Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The arguments for reining in Google

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Interesting article at The Verge by Vlad Savov:

What the European Parliament is proposing sounds like Ayn Rand’s worst nightmare. Let’s take Google, one of the best and most cohesive set of web services we have, and fragment it into smaller businesses. Let’s introduce friction and bureaucracy between the various parts so that lesser companies with worse products can have a chance to compete. It feels like a classic case of over-regulation — penalizing a successful company for the crime of being better than everyone else — however its fundamental premise is not wrong: Google is too powerful.

There’s no denying that Google has merited its current dominance in web search. The service that has grown into a verb is used all around the globe because it’s reliably accurate, up to date, and comprehensive. Google supplements the basic results from its search algorithms with advertising — its primary source of income — and links to its own related web services like Maps, News, and YouTube. For the vast majority of users, this cross-promotion of Google products is helpful: it expands the format of search results beyond a mere index of web links and does it with arguably the best services in each category (Google+ ignominiously excepted). Seen in isolation, Google’s efforts to keep users locked inside its ecosystem are scarcely objectionable, but their success has created undesirable market distortions that EU regulators are trying to correct.

The primary point of contention between Europe and Google is the latter’s status as an internet gatekeeper. Google underplays this, but the company commands roughly 90 percent of all web searches in Europe, making it the starting point for almost everyone’s online queries. This works fine so long as Google can be trusted to maintain high quality and unbiased results, but what happens when the company’s “do no evil” mantra slips? Are we really getting the best the web can offer if Google is demoting competitor sites and promoting its own? It just so happens that right now the best on the web and the best from Google usually coincide, but the situation sours when the two diverge.

Adding Kelkoo and Shopzilla shopping searches where relevant — as Google hasproposed in previous negotiations — might not improve on Google’s own results, but it gives the user visibility on what alternatives exist. This is a direct means for disciplining Google to stay competitive: a failure to find and provide the best prices cannot be masked by the comparative anonymity of specialized search engines. Any regulatory action would start from this basic premise of ensuring equal opportunity to be seen for both Google and its rivals. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2014 at 10:47 am

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