Google Dodges FTC Bullet in Antitrust Investigation
Did Not Act Anti-Competitively in Search, Only in Mobile Patents
by Karl Bode 06:37PM Thursday Jan 03 2013 Tipped by skeechan
The FTC today announced
that they've closed a two-year investigation into Google for anti-trust violations, resulting in only minor changes to the search giant's business practices. The agency found that Google's search engine has succeeded because it's simply good
, not because Google acted anti-competitively. Google simply has to make a few minor tweaks to their business practices, like allowing grumpy newspapers to opt out of Google News because they (rather ridiculously) believe Google is appropriating their content
"The evidence the FTC uncovered through this intensive investigation prompted us to require significant changes in Google’s business practices. However, regarding the specific allegations that the company biased its search results to hurt competition, the evidence collected to date did not justify legal action by the Commission," said Beth Wilkinson, FTC outside counsel.
The FTC did however note that Google has behaved poorly in another fashion.
While Google traditionally has only used patents defensively, after they acquired Motorola's mobile device patents they continued that company's practice of suing to block competing products if companies don't pay the rates they're looking for. That was an obnoxious shift given Google's previous promises about not being evil, and executive statements that Google believed the patent wars were a sort of tax on innovation.
...the evidence collected to date did not justify legal action by the Commission.
(pdf) with the FTC simply requires that Google head to arbitration before seeking injunction to determine a "fair and reasonable" royalty rates. All in all this is all a fairly huge win for Google, who by and large gets to continue business as usual with only a few small tweaks. The FTC, meanwhile, gets to claim a "win" while pretending they're a tough regulator on the beat.
While the Google of today hasn't been found to be anti-competitive (at least in search), it has always been the Google of tomorrow that raises the most questions. It's a matter of when, not if, Google shifts from innovation and disruption to turf protection and anti-competitive fisticuffs. With the company's hands in so many sectors (wireless handsets, search, ads, Google Fiber) the potential for anti-competitive abuse is absolutely monstrous over the next ten years, and if Google's recent failure to walk the talk on patents is any indication, this isn't the last dance the company will be having with the FTC.
As a depressing and/or amusing side note, Gizmodo
is running an article on the settlement by Scott Cleland, who argues that the FTC "screwed" consumers by not imposing the same kind of penalties they did on Microsoft in the 90's, despite there being no real evidence of wrong doing in search. Gizmodo fails to note Cleland is a sockpuppet paid by phone companies and Microsoft, but tells us they're going to add a disclaimer to their piece. You may recall past Cleland greatest hits like pretending Google doesn't pay for bandwidth
or insisting that nobody really wants Google fiber
Re: Everybody does it
said by WhatNow:Hey!
Microsoft was one of the parties yelling the loudest but they were doing the same thing with their search. Google does well because Google does a great job. They may be starting to goof up by personalizing their search. Two people can search exactly the same and get a different list of results. I am noticing I don't like results I get now as much as I did in the past.
You're beginning to catch on!! Google IS NOT the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel. Never has been, never will be!!
The Firefox alternative.
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Re: Acted anti-competitively? In mobile? You want to know why? It's because Apple has everyone in their pocket. The "iPod, iPad, and iPhone" are gifts from the mighty god, Jobs.
Apple knows this. Most companies use their products in several sectors. Apple knows that if people suddenly retaliated against them, they'd stop all of their devices from working.. which they can.
Why? It's because they have all the Apple iSheep by the balls. They must obey Apple at all costs to keep their iDevice working, or have to open up their minds to something better and have to wean themselves off of the Apple teat.
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