News Corp CEO Robert Thompson wrote European Union competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia last week, claiming that Google is “a platform for piracy” and that the company places its own search engine answers and products above that of its competitors on the World Wide Web.
News Corp joins Microsoft, TripAdvisor, and other major companies that believe Google should face charges for giving its answers an unfair advantage on its search engine than other sites and companies whose products should be given their fair due.
Google decided to publish a Dear Rupert letter (named after News Corp head Rupert Murdoch) in which the company responds to the claims of News Corp in a statement and response format. The claims News Corp makes against Google include 1) how the company’s own search engine answers erode the profits of other companies, 2) how Google’s algorithmic change penalizes smaller companies, and 3) Google’s own Android certification process delays and denies others access to its mobile system while placing its products ahead of others.
In response to claims that the company’s answers erode the profits of other companies, Google claims that Yelp and Expedia are two examples of companies that continue to grow in profit despite the fact that they “object to us providing direct answers to users’ questions.”
At the same time, however, if Google decided to not offer answers on the search engine, imagine what the profits of Yelp and Expedia could become! That is the point these two companies (TripAdvisor as well) are saying about Google: Google is taking away what the companies could make. It’s similar to the CEO of a corporation who gives his employees a small raise while spending exorbitant amounts of income on fancy dinners: he could give his employees a much higher raise, but he chooses to spend excessively on unnecessary things.
Next, it could be say that Google’s changing algorithm impacts smaller businesses. Google says that it doesn’t change its algorithm 500 times a year in order to help itself, but to make positive changes that’ll help other companies. At the same time, the company didn’t respond to claims about how smaller businesses hurt in the process. Some of us here at Inferse have been victims of what occurs when Google decides to change its algorithm. Google can claim that its changes help companies, but what about those who aren’t on the fortunate side of things?
And what about Google’s Android certification process? The search engine giant claims that “we simply ask that they [hardware manufacturers] meet a minimum technical standard,” but this technical standard is more complicated than Google makes it out to be. Unfortunately, this “technical standard” involves placing companies such as Disconnect Mobile in the “reject” pile of apps – initially because Disconnect Mobile’s app was believed to be an ad blocker – and Google’s profits stem from mobile ads.
When the company revised its app to block malware ads, Google added the company’s app back at the Play Store. Google claims that the company violated the Developer Distribution Agreement (DDA) in that it denied third-party developers the right to promote its products via ads (since the company’s app prevented those ads from appearing), but Google also promotes products and services via its own mobile ads that now appear in Gmail automatically. Google’s own ads were losing out as a result of the advertisement-blocking app, but when Disconnect Mobile focused on malware ads instead of mobile ads as a whole, Google approved of the app entirely.
The verdict on the Google antitrust case is that Google has made some positive changes, but it still looks suspicious when it heads up the world’s largest search engine, then places its own answers and products on the same search engine. Even with YouTube, Google claims that it places news sites such as the Wall Street Journal above its own video site – but how many users will choose the WSJ over YouTube? Another question mandated by the issue is, “How many Google search engine users are aware that Google owns YouTube?” The fact of the matter is that Google’s refusal to brand YouTube as a site “powered by Google” or “owned by Google” is troubling, particularly when you consider that Motorola was once “A Google Company.”
Google could pay as much as $55.5 billion for its antitrust violations from the company’s 2013 income if found guilty by the antitrust commission and condemned on antitrust charges.