> At issue is whether the company uses its position as the dominant search engine company to muscle out competition from specialized search services, specifically comparison shopping sites, by prioritizing its own Google Shopping search results.
Google Shopping results suck but when I search for products almost always is an Amazon, Walmart, Target and others linked at the top of the results sometimes higher than the actual company that produces the product. As far as I can tell you can only get their shopping search results by clicking on "Shopping" (at least I can't seem to trigger it without that).
I don't understand the issue here. foundem is behind the initial lawsuit and kinda kicked off this whole thing but they're a search engine. If I owned a search company I certainly wouldn't want to be federating queries and indexing them doesn't make sense; why would I index an index when I can just index the source?
Am I missing something here?
> The European Commission also confirmed that it is opening an investigation into Android as well. Although the operating system is open source, meaning that any manufacturer can install it on the phones and tablets they sell, many core applications, including the Google Play store, are proprietary. Manufacturers must enter into special agreements with Google to include these proprietary apps. The investigation will attempt to determine whether Google is using its position to discourage the inclusion of rival applications on Android-based phones.
I don't understand this one as well. These applications require the use of Google's infrastructure so if you want to use them why shouldn't you agree to handle them as they want? Besides I think Barnes and Noble's nook and Amazon's Fire platforms show this is a non issue.
Once they kill off potential competitors then there is no reason to be competitive on price or quality.
Think of it as sort of a net neutrality for the search engine. People here are totally okay with telling Comcast they can't leverage their ISP near-monopoly to win the video streaming market.
Why should we allow Google to leverage their search monopoly into capturing other internet markets.
Google probably has more marketshare than Comcast does (even if you only include areas where Comcast operates).
You're conflating issues here. A cable franchise is using the cable in the ground to deliver television and the fees are paid to the local government yearly. These are regulated differently than internet access AND installing new utilities into communities.
> Google probably has more marketshare than Comcast does (even if you only include areas where Comcast operates).
Marketshare isn't comparable here. You're trying to compare an (arguable) utility versus an online service. The entire analogy if flawed; stop trying to force it.
I'm not sure what your point is, but nowhere in America is Comcast legally protected from competition. You can build a new cable network, a new fiber network, or even wireless.
maybe some super old franchise agreement that has been in tact since 1992 still exists but I doubt it. They are usually about 10 years.
>Marketshare isn't comparable here. You're trying to compare an (arguable) utility versus an online service. The entire analogy if flawed; stop trying to force it.
I don't see why categorizing the company as a utility really has anything to do with it. If you want to get technical, ISPs haven't been treated as utilities (and despite what journalists say that really isn't what Title II is about).
I don't see why providing internet access and internet search results are so wildly different that a comparison can't be made.
The easy response is that I don't have a choice to switch to someone other than Comcast. Whereas I can pretty trivially switch to use a search engine other than Google.
But I don't think that really matters. The fact that you can not use a monopoly doesn't really diminish the monopolies power, especially when the monopoly power is used to attack other markets.
Does the existence of linux make it okay for Microsoft to lockdown desktop applications and charge 30%?
Again, I'm not seeing the comparison. Are you saying that any given user switching search engines is comparative in difficulty to switch from one OS to another?
I also think it is worth noting that Google's only real competitor is a non-profitable Bing that microsoft literally has to bribe people to use.
Microsoft may tire of it and throw in the towel.
Google also competes against Yandex and Baidu, to name just two. That Yahoo uses Bing for their back-end doesn't change the fact that they're a legitimate competitor as well. It's possible Yahoo will revive their in-house search technology once their deal with Microsoft expires, too.
And speaking of counterfactuals, we can't just ignore Bing's existence because "Microsoft may tire of it". Any company would hypothetically be a monopoly if all their competitors gave up...
This is an absolutely absurd and untrue statement.
But I'll grant you that most areas it's cable v. DSL. But DSL is a lot cheaper and is plenty fast for most users. It isn't a purely fungible product but it close enough. IMO.
My next startup could be so successful that everyone uses it for everything. Better outlaw me from doing startups!
1. Microsoft. This is wrong since while it was mostly impossible back then to buy a PC without windows, it is quite possible today to not use google. In fact not using google is easier than using google (you can skip typing google.com into the address bar)
2. Comcast. This is wrong since in many markets comcast is the only internet provider. No markets exist where bing and yahoo are inaccessible.
Really this is just EU punishing google for getting too big. Unfortunately for EU, even their own ridiculous (IMHO) protectionist laws do not have anything about a company being to successful for their liking. I imagine this will be a huge money and time waste for the EU, but in the end they have no real case. Google owns google.com and may display whatever it wants there. Until someone forces EU citizens to use google, or until bing and yahoo die, they are not a monopoly, even as per EU's ridiculous (IMHO) definition.
Google does not owe foo.com or bar.org or baz.info any place in their results page, unless is so chooses. And foo, bar, and baz are only there at google's mercy. Just like EU cannot force _YOU_ to include content _I_ want on _YOUR_ page, no matter how successful and how non-european you are and how unsuccessful and how european I am, it has no real power to force google to index foo, bar, and baz, or place any content of theirs (snippets of text and links to their pages) on google's property that is google.com/...
Whether Google is a monopoly in the sense relevant in (US) antitrust law is, well, not so easily dismissed. What is relevant isn't the absence of any competition, its market power -- which is usually defined in terms of pricing power (essentially, having some range within which changes in the price at which the firm offers its product in some market will not result in a shift from the firm to competitors.)
And, in any case, EU antitrust law has a less restricted domain than US antitrust law and, AFAIK, while monopoly/market/pricing power is still relevant, is more likely to be violated even before a firm has established market power.
> The parallels drawn here (by EU and by people on HN respectively) are
The EU isn't, AFAICT, "drawing parallels", its directly objecting to specific Google behavior on its own merit, not because it is parallel to Microsoft, Comcast, etc.
> Really this is just EU punishing google for getting too big.
This inflammatory complaint could use some justification.
> Unfortunately for EU, even their own ridiculous (IMHO) protectionist laws do not have anything about a company being to successful for their liking.
What in particular is "protectionist" about the provisions of the law being applied here? AFAICT, the laws at issue are Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union , which don't seem particularly protectionist.
> I imagine this will be a huge money and time waste for the EU, but in the end they have no real case.
Have you seen the actual Statement of Objections? If not, what is the basis of the conclusion about whether or not they have a real case?
> Google owns google.com and may display whatever it wants there.
Not if they have dominant power in a market and displaying what they want there constitutes an abuse of that position.
> Until someone forces EU citizens to use google, or until bing and yahoo die, they are not a monopoly, even as per EU's ridiculous (IMHO) definition.
Being a monopoly is not required for a violation of either the EU rules on anticompetitive agreements or the EU rules on abuse of a dominant position.
That would be possible only if you can reify the notion of freedom from the personal level to that of a company. A large, multinational company has a much greater impact on society and thus needs to be more tightly regulated.
Should a search which a search engine knows the direct answer to (word definitions, the current weather or time, etc) send you to another site for the answer. Why are "search engines" prohibited from direct answers, but voice agents like Siri allowed? Is there something fundamentally different between a text box and a voice input?
Likewise, if a search engine has indexed data and can return deep links to other sites formatted differently, why is that different? For example, if you search for "Playstation 4" and Google simply returned the first 10 hits (Amazon.com, eBay, Walmart, etc) as a page of 10 blue links like it did in 2006, instead of formatting them in a nice box at the top of the screen with summary price extracted, would this still be illegal? Why is it legal to display organic search results as blue links, but if you display them in a box and call it "Product Search", it's suddenly illegal? This makes no sense to me. The only difference between the Google Product Search box at the top, and displaying the links is simply better visual presentation.
The world has moved on from ten blue links. Mobile devices have even more constrained real estate and network latency pushing the need for summarization and smart presentation even further. A new class of consumer expects these devices to almost act like intelligent agents when answering queries.
Is the European Commission saying it will be illegal to build JARVIS or the Star Trek computer, because a smarter search that doesn't delegate to other niche search engines, and instead returns direct answers, is unfair competition?
At the heart of this seems to be the idea that Google search should return links to other shopping comparison engines instead of direct links to Amazon, et al. That frankly seems like a good way to hurt customer experience. If you have a good product comparison engine these days, you're probably going to end up as a native app anyway.
By the time this EU case winds down (Microsoft's took a decade), the traditional web search engine might not even exist anymore.
There is also the question of using the threat to ban people from your search results (which is calamitous for most businesses) to resolve your disputes with them.
Product Search is just another form of summarization/snippeting that just presents the data in more digestable format.
Remember Google Fusion Tables? That was an attempt to extract facts from pages and put them into tables, so if you ask "What's the masses of the planets of the solar system", you could get a table of 8 planets and masses, with the results coming from 8 different sites. But the links could still be there to the original site, it's just formatted as a table instead of as 8 blue links with summary paragraphs, which is harder for humans to process.
Where do we draw the line? You've seen how Google has a new system that can automatically caption images with deep neural networks. (http://techcrunch.com/2014/11/18/new-google-research-project...)
Now what if this same system eventually allows the search engine to summarize your web page by 'reading it', and then auto-generating a paragraph that explains what it thought it was about?
There'd be no actual direct copying of text (like there is with search snippets), instead it would be more like a human going to a library, reading a book, and writing a review
Would this also violate copyright?
Strictly speaking, you are only allowed to connect to a remote computer if you agree with their Terms of Service. I guess there are legitimate round corners, like you need to fetch the ToS first. It's not applicable as-is for the WWW, but you need to accept the websites have a say in how their results should be displayed.
Btw, is Robots.txt legally enforceable? http://www.robotstxt.org/faq/legal.html
Exactly. The court system moves so much slower than the technology industry. It wasn't the US justice department that disrupted IE. Instead it was Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. It took me 5 minutes to install a different, better web browser. It will take me even less time to start using a different, better search engine whenever one comes along.
Similarly, Google search would be worse for me if it didn't present me with instantly relevant results like shopping, wikipedia responses, imdb style results, or quick answers to unit conversions and equations.
Yes Google leverages its dominance in search and mobile to bundle services, but is this something that the EU should fine Google for? As a consumer, I don't think so.
The problem happens when you look a little farther ahead. Anti-competitive measures prevent other companies from offering something even better. Those products might not exist now, but without an open and competitive environment, they won't show up. And consumers are very much hurt if that is the case.
I might agree with you on some of the clauses in Android contracts, for instance, but the EU's previously proposed idea mandating cycling through different spammy vertical shopping search engines at the top of the search results helps no one but those spammy search engines, artificially propping a company up for years for the the appearance of competition.
See declan's excellent post below: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9382109
Until we know what the current proposals will be, we don't have the details to talk concretely. So all we can do for now is talk about the general issue.
It's also perfectly possible to propose solutions of our own for the purposes of discussion :)
> Debating details can be useful, but that is the previously proposed idea
it's also worth pointing out that the cycling vertical shopping search site links proposal was apparently rejected not because it was flawed but because those vertical shopping sites didn't think it went far enough.
For example, having prevented anyone from developing high quality mapping alternatives by freely (with license agreement) offering Google Maps to OEMs, they decide that in order to install Maps on Android your device must now do the following:
- include additional tracking information and report same to Google
- include a facility to prevent the user from uninstalling or disabling this tracking functionality
... if you do not agree to this then, we're sorry, you'll have to find another mapping provider. Or ship a mobile device without a mapping solution.
Have they deliberately distorted the market in a way that's beneficial for them in the long term by destroying competition? You'd better bet your ass. They've just done it more insidiously than 90s Microsoft. After all, how evil can something that's given away freely (as in beer) be?
Do you have any proof of this?
> - include additional tracking information and report same to Google
> - include a facility to prevent the user from uninstalling or disabling this tracking functionality
Any source for this?
E.g. this Google blog post on the matter:
"It is true that if a company has a dominant product, it may run afoul of antitrust laws if it "ties" that product to another -- for instance, by requiring customers who buy that product to buy another product as well. When a company provides products for free on a stand-alone basis, however, it's not requiring anyone to buy anything. It may take business away from other companies trying to charge users for similar products, but that's hardly an antitrust issue."
Which is to say they (surprise!) concluded in 2009 that there can't be anti-trust concerns because anti-trust laws don't cover free products, and Google is giving the things in question away for free.
Which to me is a clever way of saying "anti-trust laws weren't designed in a digital age where the per-unit production costs of a product (ex-development and up-front costs) can feasibly be zero".
Given how much of their traffic and online revenue comes from Google they all agreed, rendering the law moot.
That strikes me as a very similar situation.
I think "revealing the law was based on a false premise" would be more accurate than "rendering the law moot".
The premise of the law was that by showing snippets, Google was taking something away from the newspapers. If that were true, Google's "give us what we were 'taking' for free or we'll stop taking it" deal would have been rejected out of hand. The fact is, Google was providing the newspapers a valuable service by showing the snippets, which is why, given the choice between Google not doing so at all and Google doing so without paying anything, they chose the latter.
In other words, the newspapers have no choice but to take whatever terms Google offers them. That's a very bad state of competition in the search market. A search monopoly in Germany gives Google a huge amount of power over not only search but other industries, even the news media.
What German publisher Axel Springer tried to legislate was the equivalent of forcing Google to pay for sending them traffic: have your cake and get paid to eat it, too.
Now if Google asked them to pay or else they wouldn't be indexed, that would be a different story.
Source for that?
In the end german newspapers gave Google permission to use snippets of content without paying any royalties. They needed Google News traffic more than Google needed them.
Which is the reason why spanish lawmakers made a similar law but with a mandatory royalties clause. Spanish newspapers cannot give an exemption to any company, under the law paying royalties for using snippets is mandatory regardless of the content owner wishes. This law is not currently being enforced, but the consequences are dramatic all the same: Google has shut down Google News Spain, and other content aggregators are under threat of being hit with fines at any moment.
And that's why I'm not currently allowing feedbunch.com users to subscribe to RSS feeds from spanish newspaper publishers, until the situation changes. Anti-monopoly legislation is fine, but sometimes it can be a hammer that the big players use to hit each other instead of a tool to help new players get in the market.
Google simply stopped including snippets from german newspapers.
German newspapers reluctantly gave an exemption to Google so that it would publish snippets from their websites again.
What more evidence do you need? Perhaps only a letter written in blood and signed "give us an exemption or else" accompanied with a horse head would convince you about Google's negotiation tactics here?
What evidence? An evidence that it is not a law that forbids putting snippets,.
The ones doping ultimatum were the German government and the publishers
> Perhaps only a letter written in blood and signed "give us an exemption or else" accompanied with a horse head would convince you about Google's negotiation tactics here?
Perhaps not the bend of reality that you're doing
I suppose that you also think that in the Spanish case the one doing an ultimatum is also google.
What Google did was what the law required. And, by the way, nothing of royalty-free access to all of the content
"Before the [law] came into force on 1 August 2013, Google Germany had written to the press publishers in June 2013. They should tell Google whether they waive all rights under the law on Google News and grant [it] free license. Otherwise, their content would no longer be listed from 1 August in Google News"
Really, stop, what you're linking is what the German law says, there is no ultimatum from Google.
Google asked the publishers if they will give the right to publish the snippets without paying or not, nothing less, nothing more. Just what the German law was
It doesn't have to be phrased as a demand. As a friendly opportunity it's still an ultimatum.
Original situation: Search engines put snippets of news without paying
Germany pass a law: If you don't pay you have to stop putting snippets
Google: I don't want to pay, I will stop to put snippets as the law say
Where the heck is the ultimatum from Google, the ultimatum was from the German govern and a law to the liking of German publishers.
Germany passes a law: If you don't pay or reach another agreement you have to stop putting snippets
Google: I don't want to pay, you either let me use snippets free or I will stop as the law says
There, with the gaps filled in you can easily see the ultimatum from Google. In the Spain case there is no ultimatum, Google just shut down. In Germany Google looked at the law and then gave newspapers a final choice.
Example, I use Google Apps for a while and it's free. One day Google says, guess what we're going to start charging for this service in a couple months, if you want to keep using it, enter credit card details here. I don't enter my credit card details, and stop using the service. Did I just "retaliate" against Google? Perhaps, but I can see where Oletros is coming from.
I think in this case they are saying, "if you want to be in Google News, you can be, your choice bro." I just can't see any problem with that.
It's just like robots.txt, except German law made it opt-in instead of opt-out. It was opt-out, the law made it opt-in, so, well, now they gotta opt-in! Google really was a neutral 3rd party to the whole fiasco... in this case.
FTA: "The report lodged several complaints against Google, such as its practice of displaying content from sites such as Yelp and Amazon on its own competing services. “When competitors asked Google to stop taking their content, it threatened to remove them from its search engine,”
That doesn't sound completely different.
> Microsoft said the same back in the day. And it is true - in the immediate term, consumers benefit from a single vendor integrating all their products and limiting competition.
Microsoft's actions that lead to its conviction did not benefit consumers in the immediate term. It hurt consumers both immediately and in the long term. And their intention was, as proven in court, to harm competition in the OS market; not to integrate stuff for a better user experience.
Antitrust arguments famously switch between "harm to competitors" and "harm to consumers" while the empirical case is that with very few exceptions, these are nothing like the same thing.
At least in the '90s, when this really was a thing, people just wanted to go to Best Buy, plonk down their $2k and get on that AOL thingy all the people at work are talking about.
Now? Has anything been more proprietary and closed than iOS? Seems to be perceived as a virtue. When I am among the iOS people, they have trouble with 'em all the time.
Although it might be hard to prove using examples - as the better products that would have existed simply never appear in the first place. It isn't that competitors fail, although that happens too. It is that it is irrational for competitors to even try to spend money on products to compete against a monopoly that will crush them.
The econometrics guys say it's not that simple. One of my go to pieces on this is by Stigler here: http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Monopoly.html
I know they require the google experience apps to be kept, or not as a whole in order to be in certain programs though. Just not sure the extent they block other apps from being installed.
Samsung is also notorious for pre-installing TouchWiz apps that duplicate functionality provided by Google's apps.
No, it doesn't. At least in the case of office apps
Android would be "impaired" if it shipped a general-purpose mail client rather than one designed specifically for Gmail?
It would be "impaired" if part of the setup process was to select an app store, a browser, and a maps app?
That sounds more like "consumer empowerment" than "impairment" to me.
 Google Play, F-Droid, Amazon's app store, etc
 Just show that category of programs from the aforementioned app store
Whether an improved competitive marketplace would result from the changes and yield long-term benefits that offset the cost of those impairments may be a worthwhile debate, but its not a debate you can even have honestly without recognizing the impairments.
Google's "openness" is what I refer to as "just enough rope to hang yourself with". They only are open insofar as they know you can't successfully compete with them.
In iOS there's no chance of installing an alternate app store by default, and yet with Anroid Amazon was able to make the Kindle devices (fire phone; tablet) that run Android without any hint of Google services.
A user can already choose to purchase a device without those services, it just happens users don't want to. I, as a user, enjoy having Google's services and enjoy that I can install alternatives if I so desire (like alternate and better email apps).
That's one of the reasons I don't use iOS
Android includes (or at least used to include) a generic email app called Email.
> It would be "impaired" if part of the setup process was to select an app store, a browser, and a maps app?
You can have all of those, and more, with custom ROMs like Cyanogenmod, or even with AOSP alone.
Amazon's devices do not have any of Google's services.
However, it's fine... Google isn't doing it for anti-competitive reasons, they're doing it because all of the Google services are needed to have a stable system.
Various custom roms let you install only a subset of the Google services, and that option invariably leads to bugs. Of course Google shouldn't want to support that.
Your complaint is akin to saying that firefox is anti-competitive because to use their XUL interpreter I have to use their mozilla compiler and rendering suite.
There's plenty of freedom already on Android. Plenty of third-party manufacturers bundle their own app stores and users can create and/or install plenty of alternatives.
This is an entirely different story than on iOS.
But that doesn't mean that every argument that leads to that conclusion must be valid! The statement I was replying to was not. Amazon devices prove the point: as they don't comply with Google's requirements, they are unable to ship any of the Google's proprietary services even as part of the process antsar was suggesting in the GP comment ("part of the setup process [could be] to select an app store" [from a selection including the play store]).
I know it's anecdotal but given my experience the only thing that would impair Android is the lack of an app store. Books, movies, music etc don't matter. Only apps. There are alternatives to Google Play and there will be more if for some reason Google decide to shut it down but a search engine and a little QA for apps is convenient. Having to wander through 4 or 5 app stores would be a bad experience (btw, I do use FDroid for some app not on Google's store).
Even if it was so, the convenience of consumers is less important than having a healthy economic ecosystem.
We don't want companies to compete for the sake of competing but to deliver better products and services. Failing that, at least cheaper.
We're talking about a website and a phone OS. You can start using another search engine in five minutes and will probably replace your phone in a year or two anyway. There are plenty of alternatives, including forks of Android that will likely work with your current device.
Gmail at least owns its users' addresses. But here they have nothing except being useful. Local grocery store has me in a tighter grip.
Destroy any Internet company whose users do not go directly to their site URL.
Destroy any new Internet company who relies on search results for users to find them.
As long as the phone manufacturer isn't prevented from also installing Bing Maps, and setting that to the default, and putting that as the shortcut on the desktop, I don't know that there's a big problem... The experience apps have been a bundle for a long time now.
I also love Chrome and Maps. However I'd like the ability of uninstalling them depending on my mood.
This isn't too say that EU's claims are fair or not. But I also feel that Google has lost its way.
Why should Google blacklist manufacturers who produce anything Android-based that lacks their services? If you wanted Google services, what would stop you downloading them yourself?
If Google can't crush a competitor in the marketplace, they'll just buy it out and kill it. Which is why rumors they might want to acquire Twitter isn't a shock: They've never succeeded at social.
If you understand the history behind the secure element, you'd realize that it was those phone carriers which forced Google to adopt HCE, which allows payment options. Google's plan was to be the sole payment provider across the entire industry.
That article is not even a source for what you're claiming! It just says Verizon wasn't illegally acting when it blocked Google Wallet on its phones.
In short, carriers were not being greedy by blocking Wallet. Google was being greedy by designing Wallet. Carriers, if anything, saved us from a Google Wallet monopoly. Now anyone can make an app that uses NFC.
The article's only claim in that area is that the Secure Element can only contain the credentials for one credit card (which wouldn't incidentally, lock developers out of using NFC). I'm not sure if that's right, but even assuming that, it appears to be a function of the hardware, not some evil plan to monopolize the phone.
The carriers only saved us in the sense that they forced Google to design around the Secure Element (which, notably, they could have also done themselves, another hole in your narrative...), giving a pure software solution and allowing Google Wallet to not ever be blocked on a hardware level.
> Google Wallet is doing something few apps do - asking for direct, exclusive access to a secure piece of hardware in the phone. Not only that, once Google takes over the secure element, it wants total control. Because of the security concerns (and related technical difficulties) involved in sharing a secure element, Wallet and only Wallet is able to utilize the internal secure element on a Wallet-enabled device. That means Google is directly managing every layer of the process.
Meanwhile I'm still not sure how you're rationalizing the carriers as savior thing when they turned around and did exactly that dastardly thing (using the Secure Element) while also mandating that no one be able to decline the use of their payment system and use a different app. It was either ISIS or nothing.
I did notice something odd today in Google search results: I searched for "surface 3" and the link I wanted was a top paid for ad link. In the past, I could look down the page and see similar unpaid links, but not today.
This has nothing to do with anti-trust and everything to do with extracting a kilo of flesh from a successful non-EU company.
"Professor Armentano thoroughly researches the classic cases in antitrust law and demonstrates a surprising gap between the stated aims of antitrust law and what it actually accomplishes in the real world. Instead of protecting competition, Professor Armentano finds, antitrust law actually protects certain politically-favored competitors. This is an essential work for anyone wishing to understand the limitations and problems of contemporary antitrust actions." http://www.amazon.com/Antitrust-Monopoly-Anatomy-Independent...
I think you misunderstood what the OP said
That leads me to believe these laws are "not strictly applied" but politically applied.
I think you'll find the overwhelming majority are European companies.
It has everything to do with anti-trust. Google's near-monopoly on search is dangerous, and they've abused it multiple times. Google News and Yelp are good examples: they would steal content (not just link to it as they'd have you believe), then threaten to delist the victim's sites if they complained.
Sure, have Google Chrome installs start with "What do you want as your default search provider?" But can you do that with Android? How much will it affect Google Now to have it be connecting to a different search provider, and what does that mean? If I enter "1+1", or "weather", or "call Bob" or "navigate home", should it go to my search provider, or to Google Now? (I know the first two currently go to GWS anyway, but why should they?)
And if integration of services like shopping on GWS are a problem, does that mean they should be removing the "Shopping" tab and make it just another result? That would suck. (For me, as a user.) I dunno, maybe long-term it allows for more competition and innovation, but short term I don't see solutions that aren't "make your product worse". Even allowing me to choose plug-in search tabs from other services seems iffy.
Assuming that any of Google's business practices needs to be "fixed" (a claim that's debatable and has been rejected by U.S. FedGov), you've put your finger on the difference between the U.S. and Euro regulatory approaches.
The European approach is more inclined to protect competitors that complain about a rival -- in this case Yelp, Microsoft, etc. are doing that. Note protecting competitors from rivals is not the same as protecting competition; in fact, having bureaucrats cripple some firms and favor others can reduce competition and injects politics and lobbying and who-golfs-with-the-commissioner into the process. It also can lead to bizarre results like the lack of a reasonably viable way to "fix" things.
The U.S. approach toward dominant firm behavior (well, since the 1970s) has been different. It focuses on intervening when there's consumer harm, or at least tries to. If consumers are not harmed, the logic goes, there is likely no reason for the Feds to intervene. This is why the FTC did not proceed with its case against Google. U.S. law also emphasizes economic analysis, which stands a better chance of grounding the analysis in marketplace reality.
A colleague and I wrote about the different EU vs. US antitrust approaches here: http://news.cnet.com/Intel-probe-highlights-EU-U.S.-regulati...
Note Microsoft enlisted U.S. politicians in its attempt to fend off broad EU antitrust actions; here's my article from 2004: http://news.cnet.com/U.S.-politicos-fire-at-EUs-Microsoft-ru... Google doesn't seem to have the same depth of congressional outreach, especially among Rs predisposed to be skeptical of antitrust actions.
Sigh. It is illegal for Google, like any other company, U.S. or foreign, to donate even $0.01 to any "congressional representative" (by that I take it you mean candidate for federal office or a current federal office-holder).
Google has never done so, and nobody, except you, has ever accused the company of doing so. Not only is this a slur, is the FUD equivalent of chemtrails, and it has no place on HN.
Source: "The law also prohibits contributions from corporations and labor unions. This prohibition applies to any incorporated organization, profit or nonprofit." http://www.fec.gov/pages/brochures/citizens.shtml#prohibited
Many of the Congressional representatives on this list have signed letters on behalf of Google asking the EU not to intervene in Google's business.
And if Sergey Brin and Larry Page and Eric Schmidt are tossing millions of dollars at the government, I'm sorry, but that's Google paying off candidates for federal office. Particularly when those same candidates turn right around and advocate for Google on the international political stage after they're elected.
Also, many people would consider advocating for the interests of their constituents to be exactly what the duties of a Congresscritter are.
Under federal law Sergey and Larry and Eric can each give a maximum of $2,600 to any federal candidate, $5,000 to a PAC, or $32,400 to a national party committee. This is not "millions of dollars." And, again, the unsupported and false allegation of "paying off candidates" is chemtrail-istic. HN deserves better.
Also I guess ocdtrekkie should have linked this other table on opensecrets, showing how Google spends more on lobbying than any other tech company, which is how it's "really done" as opposed to "chemtrail-istic" claims: http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indusclient.php?id=B12&year...
So, google is buying congress reps by donating them pocket change?
The Open Handset Alliance is a blatant example of an illegal trust. A large group of supposed competitors agreeing not to compete.
Google attempts to reign in fragmentation and divergent and inconsistent UI experience, and move more of firmware to Play store so it can issue security updates to customers without carriers and OEMs blocking.
Google raked over the coals for anti-competition.
Meanwhile, Apple ships iTunes and App Store, which can only be used with their own cloud stores. They ship iMessage which only works with their Cloud. Apple Maps. A fitness app. A wallet. A payment system. etc All in a proprietary, single vendor system, closed source.
If every Android phone's out of box experience was a random collection of OEM apps that had no common standard, the consumer experience would be terrible. Switch from a Samsung to an LG device and you might be hit by the fact that the device has none of the apps you were using on your previous phone, you have to delete all of the current apps, and reinstall all of your previous ones, enter all the settings again, all of the login credentials, etc. The switching cost would be huge and it would cause OEM lock in.
The setup process is a factor in consumer choice. If you are faced with an onerous gauntlet of selection dialogs for 10+ apps when you start (it's not just app store, browser, maps, but email, music, video, camera, photos, etc), consumers are going to be very annoyed. I don't want to spend 30 minutes to an hour unboxing my phone and "installing", that's what used to happen on PCs.
And what happens when things go wrong. If the user installs a third party app store, and gets malware, do you think they're going to be blamed, or Google's Android brand will be blamed? Most consumers aren't aware enough to narrow down who to blame.
So in the end, you'd be asking Google to assume all the brand risk, all of the complaints over fragmentation and failure to patch older phones, and making consumer experience worse.
Apple has none of these problems. Say what you will about their locked down platform, the one thing you don't have to worry about is inconsistent getting starting experience or malware from the App Store.
The 'choice' being presented here is the kind of choice hackers and engineers love, but it's not the kind of choice one's parents and relatives may love. It's just hobbling attempts to improve the Android experience.
If you're so interested in freedom, why aren't you picketing Apple Campus too?
The practical effect of your viewpoint is hundreds of millions of unpatchable Android ROMs, exposing vast quantities of devices to viruses, and HARMING actual people.
FSF activists do literally picket Apple events: http://cdn.arstechnica.net/01-27-2010/apple-ipad-protest.jpg
As far as I know they haven't done this at any Google events, but maybe I just missed it. Either way, the idea that Google is being specially singled out for criticism by the FSF is pretty laughable and you probably need to leave your filter bubble if you genuinely believe it to be the case.
So Google's doing a good job now? With over half their devices vulnerable to major vulnerabilities that every other OS patched but Google has publicly refused to develop a patch for?
Apple has built a really quite successful business around limiting user freedom for user experience. There is a market for it. There are a lot of people who find it to be a good thing.
In short, "choice paralysis" is real. ;)
Picking sane defaults gives you good user experience; making them only defaults, not requirements, gives you freedom.
Android is open source. There are plenty of custom roms that let you pick and choose between each of google's default apps.
Android is (mostly) free software, and you can choose to remove almost all the proprietary bits (ugh kernel blobs, firmware blobs).
I love it when a company gives you both user freedom and user experience by simply picking good defaults and letting a poweruser fiddle with them.
How the heck is OHA an illegal trust?
The OHA is, at it's core, an agreement of a whole industry to not compete with Google or each other.
This is why it was so hard for Amazon to find a manufacturer for the Kindle Fire. Nobody wanted to be kicked out of the OHA.
Luckily, they did find someone who wasn't already making Android phones.
Perhaps you have to give better term to Bing!
That being said, it is interesting that Foxconn built the Fire Phone.
They didn't really try to hide it, but they did the motions of some shell companies at least so they were maybe technically in the clear if you squinted enough.
If they are prioritizing Google Shopping results, as is alleged, stop doing that or otherwise biasing search results to favor Google products.
Its hard to even evaluate the accuracy of the objections, much less propose something that would resolve them, without the actual text of the Statement of Objections rather than news articles and even the original EU press release  and fact sheet  on the SO.
But, in any case, but for their anticompetitive effect, actions which violate competition laws often benefit users in terms of interaction with the product. The whole point of competition laws is to prevent that short-term benefit from being the source of monopolization which leads both to stagnation and monopoly rents, which harm consumers over the long term.
Firefox Beta, when installed now, registers an intent for search, and when you next do a google-now swipe-up, it'll ask you to pick between google now and firefox beta.
Google already has the solution for android of letting apps register intents, even for core things like maps or search or (hell) even the homescreen.
Google's solution of letting other apps register intents to handle things and prompt the user, while having default apps made by them that fulfill those intents, seems to be the best compromise on usability and extensibility.
Excerpt from Ben Edelman, whose done a damn good job over the years not only watching Google but also companies involved in abusive adware and spyware practices:
'At the same time, Google systematically applied lesser standards to its own services. Examining Google's launch report for a 2008 algorithm change, FTC staff said that Google elected to show its product search OneBox "regardless of the quality" of that result (footnote 119, citing GOOGLR-00330279-80) and despite "pretty terribly embarrassing failures" in returning low-quality results (footnote 170, citing GOOGWRIG-000041022). Indeed, Google's product search service apparently failed Google's standard criteria for being indexed by Google search (p.80 and footnote 461), yet Google nonetheless put the service in top positions (p.30 and footnote 170, citing GOOG-Texas-0199877-906).'
Were consumers hurt if Google de-ranked content which by even Google's own standards were better than its own? May be not, but it certainly peels away any idea of the integrity of algorithmic search.
Google's business is under attack from all fronts today. As business owners and those employed by internet businesses we are so fortunate as to not have to rely on Google anymore for our audiences. We have have search from two major app stores, and more if you are international. Social can deliver new users at a greater rate than search. There was a day where Google penalized your company, and the next day you fired everyone.
In the next year or so we may start seeing ultra-cheap Chinese smartphones flood the market with Google free Android. Interesting thing commenters here seem to not know, device manufacturers are not allowed to sell any non-Google Android devices if they sell Google Android.
Idealy some lines are drawn so Facebook doesn't engage in similar abusive behavior against its users and customers. I don't have high hopes. If anything, the ability to avoid US penalties and the EU's late reaction time probably emboldens behavior by market leaders everywhere.
So I don't see what you are getting at. If anything, the product search onebox is the opposite of what the EU seems to be complaining about.
As for your other question about being the #1 result but being ranked below paying advertisers, I'm not sure. Nobody deserves the #1 spot, it's not a natural right granted by your creator. In fact "the #1 search result" varies from query to query and from one user to the next based on their own Google account, if they have one.
Ben Edelman is a smart fellow; I've known him for 15 years or so. But he is a paid Microsoft consultant and advisor. Perhaps he's right on some of these points, but I also suspect that if Microsoft would stop writing him checks very quickly if he suddenly started declaring that Google's actions benefited consumers.
You might as well quote a paid Democratic party consultant doing a "damn good job over the years" describing how evil those dastardly Republicans are.
\* Maybe the FTC would not have dropped the investigation despite finding potential evidence of harm  if Google hadn't paid to "honor" the chairman during the investigation .
\* And maybe the FTC would not have felt politically pressured to drop the investigation of Google didn't pay more millions than any other tech company to "lobby" the government .
I notice that whenever Edelman is mentioned Google apologists such as yourself or Googlers like DannyBee resort to ad hominem attacks rather than address any of the actual arguments he puts out. Do you know if anybody has refuted any of his points? Because I'm genuinely curious.
Microsoft, IBM, Standard Oil, American Tobacco, Alcoa. Several of the biggest companies in US history, all pursued very aggressively by the US Government on anti-trust. You're clearly wrong.
Anyone else find shopping with Google Search is almost useless and I always follow up with a search on amazon.com and get a better result?
Where are you getting that the 'antitrust angle towards Google search' is a subject of the complaint?
And it is pretty weird. It's really not very analogous to the old Microsoft/IE cases.
(Edit: Obviously, it's an EU case, brought under different laws entirely. There's no particular reason it would or should be analogous, but it does look very odd to US eyes, just because the legal principles are so different.)
Such laws seek to "promote and maintain fair competition"
Anti-trust law in the US does not exist to promote competition.
Monopolies are not illegal in the US. The violation of anti-trust law generally occurs when the government 'proves' harm to consumers. It's an almost entirely arbitrary decision on the part of the government as to whether they pursue a company on anti-trust grounds.
Intel maintained a near monopoly in personal computer processors for a long time. They were allowed to keep that position, despite the lack of serious competition beyond AMD's small slice of the market. Cisco, eBay, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have also been allowed to keep their overwhelmingly dominate positions over the years. Why? Because anti-trust has nothing to do with promoting competition.
Antitrust law is not about being "forced"...
The issue isn't "everyone is forced to use Google Search" as much as "Google creates a monopoly through connected use of it's various products and services".
No, they don't. You're free to use any browser on your desktop. You're free to use any browser on your Android device. And you're free to go into Chrome settings and use any search engine in Chrome on any of these devices.
Defaults are powerful things, as so very few take the time to change them.
If you believe statcounter, Firefox is actually really really close to overtaking IE http://gs.statcounter.com/
Damn it, since Firefox canceled their deal with Google the latter has taken to pitching Chrome whenever a Firefox user visits Google.com.
The whole hoopla about browser choice in Windows was for much the same, as Microsoft used their OS market position to push Internet Explorer, that in turn pushed IIS.
Frankly the browser war was a proxy for intranet server competition. Netscape was trying to use internet tech to go after corporate networks, and MS was trying to cut them off at the pass.
You don't need to be a monopoly to get slapped with antitrust. All that is needed is for you to be the big dog of the pack, and seen as abusing that position.
Imagine that you search for "orlando new york flight" and the first result is rigged to be Google Flight Search. Or you look for "cloud database" and Google Cloud SQL is first.
Google is trying to get into a lot of markets, and its dominance in search could give its many other ventures an advantage.
And wouldn't this all be an issue for a company like Amazon as well? They are a marketplace, yet they also make tablets, e-readers, have a video-streaming service. Aren't they using their position as a online retailer to push their products in other markets over other company's products?
It most certainly could affect Amazon. And I would be okay with that.
From the anti-trust cases I've seen, the existence of viable (in the sense of accessible and sufficient, I think) alternatives is usually one of the market realities taken into consideration. If it is trivially easy not to use Google.com or Chrome, then Google's position is solidified by consumer choice rather than anti-competitive behavior.
Such as the fact that you can easily use something other than Chrome and Google search on any of devices? I mean, the position is starting to sound like "anti-trust" really means "The government taxes companies who hold a dominant position in the marketplace."
Edit: I can't reply to this thread anymore, so I'll just expand a bit here.
I get that on some level, all regulation/etc is some form of tax. I guess my point is that what constitutes 'anti-trust' is too unclear. It sounds a lot like governments just arbitrarily decide that its time for a certain company to give them money, without adequate justification.
Anti-trust is overtly about government placing additional restrictions (which, as they have costs, can be viewed as a kind of taxes) on companies with market power so as to limit the degree to which that market power accelerates within its core market and spreads to other markets denying effective choice.
So, you haven't really discovered anything that isn't exactly the overt point of antitrust law.
In a sense it can be likened to the drug dealer classic "the first dose is free".
There is also Ara. While one the surface it seems to break down the old consumer facing problems with mobile devices, there is no indication that Google will give up control over the endoskeletons that the modules attach to. Heck, they may set themselves up as sole distributor of modules. Even go as far as tracking modules, under the guise of disabling them if stolen.
And yes, Ara was an awesome Motorola project that Google will now ruin with walled garden design. The endoskeleton is not intended to be third party-able.
The majority of Web users on the most used browser (IE) manually chose to use Google.
These charges aren't related to Android, so where is Google 'mandating' Chrome be used?
I'm not convinced that's an issue. A user has to specifically choose to down the Chrome browser for free. At which point it defaults to Google search, and you can trivially change it to use another search engine. The "issue" sounds really thin to me.
Their charges against Android are coming soon, they've launched an official investigation into Android app bundling as well.
So, what relevance does that have here then?
Its not irrelevant; there is clearly a stronger case for anticompetitive behavior if you include an app as default with an OS and prevent alternatives than you if you provide a default but allow alternatives.
OTOH, merely allowing alternatives may not be sufficient, depending on other circumstances, to not run afoul of competition laws in some jurisdictions.
Plus, Microsoft's problems were tied to Windows with IE. It appears this is just about Search results and/or Chrome, as they outline Android specifically as something they are now investigating.
I don't think Google should be allowed to dictate clauses like this one from their developer agreement:
You may not use the Market to distribute or make available any
Product whose primary purpose is to facilitate the distribution
of software applications and games for use on Android devices
outside of the Market.
Although that probably isn't very relevant to this case....
Shouldn't this also apply to iOS?
Google supplies an OS (Android) to non-Google phone makers, and Google supplies applications to non-Google phone makers. The potential antitrust issue is if Google is using its position as an OS supplier to other companies to influence those other companies to also choose Google for applications.
Apple supplies neither an OS nor applications to non-Apple phone makers. There is no third party that Apple is using iOS to influence toward choosing Apple applications.
Perhaps, but the set of entities behind the complaints that triggered the investigations directed at Google are specifically targeting Google.
If a similar group targets Apple, then maybe we'll see a similar investigation.
(Meanwhile, Google goes out of their way to hide their ownership of the Open Handset Alliance, burying the first mention of their name on like the third page of members.)
Do you really believe Google is trying to hide their relationship to the OHA? The OHA was announced and formed on Day 1 of the Android release (http://www.openhandsetalliance.com/press_110507.html)
No one out there is under any illusion that Google didn't put together and lead this consortium. What else would they do? You make an OS, one that is free of charge and open, and you need hardware and software partners onboard, the only way to do that is to adopt some venue for collaboration.
Microsoft for years ran many working groups for hardware partners, for example, the Microsoft groups for DirectX which allowed NVidia, AMD, et al, to influence and collborate on common specs. Microsoft "led" the discussion, but NVidia and AMD were clearly able to influence the specs because the API had to be rationalized around real, existing, and upcoming hardware designs in the pipeline.
You have a habit to attributing negative and conspiratorial agendas to everything.
That's actually one of the things I'm really hoping for out of these cases. A judge that won't care about your non-disclosure crud and will post that stuff in open court.
But yes, they are. Look at the front page of the OHA site, Google is not named. Nor are they named in the OHA's Overview, like it's about page. You have to go into Members, and then Software Companies, and on that page, four pages deep, Google puts itself as the sixth name down. Bit shifty.
Furthermore, while all other Google websites link directly to Google's terms of service, the OHA site puts a stub page in between, rather than linking directly to it, as would be standard par for the course.
Google takes exceptional measures to distance themselves from control of the OHA, which they most certainly have.