-and-mouse with the EU.


It's interesting how on Hacker News, story about Google getting fined was censored and removed yet PR from Google is still on the front page. It's sad that bias and censorship on here is so strong.


Why do you say it was censored and removed? It's dropped down to page two, but that's perfectly normal once something has been on the front page for a while.


It's only been 5 hours since it was posted, and the story has ~450 upvotes. In contrast, I see another story on the front page right now that was posted 18 hours ago and only has ~250 upvotes.


A big factor of the ranking algorithm is related to the number of comments; as the number increases, the ranking of the article goes down. This is intended to penalize controversial articles that may result in flame wars.

This article has <200 comments, while the other one has >400; this is likely a significant factor in the falling ranking, in addition to the age.

I also believe that upvote velocity is weighted more heavily than upvote quantity, but I could be wrong there.


The comment algorithm seems backwards. I hope HN at least does sentiment analysis to see if the flavor of the comments tends toward being negative before downgrading the post.


It could be the algorithm: Maybe the original EU story got many downvotes from HN users that work at Google?


Is there a way to downvote stories? Maybe you mean it was flagged?


You can't downvote posts


But you can comment, and posts with many comments are penalized.


The HN mods routinely drop stories off the front page which they apparently deem overly political. I've seen many political stories instantly drop from the top 10 to page two.


I wouldn't say censorship is at play. There have been analyses showing that Google is a favorite topic of HN users[1], and also there have been customer service scenarios that prove that there are a lot of Google employees on here. Those are probably the forces at work in this case.

[1] http://blog.datadive.net/which-topics-get-the-upvote-on-hack...


Why are you surprised? Just count front page Google related stories here on any random day, and you'll get the picture :)


I was thinking about this exact same thing. I first saw the story when I woke up this morning. Two hours later I was at the office, and the story was already on the second page despite having a massive number of votes and comments.


Take a page from Trump; let them think they're making fun of you, while they're actually spreading your gospel. Trump did this so successfully he actually became president, against all odds.

Whether it comes through the Google PR machine or not, people are still getting the key message: Google has been fined for playing unfairly. Most people don't read past the headline, and defending against these allegations still just makes the allegations stickier in the minds of public; it strengthens the association between "Google" and "unfair" in the public's psyche.


> (...) connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both.

We truly live in the age of spinning, of euphemisms, where words lose all their meaning. All-pervasive advertising, the most insidious technique of consumer capitalism, is now an idealistic connecting of people (why, rather than fining us indeed they should be thanking thanking us for that, they seem to say). Complete invasion of privacy and control over content and information reaching the person is "enhancing the user experience", etc etc.


I'd encourage you (and everyone) to read the comments in the other thread happening today: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14643712

You'll see people baffled by this decision and generally happy with the service and products google offers.

It's just a reminder to remember that what doesn't work for you may be pure bliss for other people.


I'm going to get down voted out the wazoo for saying it, but I will voice my opinion anyways.

The EU has long used 'anti trust fines' as a way of levying tariffs against US companies.


It's not the first time that I see this being described as "anti-US".

And that while the reality is that there is a list of European companies/kartels receiving high anti trust fines as well for their behaviour.

The "problem" is that this never receives any interest in the states which only contributes to this blurred image that only US companies are getting fined. That is frankly untrue.


I find comments like yours baffling. The basic tenement of capitalism, as worshipped in US, is that it needs competition to function. If a monopolist prevents competition from functioning (either by hiding their products on the largest search engine on earth, lowering prices under profitable margins or other tactics used by such entities) capitalism degenerates into socialism led by a corporation instead of state. It ceases to function and benefit anyone.

So why the heck would you not support an action that stops a giant corporation from stiffling the most important mechanism of capitalism?


I'm always amazed by that thinking as well.

I think at some point in the discussion, some people have tried to redefine "monopoly" as "state-sanctioned monopoly" and declare everything else fair game as long as the evil government is not involved... Apparently you can get surprisingly far before the logic breaks down.


>So why the heck would you not support an action that stops a giant corporation from stiffling the most important mechanism of capitalism?

Because it's not the government's job to unclog the market. It's the entrepreneur's opportunity to disrupt the market and kick Google's ass.


When you come down from the cloud-land of capitalist heaven you will find this is not even remotely what happens.

Capitalism is inherently anti-competitive. Larger established companies have more power than the idealized "entrepreneur" that libertarians like to posit. If a competitor appears they can simply force them to shutdown, via dumping, via legal harassment, or simply by virtue of being much larger and being able to do everything more efficiently and with larger margins. Government regulation is needed to prevent monopolies. This is self-evident.


So if a private company skips regulations, it's not the government's job to enforce them?


One way of looking at corporations is islands of central planning in a sea of market forces. It is not always entirely obvious which functions should be optimally bundled together inside corporations. This is why you can get a lot of controversy around these decisions.


The marketshare of a company(at a point in time) does not determine whether a business is a monopoly or not, high/low barriers to entry in the particular industry do.

There are multiple search engines providing the same service that Google does and the cost of switching is so negligible as to be almost non-existent.

While I generally appreciate the EU's approach towards protecting the consumer's best interests, this just reeks of making up excuses to extort money from a highly successful company just because they can get away with it.


Countries with higher standards 'often' have reasons to monitor and eventually penalise international companies from laxer countries.

I fully expect a future superpower to have strict rules in some new area, say China will only take English-language/law services from legal firms in any country if they are zero carbon.


Starting a post by saying "I'm going to get downvoted for this but..." is against the guidelines. It annoys me to no end.

Do you have anything at all to back up that claim? It seems to me the EU applies these fines fairly equitably between US and EU companies.


Well, if the USA isn't going to enforce its own antitrust laws...


Upvoted.

FWIW, companies in the US have long used 'anti trust complaints' as a means of harming companies they can't compete with (e.g. Microsoft, back in the day).


Yeah, like that pesky Netscape that totally screwed over MS and almost stopped the golden age of web browsers between 2001 and 2006. /s


Hey, I had a 'best viewed with any browser' icon on my sites at the time (in fact http://dougal.sourceforge.net/ still boasts one ...).

Doesn't alter the fact that Netscape was incapable of competing with Microsoft (in fact I think you sort of made my point, there) once the latter got their arses into gear.

Edited: Wow! The "Viewable With Any Browser" campaign site is still up, in 2017. I wonder if they're keeping it handy for the forthcoming Webkit monopoly ...


You keep using that word. But I don't it means what you think it means.

Netscape could compete with IE. Netscape couldn't compete with the entire MS empire being dedicated to destroying them.

MS played hardball and were willing to do anything to gain nearly complete dominance in the market. A lot of their strategy was clearly anti-competitive and anti-consumer. It's not even a debate. See U.S. v Microsoft. Netscape couldn't compete with that sort of scorched earth strategy. And it took Google and Mozilla years to make a dent in that and MS had to help by letting their market dominance stagnate for over half a decade and causing endless irritation for a generation of developers who are always going to treat an MS browser as a second class citizen.

So yeah, great for MS, they beat Netscape. But they couldn't beat Google or Mozilla and that's the most recent battle, so the one that actually matters.


Were they? If it hadn't been bundled for free, what would have happened?

No-one will ever know.


... because Netscape couldn't compete with Microsoft, because Microsoft could give away a browser for free as in beer.

Perhaps we're meaning different things by the word 'compete'?


Yeah you mean "whoever came out on top must have out competed the other" and you don't care if it was by hook or by crook.

So, yeah in the sense that a five year old Rocky vs Ivan Drago in a boxing match is a competition technically. But no one can honestly say it's really a competition, as in there's any spirit of competition.

U.S. v Microsoft makes it pretty clear. MS'es strategy was break the law and do anything to win. Then it was weather the lawsuit and win or lose, they had years to position IE as the dominant product. So losing hardly mattered they still got what they wanted.

What could Netscape actually do to counter all that? They were practically bystanders in this nearly as much as my grandmother was. Such was MS'es power in the 90's.


Yeah, and I can win against Usain Bolt if I just shoot him first.


That's exactly how Netscape and others approached the problem of competing with Microsoft.

"We can't compete, let's make an anti-trust complaint"

"I can't run as fast as Bolt, so I'll shoot him"


On the contrary, in the other thread I see people mainly being supportive of the decision to fine Google for the abuse of its dominant position.


I think that is more that some people find great value in Google's product integration, such as getting map or flight results from the main search, and they are unsure as to how Google can continue to offer such a convenience in light of this decision.


If I understand the decision correctly it does not ban Google delivering other search types, but does limit its right to inter-connect search services on their search platform.


>It's just a reminder to remember that what doesn't work for you may be pure bliss for other people.

What's pure bliss for some people might also be dangerous and cancerous for society. Segregation was "pure bliss" for lots of folks.


You seem to have replied to the wrong comment.

I've read through the other thread, I couldn't find a comment that agrees with "connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both."


To me, the comment from theBobBob agrees with the convenience of Google search connecting users to advertisers: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14644022


It could be just me, but could you point out where the comment says he likes to be connected to advertisers?

    The thing is, personally I prefer getting integrated results from Google's   
    other search services when I do a Google search. I like getting Google Maps 
    results when I search for a location, I like getting Google Flights results 
    etc. When I do a Google search I am not just using it as a simple website 
    search. I want it to use it to search the whole Google suite of services. 
    If they are forced to stop doing this it will make my search experience 
    worse for me.

    Random, maybe silly idea. Maybe they could start providing two search 
    streams. One would just be a simpler website search while the other would 
    be a more involved google services search as well as a general website 
    search. This way search users could explicitly say that they want to see 
    direct integrated results from the whole Google ecosystem.


Maybe you're not seeing it because you're looking for literal exact words. Instead, look for meaning ... such as the one embedded in this sentence:

>I prefer getting integrated results from Google's other search services when I do a Google search.

One example of "other search services" is Google Shopping. It's the retail advertisers that sponsor their ecommerce buying links to Google Shopping. Hence, the "advertisers connection to users".

Btw, there are also other posters making similar comments about the convenience of Google "connecting users to advertisers". Like the previous example, you won't see it if you're looking for that exact phrasing.

E.g. another comment by cyxxon: "Currently Google's services just so damned conveniently integrated": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14644100


Ah, "the words are what I mean them to be". Can't argue anymore then.


There's no need to play semantic games. Let's say I'm looking for a Seagate 10 TB harddrive. The Google Shopping results would look something like this: https://www.google.com/shopping/product/3954751729784172026?...

That example "connects me, the user, to the advertisers".

Seriously, without playing the game of "words are anything I want them to mean just to win an argument"... what would _you_ call the mechanism of those Google Shopping results? <Genuinely confused here.>


> That example "connects me, the user, to the advertisers".

But did you want to be connected to the advertisers, i.e. those who paid Google to give their product a better placement, or did you want to be connected to the sellers, ranked by how desirable their product is to you?


I see your differentiation of advertisers-vs-sellers but it doesn't apply because, yes, I do wanted to be connected to those advertisers. The Google Shopping page clearly shows the message "Sponsored (i)" at the top of the results. Click on the "(i)" for more info and it says: "Products and offers that match your query. Google is compensated by these merchants."

I'm using the Google Shopping as it's deliberately designed: connect me to the advertisers.

I think the confusion is that regular search results (e.g. search for "how to concatenate a string in PHP?") is a "pull" mechanism in which Google spiders webcrawls and scrapes from pages like StackOverflow. You expect some sort of pagerank curation without requiring StackOverflow paying money to Google. Nevertheless, Stackoverflow answers often show up at the top.

On the other hand, the Google Shopping is a "push" mechanism where the advertisers pay to place their links there. The advertiser/sponsor model is basically how all the major comparison shopping sites work.

I don't know of any reputable/reliable price comparison site that uses a "pull" mechanism to scrape prices across multiple retailers that covers most products. If it does "pull" price data, it tries to derive income via techniques like affiliate url links for commissions. Camelcamelcamel uses a pull mechanism but it only scrapes Amazon and not the other retailers like Best Buy, Newegg, etc.

To turn this around, let me ask you... what price comparison website connects me to sellers instead of advertisers? (A site like Ebay connects me to "sellers" but doesn't include results from multiple major retailers such as Amazon.)


GP wasn't complaining about product issues (which were discussed in the other thread), but about the doublespeak used in Google's response.


Doesn't doublespeak imply a self-contradiction? At any rate, I thought the OP was complaining about "spin", in which case the reply is valid, as it isn't spin; there's just multiple valid ways of interpreting Google's behaviors, and which interpretation you choose depends largely on how satisfied you are with their business model.


No. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublespeak

"Not to be confused with Double-talk.

Doublespeak is language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words."


I take deliberately leaving out crucial facts - such as that Google's "beneficial for both sides" product ads are paid by one side - as a pretty creative way of "interpreting".


Having a monolopy comes with great disadvantages. Suddenly you can't bundle services (or push down other results in favor of your own).

Anyhow, I like google shopping (when I click the google shopping tab, not when im actually on the search tab), I can trust it more than other comparing sites. Also just like other comparing sites, it doesn't have all sources.


You'll see people baffled by this decision and generally happy with the service and products google offers

You'll also see people (me) baffled by this decision and generally disgusted by the services Google offers.


Sure, and there were tons of people who were very happy with Microsoft's products, and if you think about it: they were seriously fined for having the gall to believe that web browsers should be free and that the web rendering engine should be a component that could be used for the UI of things like their file manager; in an age when every operating system comes with a free, first-party web browser that you can't uninstall, are you prepared to say that Microsoft did nothing wrong as well?


Yeah that's not what happened.

People were very happy indeed with Microsoft products. Back when Netscape Navigator was better than Internet Explorer in all respects, people were very happy with NN too, and would have been happier if they could have bought Windows computers in which the software preinstalled by the OEM included Netscape. Do you know why they couldn't? MS told the OEMs "you put NN on your computers, you don't get any more Windows licenses at all".

People were also happy with the Java applets NN could execute, but MS made its own incompatible version of Java so that they wouldn't be cross-platform. Same with their version of web standards in IE.

All this is publicly documented by the courts, including the internal communications in Microsoft about it being a deliberate strategy to preserve Windows' monopoly. So, please, don't go up in arms to defend that cause, or imply that history made them justice.


Did you read the comment I was replying to? I ask, because it sounds like you did not. I am going to quote the entire thing to make this extremely blunt, as I don't trust you will read it otherwise :/.

> I'd encourage you (and everyone) to read the comments in the other thread happening today: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14643712

> You'll see people baffled by this decision and generally happy with the service and products google offers.

> It's just a reminder to remember that what doesn't work for you may be pure bliss for other people.

Read that, then read my comment, and then read your comment... it makes no sense at all. The person I replied to was defending Google using what I consider to a bullshit argument: using the apparent benefits of the monopoly to defend its existence; this (bad) argument also applies to Microsoft.

In my post, I demonstrated that if that posted truly believed that, then they had better be prepared to defend Microsoft as well. Then you come out of nowhere and try to attack me, as if I was the one making the argument, rather than replying to it? WTF... I absolutely think that both Microsoft and Google are clearly abusive.

This is particularly interesting and annoying as you seem to be going around this thread making the exact same mistake in multiple contexts. As an example, in reply to this other comment from someone else trying to compare the PR spin from Google to that of Microsoft.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14646873


> a bullshit argument: using the apparent benefits of the monopoly to defend its existence; this (bad) argument also applies to Microsoft.

It doesn't apply is what I'm saying.

> In my post, I demonstrated that if that posted truly believed that, then they had better be prepared to defend Microsoft as well.

You didn't, because your argument was based on the false premise that MS got in trouble "for having the gall to believe that web browsers should be free" or, as you detail now, that monopolies shouldn't exist and that their benefits aren't enough of a reason for them to exist. Being a monopoly isn't what got MS in trouble, harming consumers to protect that monopoly from competing OS's is what did. There's no need to "defend the existence of a monopoly", because monopolies aren't illegal.

I don't care about your personal attacks. This is a website for discussion, not pissing contests.


How many belong to the first and how many to the second category?

Saying "yes, but in this particular edge-case, my actions will be beneficial to society" is a pretty old way to do spins.

Also, as I've said in a different thread, the main problem is not with google's users but the amount of control Google has over 3rd parties (in the case price comparison sites). Of course it's convenient for the users, but's that not the point.


consumers were happy when standard oil had 90% market share a century ago, too.


Mob in Italy is pure bliss for a lot of people.

It's still a bad thing.


Are we going to pretend Google and similar companies don't have employees and reputation management firms astroturfing sites like this one when bad PR strikes?


It's weird that someone commenting here never read corporate PR before, I guess it's not any weirder than the proliferation of anti capitalist sentiment in a startup incubator community section.

Still it's not nearly as nonsensical as this case in which a website operator is being fined billions for not featuring other website some more.


I don't see your point. It's odd to call out the corporate doublespeak because... everyone does it?

And I'm thankful that the all-pervasive Google behemoth is subject to some regulations, thank you very much.


>It's weird that someone commenting here never read corporate PR before

You seem to confuse having never read PR releases with still being outraged by their BS.

Something being familiar doesn't make it right -- or means that only people that have never seen it would ever be enraged by it.

For pointing out "nonsensical" stuff this was a very nonsensical argument. Not even wrong.


> You seem to confuse having never read PR releases with still being outraged by their BS.

You seem to confuse having valid concerns vs. making assumptions.

Calling a PR release BS without any fact is illogical at best and intellectually dishonest at worst.

Google wants to give the best search results possible, and it obviously has hooks into it's own shopping database that allow it to show targeted results.

A logical conclusion would be to force Google to open up its API, so that internal customers and external customers would be competing on the same playing field, rather than just complaining about search result orders.


>Google wants to give the best search results possible

Citation needed. Why would Google want to give "the best search results possible" over other concerns (e.g. manipulating tests results to boost paid advertisers or its own properties) as it has been known to do?


Maybe because they are in a competitive industry and they like having market share?


Competitive?

In social media (e.g. against FB, maybe), but what competition does Google have for search?

Neither Bing nor anything like DDG matter.


In what sense do Bing and DDG not matter in search?

They have less market share, true, because Google has a better product. Your argument seems to be that Google doesn't bother to have a better product (in search), because Google has all the market share, because Google has a better product.


No, my premises are:

(a) Google has a better product (in search) to which they had no real competitor for 17+ years.

(b) it remains better than those non-competitors even though Google has decreased its quality over time (worse results and more ads and BS)

(c) whether it copies/embeds third party stuff or not plays little into it. Nobody would switch to Bing just for those , after comparing the respective search quality, which is still better for Google.

So my argument is:

Google doesn't bother improving its search results -- on the contrary it lets them somewhat decline over time too -- because it has all the market share and better results than the competition.

If you are 80 points (fictional unit for illustrative purposes) better than the competition, you can let it slip to 70 or even 40 points better, and people will still use you.


> Why would Google want to give "the best search results possible" over other concerns

Because that is what they claim, and to call somebody a liar requires evidence, not unfounded accusations.


I can't believe I'm reading this. I'm gonna suggest you read that again. I can't believe you can be that naive. "Trust corporations' PR because they wouldn't do such a thing as lie", that's some neat stuff. x) Besides, there's this something called burden of proof?


> "Trust corporations' PR because they wouldn't do such a thing as lie", that's some neat stuff. x) Besides, there's this something called burden of proof?

I suggest you read your own post again. Project much? Google's PR statement is somewhat based in fact. I'm saying that I generally believe public statements made that are decently substantiated.

When you're the one saying that I'm naive or just gaping in disbelief, the burden of proof is on YOU to give reasons why the statements are at fault and why their reasoning is wrong. This is truly projecting at its finest.


No. Google put a claim up. They have to back it up. Not the person questioning it. That would make no sense. So either you or Google need to back yourselves up.


>Because that is what they claim, and to call somebody a liar requires evidence, not unfounded accusations.

First, you've got it backwards: the burden on proof is to them for putting up such a claim (generally, to those putting up any claim), not to those who dispute it.

Besides, we have a long history of documented foul behavior by Google in search results. In fact this very story is based on a fine ordered because of this kind of behavior.


"for not featuring other website some more" => for not featuring other website equally as own ones...


My point is that it's nonsensical that they would have to feature anyone at all.


They are by far the preeminent search engine of the Web. They use that position to promote their own services to the detriment of others. This is against antitrust law and thankfully the European commission stepped in.


"This is against antitrust law" in the market they operate on.


Yeah, see also:

> When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily. And advertisers want to promote those same products.

No, Google: advertisers don't want to promote the products I am looking for. Advertisers want to promote the products they want to sell. They may happen to be the ones I'm looking for, but probably they are not; probably I don't even want to buy anything and you still want to show me ads.


ahahah! it's heartwarming that the first comment on HN is this one! Thank you, andrepd. Finally something different from the HN crowds of liberals, libertarians, corporate apologists and tech fanboys. I had the same feeling when I read that line "connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both" ahaha, bugger off, google.


This kind of rhetoric is coming often from tech giants, travestying words and claiming the exact opposite of what they do in practice.

There is an interesting parallel to make here with the Soviet Union: they used to set up puppet states which were nominally sovereign, independent, "people's republic", etc, while in practice were obviously just colonies.

I guess extremely powerful institutions founded on abusive practices end up having to cover up their abuse, and an effective way is to confuse the common person into thinking that maybe they're not that bad after all.

Another tactic is to dress your institutions with good causes as much as possible. You could see this in Google I/O, they often used examples such as curing cancer as applications of their AI infrastructure.

If your institution is 10% good and 90% bad, you can downplay your bad acts and loudly campaign about your good doing and you may be able to shift the public perception of your monopolistic institution to look more like 70% good, 30% bad and win the support of majority of the people, which usually have a neutral stance.


>There is an interesting parallel to make here with the Soviet Union: they used to set up puppet states which were nominally sovereign, independent, "people's republic", etc, while in practice were obviously just colonies.

So just like "wars to spread democracy" when it's just oil/control of land/etc?


> This kind of rhetoric is coming often from tech giants, travestying words and claiming the exact opposite of what they do in practice.

You have provided exactly zero (0) examples of this happening - just accusations. You accuse "tech giants" (whatever that means) of being abusive and deliberately confusing the common person, then you bring up Google's AI infrastructure as an "institution" dressed up in good causes.

When you have examples or really anything besides a huge bias and wild accusations, please contribute to the conversation. Your comment adds exactly nothing except for letting all of us know you don't like large tech companies.


"Tech giants" mean very large tech companies, basically these: Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple. This term is found often in the media, and is quite unambiguous.

Examples of rhetoric from those companies where they do the opposite of what they say: they often claim "you [the user] are in control". For instance

1. https://privacy.google.com/# ("put you in control") 2. https://www.facebook.com/facebook/info ("make the world more open and connected")

While it's debatable what "in control" is and what "open and connected" means, they make a bold claim without revealing the subtlety of the topic.

Not being honest about user data collection in NSA PRISMA is not exactly putting the user in control.

Google has a track record of deprecating services that were used by a sizable user base, such as Google Reader or Picasa. Shutting these down without even giving them out as open source or providing some migration path is not really letting the users be in control.

Google's core strategy is shifting towards suggestions, away from search. Page and Brin said this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpjOZGxKhRM&feature=youtu.be While it could be argued that suggestions just create assistance like a personal secretary does, Google doesn't just assist on demand, it proactively suggests (and will do more of this, according to Page and Brin), and also shapes users' perception of reality (through Google Search results, which is the topic of the fine). So an entity has pervasive information about a person, does proactive suggestions and shapes their perception of reality is not exactly what I would call a mere assistant. I would compare that role to parenthood, which is consistent with Google's strategies: to know more about you than you know yourself, and to take care of you (which is aligned with their "Don't be evil" / "Do the right thing" motto. It seems they genuinely believe they are benevolent). That is, arguably, Google in control.

Now onto example 2, Facebook has long said it makes the world more open and connected. The mere fact that Facebook holds massive amounts of relevant content locked up behind a login wall means content is not accessible to search engines. This is the exact opposite of an "open" scenario. It's also debatable what they mean by "connected". It sounds like "people connected to each other", but in practice it is "people connected to Facebook", and incidentally also connected to each other. If their goal was to connect people to each other, they would pursue P2P, mesh networks (e.g. https://www.scuttlebutt.nz/ is one implementation), etc that allow local communities to connect with each other and with the external world despite the lack of internet infrastructure. In practice, their internet.org program is widely known to have dropped net neutrality when it was implemented in India and other countries, favoring Facebook's walled garden. This is the opposite of open and connected (e.g. it eliminates interaction with other people on different social networks like forums, Reddit, etc). They have plans to provide internet to regions that lack internet infrastructure through drones and satellites (http://www.computerworld.com/article/2855979/why-google-and-...) but the priority here seems to be getting those people connected to Facebook first, and then connected to other people. Cheaper and quicker solutions could be implemented simply with phones and P2P, allowing people to connect to each other first, and share data in a gossip style which is also scalable.

So there you go, two examples at least. It should be enough to confirm that I am contributing to the conversation, and I'd appreciate if no ad hominen comments are made, they just distract.


> "Tech giants" mean very large tech companies, basically these: Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple. This term is found often in the media, and is quite unambiguous.

You're begging the question. Define tech company and giant. You're defining the term by itself, which is a great usage of circular logic.

> 1. https://privacy.google.com/# ("put you in control") 2. https://www.facebook.com/facebook/info ("make the world more open and connected")

Google allows you to control any information you decide to share with it, and gives you a dashboard where you can see what information it uses. It shutting down systems that it no longer deems profitable is not putting you out of control - you cannot control Google, and it's not required to give you alternatives to its systems. It does allow you to export all data you have uploaded into it.

> That is, arguably, Google in control.

That is arguably, not. You're debating semantics here and saying that you're the sole valid arbiter and true interpreter of Google's statements. I assert that you're not. Our arguments are equally valid.

> Cheaper and quicker solutions could be implemented simply with phones and P2P...

In your opinion. Facebook has a set of constraints - just because they're prioritizing certain other priorities or technical solutions to lack of connectivity and openness doesn't mean that they're lying about their priorities.

> I'd appreciate if no ad "hominen" comments are made, they just distract.

First, it's spelled hominem. Misspelling a logical fallacy is on the same order as misspelling idiotic - it makes it very difficult to take either your arguments or your point seriously.

Point out exactly one instance where I disparaged somebody's character or background as a reason for the invalidity of their argument, rather than a lack of logic in their discussion. Your introducing of an supposed ad hominem attack is baseless and a red herring, designed to distract from the basic weakness and invalidity of your argument.


Although Google has done plenty for Technology and Humanity, when it comes to ads-marketing-tracking they are simply ruthless. Perhaps that penalty will make Google reconsider their stance on respecting everyone (and not just the ones who give them billions).

Next horror story to come to your monitors over the next 5 years is monetising on the below:

I search for "Item A". One week later I purchase "Item A". 2 days later Google reaches out to the retailer claiming $ for sending me to that specific retailer.


> reconsider

They will not reconsider unless it hurts them more than when they don't act this ruthless. Therefore: needs a heavier fine still :D Crime and exploiting monopolies must not pay.


And as Apple 're-defines' a couple of things each year.


The big question is: Do we want Google to grow into a black hole that sucks in all data on planet earth and leaves no room for small companies?

I for one don't want that. I like startups. Let them do the shopping comparison. Let them do all kinds of stuff. Don't let the giants swallow everything.


"We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users."

Really Google? I personally remember the advent of adsense and their initial ultra simple text-only ads being a huge revolution in advertising as a whole and a huge improvement in user friendliness. Now it's suddenly better to have images and extra stuff thrown in there.

Pretty soon, it will be even better to have some animated and interactive simians in them.


Google already pushes animated ads through adsense, but not yet on their own pages.


Argument based on what their data says consumers prefer kinda misses the point of the fine - the EU doesn't argue whether people prefer it or not, but whether Google is abusing it's market dominance in am anti competitive way. That way might well be innovative and could even have good customer satisfaction, but still be anti competitive.


Not sure how good google's search for this type of stuff in the US is but I have never seen the google product shopping results to take me to a store I want to buy from. So if user experience is concerned they are not doing a good job there.


Compared to other antitrust cases, this seems very thin. 2.4 billion for nefarious price comparison site ranking? I don't get it. This is on a par with the fines given to banks for literally ripping off their customers (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfina...)


> Our ability to do that well isn’t favoring ourselves, or any particular site or seller

"not favoring any particular seller"? If it pays, it's on the front page. Are you seriously telling me that somebody who has paid nothing still can get on the front page competing with others who paid?

I don't trust you, Google.


Their statement is a lie. Google are trying to blur 'shopping ad' and 'search result'. The consumer is worse off because those items are not listed first on their search merit. The consumer is deceived. It is only useful to those who pay for the promotions and Google.


Note that this happens just as Google scored a small win in France: a french tribunal advised the authorities that Google's tax evasion scheme with Ireland might be perfectly legal, and it might not have to pay the €1.15B the French authorities says they owe for 2005-2010.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-14/google-ge...

Note that this is far from the end on this story. But it just shows the sheer scale out of which EU countries are being "optimized" out of tax revenue. Add the monopoly abuse to the mix, and they have every right to make sure the law is respected.


I thought the combined fines given to Microsoft by the EU Commission were larger than this amount, but I was wrong. It seems Microsoft paid something like 2.2 billion euros between 2006-2013[0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Corp_v_Commission

(On a side note, I was employed by MS for a couple of years during that time, and remember clearly how every new feature was being inspected to ensure whether it followed EU requirements, on top of compliance requirements imposed earlier by FTC in the U.S.)


It's true that these integrations are convenient for users, but it's also true that they harm market competition.

Google's press release seems to avoid addressing the latter point. The closest they come is pointing out that Amazon also has a monopoly advantage, which doesn't seem like a strong argument.


If youve been in this business long enough you could see how this comment around "convenient integrations" could be applied to Microsoft/IE on the start menu 20 years' back.

Seems to be a thin line between "convenient integrations" and big players reducing choice/competition. I realize I'm not the average consumer but I'll clamor for choice/competition every single time.


I don't think it's just a thin line, I think it's an overlap, that's the problem. Monopolies can be genuinely convenient/useful for consumers. Sometimes regulators have to make things less convenient/useful in the short term to prevent monopoly and stagnation in the long term.


One thing I was missing from comments is that the ruling is not passed by courts but by the commission investigated the crime. Is it same as prosecutor sentencing the accused and there by the burden of proof is upon the accused ? Would it be the same if the accused is a person and not a corporation in EU ?


Sounds a bit tone deaf. On the other hand, I'm not sure if there's anything else they can do at this point. They've lost the case and the appeal won't change that, but investors would be even unhappier if they didn't even try to appeal.


What if Google simply pulled out of those countries?

I'm asking this seriously. When they pulled out of China, China blocked them, so they effectively lost. But Europe's countries do not block websites. Google could just pull out of those countries, continue to localize content for those countries' languages, and the users, page views, ad revenue wouldn't go anywhere. And those countries wouldn't be able to lay a finger on Google in terms of fines.


What exactly Google will win from spending money just as it is spending today to run the services but stop making any financial returns?

Why would investors be happy of Google catering to a market that has only expenses but no profit or hope for future profit due to regulatory reasons.

I guess EU locals would enjoy the ad-free experience...


Because you can make lots of money in the EU, you just need to follow more strict rules than in the USA.


>Europe's countries do not block websites.

Sure they do. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_in_Denmark


Could they still sell ads in those countries? Or other services?


Google is addicted to the favourable tax arrangements of the EU.


With any luck this might make google rethink their strategy on AMP page prioritisation


I have no sympathy for Google. They take on their hands the role of policing the world removing some kind of ads that some guys in India think are not "good enough" for people all the way into other countries (Mexico in my case), without understanding the context of the country and the product in that country. And this, for products that are not only legal in the country but are even being promoted by the government.

But when they are abusing their power for greed reasons and the government punishes them, then they whine. Hypocrites.


From my limited knowledge of the situation, this seems an appropriate fine.

Google claims that the success of Ebay and Amazon prove that they haven't been anti-competitive, right?

But I think Google just couldn't help itself.

How could you not?

You have the consensus, world dominating search engine, and you just have to slightly tweak it to every so slightly support your shopping platform.

It just seems way too easy to do.

One small adjustment means $4 billion more next year, I mean, how could you not do it?

As an anecdote, I have never trusted Google's product results in the top bar. It just all seemed to easy to fudge the results to me.


As an aside, I think Google has huge potential to become the source of discovery for all things. Actions where it promotes its own stuff on Google play despite knowing and hiding the same thing on Hulu/Netflix/HBO is myopic. It should continue to do what it is good at instead of fighting for slices of other pie.


The ridiculous thing about this blog is that if Google only had the search side of the business they would have built this functionality for the comparison sites to use via microdata or one of those specs, but didn't and only built it for their own shopping comparison site.

So each search result could have had this carousel.


I guess this teaches companies to continue avoiding tax-payment in EU as much as possible.


I hope Trump fines EU for all these non-sense fines they impose on American companies. Feels like EU is trying to compensate for their high debt.


This is not a valid complaint. Fining companies for breaking competition law is totally legitimate.


Sometimes when you go to google search, it will prompt you to download the their app, download chrome, use their native weather, news, etc. It is part of how they iterate on their core search product. If they decide to show Google shopping, isn't that their product decision?


Yes, it is. The problem comes in when a company which controls a significant percentage of one platform (search, in this case), uses that advantage to muscle in to other areas.

This is seen as a bad thing, because beyond the consumers are left with an unbeatable giant. Unlike normal market leaders, however, this giant doesn't need a superior product, but only apply leverage (given by their other positions).

This is the very essence of anti-trust / monopoly laws. Competition is a good thing.


If you're not a monopoly, you can do whatever you want.

Things change when you are a monopoly - ie. you have more than 50% of market share (maybe it's more than 50%, I don't know EU threshold) - then special rules apply - in general you can't use your monopoly position to control other markets.

Prompting to download Chrome may be against EU law. They could give a list of modern browsers if detected an old one for example. I actually don't understand why are they not forced to change it just like Microsoft was few years back?

This law is in power to avoid single company gaining total control.


Yes, but literally everything they do with their product is "their product decision" – that doesn't mean it's legal.


Much like the US fines EU banks?


Are the fines comparable? Why do they get fined?


http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/30/investing/bnp-paribas-sancti...

BNP, a french bank, was fined 8.9 B$ for operations run outside the US but with countries on which the US had an embargo.



Your us companies can sell their products and ads to your us rednecks

We won't miss you


European commissioners should read a couple of Paul Graham's essays. No wonder the EU doesn't have the equivalent of a Silicon Valley.

"How to Be Silicon Valley": http://www.paulgraham.com/siliconvalley.html

"Why Startups Condense In America": http://www.paulgraham.com/america.html


In return EU have healthy job market with ~40hr work week and proper healthcare. Most of EU companies are not trying to keep me as developer in a golden cage, offering me everything so I wouldn't have to go home anymore. There are many healthy business hubs here in Europe (London, Cardiff-Bristol-Bath, Berlin and many others), maybe they do not have that superstar status as SV but they are still good places to be. Sometimes I wonder if people living in SV bubble thinks that there is no serious tech companies outside SV.


> have healthy job market

Reminder: the EU's unemployment rate is twice as high as the US'.


The US might have a better job market (by some cherry-picked metrics), but the EU doesn't have a bad one (I'll grant that there are notable exceptions, but then you'll have to grant me the same for certain US states).

The point is that you're playing with words.

Moreover, you have to factor in things like healthcare, life expectancy, literacy rates, access to education, danger involved in unemployment, crime rates, unemployment pensions, etc if you want to make a useful decision as to which of the two systems is more dysfunctional than the other.

-=EDIT=- : viz "cherry-picked metrics", the quality of a job market is more than just the proportion of people employed. Let's not forget other relevant factors:

- job stability

- employee protection

- workplace hazards & injury compensation

- vacation & sick leave

- retirement pensions

- mandated employee benefits (transportation, remote-work assistance, etc.)

- maternity / paternity leave

- etc


...and the negative externalities: per-capita imprisonment rates, people killed in other countries through war and other means, people killed in the same country, energy usage, waste output, pollution and carbon footprint...


Hell some people have as many as three jobs in the states! We got way more jobs than you!


Maybe because being unemployed in EU is much less dangerous than in the US?


lol that's not why we're unemployed in Spain.


Do you include jobs which does not pay a livable wage in that comparison?


From what I've seen, salaries in EU tech hubs are significantly lower than in provincial markets in the US - where weeks are close to 40 hours and managers would laugh at paying for lunch or putting in cots so you can spend the night. Most Americans don't work in the tech hubs, yet still earn significantly more on average. FYI, anyone with a decent job in the US has access to some of the best health care in the world. The US with a far more diverse and unwell population has better outcomes for the cardiovascular diseases and cancer.


> FYI, anyone with a decent job in the US has access to some of the best health care in the world.

And have the possibility of seeing their life savings evaporate and facing financial ruin when paying for this health care.


You must not be familiar with us health care. Max out of pockets are usually reasonable and certainly not life altering. Try looking up when the crappy plans in the aca.


Example.

Old articles, but I don't imagine it has changed all that much;

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/06/30/costs-of-delivering-babies-va...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-31052665

That does not seem reasonable to me.

What seems reasonable for maternity stay is it being totally free.


Lower wages are result or bigger social benefits. As mentioned above, it's less dangerous to go unemployed in EU. It's also harder to be kicked out from your job "just because". Health care probably is one of the best in the world but health insurance isn't. I've never heard from any EU citizen that they had to consider either is it worth to call ambulance, I read about situations like that happening in US. If I would get seriously sick in US I could be eaten by my insurer. Health care in EU is also on very high level, even countries that you are usually do not think that much about, like Poland, are arguably leaders in some healthcare fields (Poland have world class specialists in hearth and limbs transplants)


>FYI, anyone with a decent job in the US has access to some of the best health care in the world

This is so funny. IIRC what Republicans in the USA are arguing is that the new health care plan that they want to pass gives "access" to healthcare to everyone, as long as they are "willing" to pay for it.

I have access to a space flight sure, the only thing stopping me is money.


Yeah if you want access to peoples' time they need to get paid. So yeah you can pay for it. The alternative is government healthcare which the U.S. provides for veterans who often die on waiting lists when the administrators shred requests for services. It's unlikely normal people will get tested better by our government.


the only "healthy" in the EU is the EU-Socialism


And the fact that laws are proposed and made by unelected officials in private. Is that the future?


Unless something changed very recently, EU laws are reviewed and adopted by the European Council (Heads of State for each member state) and the European Parliament which consists of elected MEPs


<presumption alert>

Does the U.S., with its Electoral College, really want to go there? This strikes me as throwing stones from a glass McMansion.

</presumption alert>

More to the point: unhindered, direct-democracy is rarely a good system as it tends to devolve into "majority rule". The case for appointed officials is neither new nor in and of itself undemocratic.


Did you consider that maybe EU really doesn't want to have a "Silicon Valley" if the cost is infringement of consumer rights and exploitation of the free market?


Can the EU legitimately complain that tech companies prefer to operate outside then?


They can operate outside of the EU all they want but if they want to do business here then they have to follow the rules. Its funny to see how the EU protectionism case is being played here and people jump on it being a USA vs EU thing, when really it is google abusing a monopoly position regardless of geographic location.


Outside the law? Yes, they can and should.



> tech companies prefer to operate outside

Any examples please?



I'm not economist but I suspect that such concentration of tech companies in US is due to the fact that it was their home market from where they started. I think that the question was more along the lines: Is there any example of a company that started in EU and moved they main operations to US?

Most companies that are on those lists have also strong EU presence.


The company that powers search for this very Website:

http://www.impact-north-america.com/french-search-api-startu...


Probably not - they should however complain about how things are run elsewhere, because it's hurting them and everyone else.

It's natural for companies to be drawn towards places that have less restrictions on businesses. It's to be expected, but that doesn't mean less restrictions is good for the society.


I think these articles make really good points. But they seem completely off-topic. Nothing in there makes the connection between antitrust laws and a Silicon Valley economy.


Not from the US so correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the US had (and exercised) solid antitrust laws way before Silicon Valley developed? The case of Standard Oil in the early 20th century comes to mind.


Neither an historian nor an economist.

But yes, they certainly did.

Appart from Standard Oil AT&T and - in theory - Microsoft come to mind.

Now US antitrust efforts seem to be pretty much non-existent, even though they may be needed more than ever. I don't see that happening anytime soon in the current climate.

So, the EU hiting companies, which behave badly regardless where such companies are located is a very good thing in my book.


What good are those laws when concerted lobbying and corruption means they never get enforced?


Are you trying to argue that Standard Oil didn't have much lobbying power? Or that politicians/courts were less corrupt back then?




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