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WSJ: Google's Monopoly and Internet Freedom: Google's Amit Singhal Responds

 5:49 pm on Jun 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

WSJ: "Google's Monopoly and Internet Freedom" [online.wsj.com]
It's a position all business leaders would love to find themselves in—a massive IPO, dominance in the marketplace, and a blank slate from policy makers to do practically anything they please.

Google has enjoyed this unrivaled position for nearly a decade. It is the most popular search engine in the world, controlling nearly 82% of the global search market and 98% of the mobile search market. Its annual revenue is larger than the economies of the world's 28 poorest countries combined. And its closest competitor, Bing, is so far behind in both market share and revenue that Google has become, effectively, a monopoly.

The company has used its position to bend the rules to help maintain its online supremacy, including the use of sophisticated algorithms weighted in favor of its own products and services at the expense of search results that are truly most relevant.

Google's Amit Singhal Responds: Setting the record straight: competition in search
And while we’re always happy to have feedback about how we can improve, it’s more useful if that feedback is based on facts. In today’s Wall Street Journal, the CEO of comparison shopping site Nextag makes several claims that are wrong -- or suggests that Google start doing things that we already do. Let me set the record straight:
Claim: “Most people believe that when they type "convection microwave oven" or "biking shorts" into Google, they will receive a list of the most relevant sites. Not true. That's how Google used to work. Now, when someone searches for these items, the most prominent results are displayed because companies paid Google for that privilege.”
Fact: Let me be very clear: our unpaid, natural search results are never influenced by payment. Our algorithms rank results based only on what the most relevant answers are for users -- which might be a direct answer or a competitor’s website. Our ads and commercial experiences are clearly labeled and distinct from the unpaid results, and we recently announced new improvements to labeling of shopping results. This is in contrast to most comparison shopping sites, which receive payment from merchants but often don’t clearly label search results as being influenced by payment.

You need to read the whole of both articles to get a drift of the position and counter position.



 9:38 pm on Jun 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

It's tough to defend a monopoly position, the eventual outcome is inevitable.


 12:52 am on Jun 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

The question is not whether Google can have a monopoly. Of course they can. Sometimes monopolies arise just because something really innovative got developed and no one else can catch up for a while, so it's perfectly legal to have a monopoly. What's not legal is to abuse your monopoly position. And the main determination of abuse is whether or not its harming consumers.

Delivering crappy results is not an abuse of power, because consumers have other options. Arranging the SERPs to suit Google's business interests would be an abuse, because consumers are assuming the SERPs are arranged in a fair, mathematical way. "Blending" the ads is probably fooling consumers into clicking what they believe are natural top results but are really ads, but Bing does it too, so that might be considered industry standard and not something Google alone can be blamed for.


 1:22 am on Jun 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

but as a webmaster who needs traffic, blocking google is suicide. in that sense, they have a monopoly.


They don't have a monopoly just because most webmasters have a bad traffic strategy.

Learn how to generate traffic without using Google, it's not that hard or even complicated.

They owe you nothing, not a single visitor nor a single penny.

Nor are they the only source of traffic, not even close.

Many ways to generate traffic that don't have the letter G involved and some are actually more profitable as it's quality over quantity. However, I will obviously admit that without getting a good Google placement you aren't getting as much traffic as possible but it's far from the end of the world.

Then again, only 10 sites can get prime organic placement and thousands compete for that placement on most high paying keywords so what entitles any one site over any other site? Nothing. Therefore relying on Google is a bad idea and again, they don't owe anyone anything.

as an everyday user, okay, i can forget about google if i want, switch to other companies, and be perfectly happy. but as a webmaster who needs traffic, blocking google is suicide.

It's far from suicide, just not prudent, at this time...

Thing is if everyone in your niche blocks them, customers can't find anything in Google and they go elsewhere, so breaking the so-called monopoly is as simple as removing the content.


 1:33 am on Jun 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

incrediBill: When you turn on your computer does it start at Google? If so, you make that happen, not Google.

I just bought a lenovo laptop. Google Chrome came installed and default browser. Google toolbar was everywhere (on IE too), had to uninstall it. Just because YOU and I know how to do it doesn't mean other 90% does.


 8:53 am on Jun 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

They don't have a monopoly just because most webmasters have a bad traffic strategy.

Learn how to generate traffic without using Google, it's not that hard or even complicated.

with respect, that has got nothing to do with it. all you've got to do is look at at the figures. google enjoys more than 90% of all searches in the UK -- more than 90%! -- how is that not a monopoly?

okay, so you can advise a webmaster to spend out money on print ads and set up a facebook page if you want, and set up a mailing list too. he may even do fantastically well with it. but what does that actually change? google will still monopolise 90% of the searches in the UK.

what an individual webmaster's traffic strategy is has got nothing to do with it. google has still got a monopoly on the searches coming to his site.


 9:40 am on Jun 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

somewhat relevant to your feeling chief :)


Lalit Kumar


 2:02 pm on Jun 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

It's tough to defend a monopoly position

Depends on the industry, product, investment, and the monopoly holder.

There where very good economic reasons Standard Oil and AT&T where broken up for example.



 3:02 pm on Jun 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think some people do not understand the legal definition of a monopoly. A monopoly is any business that dominates the heck out of its industry. There's no question Google is a monopoly.

That said, a monopoly is not automatically illegal. AT&T enjoyed one for decades, until lawmakers decided their lack of competition was hurting consumers.

So, yes, Google is a monopoly, but if some people are fighting that point because they think monopolies are automatically bad/illegal and that's what's being said about Google here, that's just not the case. They're fine as long as they're serving the marketplace well enough that lawmakers don't feel the need to interfere.


 5:20 pm on Jun 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

People are speaking of monopoly and only referring to search market share. How about OS like Android? It's a pawn in the game of chess. It's idle, but certainly can be an effective means of other implementations of Google enterprises/products/revenue generation. Not to sound paranoid or anything.

The counter argument to monopoly regarding Google is that using the competition is just a click away. Kind of hard to argue that. There isn't money attached to the monopoly, it's just that they are too popular. Is that a crime? Is being too beautiful a crime? I think not.


 5:30 pm on Jun 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

In the same way that Microsoft were forced (more than a decade too late) to offer a choice of web browsers when the Windows OS is installed, Google may well be forced to give users a choice of web search and mapping apps when Android devices are first activated.


 2:29 pm on Jun 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Here is an interesting article that was written by Danny Goodwin at Search engine watch:[searchenginewatch.com ]

What is even more compelling is the comment made by a reader and I think it is a good share for this conversation, it certainly is an eye opener and the readers comment really has hit the nail on the head.

The biggest problem a lot of writers (like yourself) covering the subject of your article and tech people commenting on the complaints have with this subject is a clear lack of understanding of the commerce laws in the EU and in the US and why they are so important and why Googles actions and changes to search is such a big problem for all of us and how those changes hurt each and everyone of us.

Many look at it from a point of view that Google search results has no legal regulation. Therefore, what people perceive as common sense and their personal opinions wiggle into the argument and we end up with statements like "Google does not owe you anything."

The arguments being made today are not a new ones, in fact, in the 1800s they were quite similar in regard to Interstate commerce regarding fees and favoritism charged and granted by railroad companies who by nature were very much the "Google" of their time. If you want a bit of a history lesson, here are 40 pages worth reading from the Political Science Quarterly, June, 1887: [jstor.org...]

I think the worst thing any of us can do is bury our head in the sand and accept what is going on with Google search as acceptable.

Whoever RH is who made the comment, GOOD JOB!

[edited by: engine at 5:43 pm (utc) on Jun 13, 2012]
[edit reason] edited for fair use [/edit]


 3:13 pm on Jun 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for posting that GDV_mike, it is the clearest and most concise comment I've read so far....


 3:49 pm on Jun 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

@GDV_mike, another big thanks. It really is a great explanation. Anti-trust isn't about what's fair to businesses. It's about what's fair to consumers. Therefore, what's fair to Google or fair to us really doesn't enter into it. Google's alleged to be doing things that manipulate the marketplace in a way that's not fair to consumers, and that's why the FTC is looking into it.

I do think the advice to diversify our promotional efforts is good because it's all we can do - the only thing we have control over (and diversification is always good, anyway). I also think it's good to stop trying to game Google, stop feeding the monster, stop giving them our stats, etc.

BUT those are not long-term solutions. Sooner or later, either Google will change their ways (and since Larry took over, they've been doing more and more risky stuff, as if they know the house of cards is going to collapse so they're trying to cash in while they can) or the government will change Google.


 4:36 pm on Jun 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Dare I remind everyone that Google Search is a FREE SERVICE, unlike say Standard Oil (the primary reason for US monopoly laws). They are not selling anything to the user nor are they forcing anyone to use them, though I believe you have to get a gmail account to use Droid. While, as a webmaster, I am not at all happy with Google, we as users and webmasters made them what they are today. And as long as the word Google is listed as a verb in modern vernacular [dictionary.reference.com], it will stay that way.



 5:15 pm on Jun 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Whether their service is free or not is irrelevent. Their business actions are covered by a raft of laws to which they can and should be held accountable.


 5:42 pm on Jun 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Marshall, these days you can't even get through elementary school without some computer work. Let alone high school and college. You can't really get through college without email address. These are commonly used items.

See, when Soviet Union had only several TV channels and newspapers, and it all belonged to the Commnunist Party and the government, everyone yelled "communism , no democracy". Eventhough people weren't really FORCED to watch gov. channels or read gov. newspapers.

So a MONOPOLY ON INFORMATION RETRIEVAL is as bad as monopoly on gas.


 6:22 pm on Jun 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the government of the USA was aware that Google was free and that people could just click to a different search engine. Knowing this, they still moved ahead with the hearings. I didn't hear the government saying that everything is fine and that Google can do as they please because afterall it's free and competition is free and just a click away. Why hate someone because they are beautiful and get all the phone numbers from the guys?

It's pretty simple. If your business is safe from being encroached, then all is fine. If however that free service is able to encroach on your customer base and you're left with rubble of a business then I'm sure the tune changes. Nobody cares until they get touched. I hope everyone is looking into the future and how their future plans might be affected when they have to pay for traffic to their sites. The internet isn't the real world. Paying to get customers is part of marketing and business in the real world. The only fly in the ointment is if one of your competitors has this really big online thing that attracts free customers and they can convert them into sales that would otherwise be yours. People shrug and always have throughout history until they are touched by something. At times, as history shows, it has to get real ugly before any change happens.


 7:58 pm on Jun 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Um interesting discussion !
@aleksl is right if there is a monopoly on information retrieval - the person who owns that monopoly can show what THEY THINK is correct - I especially refer here to Google news as well as the SERPS

@MrSavage There is no such things as free - if it's free the user is the product, email address , real name , telephone number, cell phone number, viewing times, viewing habits , add a cookie sell adverts that follow you around...

I did watch that Senate hearing last year (?) from here in the UK - very interesting, result so far zero. Have a hearing - done - go away.
Loved that senator plugging for a data centre in his state. And thats what is all about , given the current economic crises across the globe, will the US goverment take action NO, will the EU take action YES, then crumble under the big G's financial strength.
Reminder, goggle generates millions of pounds in the UK , it's G's second biggest markets, UK tax paid - hardly anything - I await the IRS deal to get the funds back to the USA without paying US corporation tax. How - let us bring the cash back so we can generate jobs.

Dear Google tax people for that tip please send funds


 8:53 pm on Jun 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

It was also free for people to install a browser other than IE on their PCs when MSN got in trouble for the way they bundled it.

"Well, it's not our fault consumers are ignorant" is not an effective defense when your product is an emerging technology. Of course consumers are ignorant. But if their ignorance is wrecking competition in the marketplace, it will get addressed somehow.

@johnhh, I understand why you think the US won't take action, but I think it might. While the US government is basically the corrupt servant of big business, Google is not the only big business - it's got quite a few competitors whose collective power and wealth is greater than Google's by far. I think MSN is already clearly pursuing a strategy intended to get Google in the sort of trouble MSN once got in.


 9:45 pm on Jun 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

better hurry up - just had to tell the wife latest Panda update killed us. Last employee will be laid off soon.


 1:42 am on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sorry, johnhh. That's awful, and I know you're far from alone.


 2:18 pm on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Remember that if google were broken up or somehow lost SIGNIFICANT market share to several competitors, we would all then have to try and optimize our sites to rank better in MULTIPLE search engines.

If it is a struggle to rank well in ONE search engine, how hard will it be if you have to rank well in, say, four search engines to get the same amount of exposure to your site?

The fact that a single search engine has so much dominance is probably one of the BEST things that could happen to anyone trying to generate organic traffic (unless, of course, you rank fantastically in bing or DDG or yanex but rank poorly in google). In effect, you only have one target to hit, instead of multiple ones.


 2:36 pm on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

if you rank well in multiple search engines that means actual real live people like your site..as opposed to ranking well in just Google which can ( and frequently does ) just mean that you have been able to buy enough links to be on top and have not yet been found out ..or that you are Wikipedia or Amazon or a Google property..


 3:29 pm on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Unfortunately the mod decided to remove 3/4 of the quote I posted earlier so now the best part of it has been removed. If you want to see the entire comment you will need to visit the article on Searchenginewatch.com

Seems even here on webmasterworld.com there is an agenda that is being served when users posts get censored.

Guess the mod works for Google! LOL


 3:46 pm on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Planet13, what Leosghost said. I don't do SEO, I just write content and measure my websites by how real live people respond. My sites rank pretty consistently well across the board with search engines, without even trying. Except Google on this one site it Penguinized and now maybe also Pandalized.

If Google weren't so dominant, I think you could probably relax your SEO efforts and still come out ahead. Especially since there would finally be real competition to see who's algo can operate most like a real person's brain. The more the SE's operate like human visitors, reacting to signals the way most people do, the more we can just focus on visitors and the signals they're sending US about our websites - bounce rate, subscriptions, social sharing, commenting, leaving reviews, etc. In other words, get out of this SEO Twilight Zone and back to regular marketing and PR.


 4:04 pm on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Seems even here on webmasterworld.com there is an agenda that is being served when users posts get censored.

Guess the mod works for Google! LOL

He absolutely does not!
BTW engine is an admin..

It was edited (and it says so ) because of "fair use".."fair use" means you cant take an entire post or article from another site and reproduce it here or anywhere else..unless it was you who wrote the original comment that was posted on search engine world..

You could have just posted a couple of lines from the post and linked to the original on SEW..

Suggest you read [webmasterworld.com...] TOS


 8:14 pm on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

our unpaid, natural search results are never influenced by payment
... but we help them along with a bit of advice and if they are friends we can fix it for them, no problem.

Google are just too big - there's the Google car, Google schools projects, Google .. whatever. Just by doing these things they are generating millions of press and internet mentions, whilst Bing just ambles along.

We are all over Bing but without the volume its rather meaningless

@diberry thank you


 5:40 pm on Jun 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Ok so edit 90% of it? It rendered the point of discussion useless then. It was not the Searchenginewatch article that was the point, it was the point of the comment that readers here would appreciate.

I think you could have stayed within the SEW TOS by taking 10% from it, as I already did. The editing seems almost sinister hence my comment the mod must work for Google.


 5:52 pm on Jun 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

The 10% applies to the post by RH on SEW .( not 10% of the entire article page :)..quoting 10% or so of a post is OK in Fair use ..but not quoting the entire post by RH..

If someone posted something on my site ( which I agree with in this case ) I'd be pretty pissed if someone else came along and lifted the entire post , to put it into another forum, where it ( the entire quoted post ) made up 98% of their own post.. Unless they were the original poster..

Nothing "sinister" Engine was conforming to "fair use" ..you were not..Unless RH was you ..

Readers here ..could have "appreciated the post" if you'd said "there is a really good post on this here is a short excerpt ..the rest is on SEW", and linked to it..that is an example of "fair use"..:)


 4:20 pm on Jul 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Monopoly is not even the word for this, it's bad engineering thus leading to a monopoly to destroy small business VERY FAST.

My opinion: Google is hurting small business badly, BADLY wit this new algorithm! I really can see them in another lawsuit over this all. I have had very good sites up for years, both are hit 60% lower from Panda. I have been an SEO for a very long time, none of the decision making at Google seems to be working here on this new algo. I don't see the point, I don't see how it helps anyone, this new algo is a failure IMO. If this same opinion can make it to Wall Street Journal, then you would think something has got to give. I wont re-arrange my websites for weeks to find out there is no change for the better after all is said and done. This is all just stupid really.


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