Foundem is not an American software giant based in Redmond
The Raffs filed with the FCC on February 23, hastily pushing their Universal Search argument into the public domain after someone - apparently, Google - outed the existence of their EU complaint to the press. Not that this did the Raffs much good. When Google publicly revealed the complaint with a blog post early the next day, Google seemed to convince the world that the antitrust action didn't deserve much attention because Foundem belongs to ICOMP, an online-competition organization partly funded by Microsoft.
Microsoft isn't shy about its belief that Google deserves antitrust scrutiny. Steve Ballmer said as much during an appearance this month a search trade show in Silicon Valley, and as Google also revealed with its blog post, a complaint from the Microsoft-owned vertical search engine Ciao has found its way to the European Commission (it was originally filed with antitrust regulators in Germany). But Foundem's argument is their own - and they approached ICOMP on their own. Shivaun and Adam Raff first contacted ICOMP in April 2009 after Adam's brother-in-law heard tell of the organization.
The Raffs wrote every word of their FCC filing, and they penned the meat of the EU complaint, with certain "legal bits" authored by ICOMP legal director David Wood. "Substantial sections are basically us explaining our story and going through the Universal Search data," Shivaun Raff tells The Register. "That comprises a majority of the filing, and that we wrote."
And just for the record: Foundem has never received money from Microsoft or ICOMP. It is not a Microsoft shareholder, and Microsoft holds no stake in Foundem.
Even as it painted Foundem as a Microsoft pawn, Google's blog post discussed the company's EU complaint as if it were a case of sour grapes, indicating it was nothing more than an attempt to show that Google's algorithms discriminate against Foundem's site because it's a vertical search competitor. But this too is patently misleading.
The truth is that the Raffs have never argued against Google's algorithmic decisions. Their concern is that Universal Search favors Google's service over everyone else's and that thanks to Google's whitelists, certain sites aren't subject to the same algorithmic treatment as others. That Google blog post steered clear of these issues, and it seemed that as a result the world almost completely ignored them. Google's talent for search and advertising is matched only by its talent for PR.
Yes, in 2006, an algorithmic change effectively removed Foundem from Google's search engine and all but prevented the company from purchasing placement via Google AdWords. This three-and-a-half year saga plays into the EU complaint and deserves its own attention. It shows not only that Google uses whitelists to exempt certain sites from automated algorithms, but that the web giant isn't nearly as open as it should be about search penalties. But this is quite different from an argument against the design of the algorithms, and in any event, the scope of Foundem's EU complaint extends well beyond its own story.
Shivaun Raff sums up the complaint like this: "You have an overwhelmingly dominant search engine. If you add to that that search engine's ability to apply discriminatory penalties - they're discriminatory because some services are manually rendered immune through white lists - and you add the ability of that search engine to preferentially insert its own services at or near the top of the search results, all of that adds up to an unparalleled and unassailable competitive advantage."
The complaint, she says, is in two halves - the first half detailing search penalties and whitelists, and the second half dealing with the problem of Universal Search. The Universal Search discussion is similar to the FCC filing, and the first half of the complaint covers much of the same ground as our original story on the company and Foundem's December op-ed piece in The New York Times. "What we have written [in the complaint] is our experience, but also a lot of additional supporting information supporting the existence of Google penalties and whitelists," Shivaun Raff explains.
Next page: Blending or bundling?
Re: Get a clue...
"Did you realize that OEM's do not HAVE to use Microsoft's OS?"
Sure they don't: shipping something else, are we? How about paying full OEM price rather than that special price we were giving you before? You know, the one everyone else pays when they're only shipping Windows.
Get a clue yourself, preferably one involving Microsoft's lobbying for computers to only ever be shipped with *their* operating system because of "teh piratz". One which also imparts knowledge about how corporations aren't the squeaky-clean entities of fairness you seem to think they are might also come in handy, as well.
Interesting the first post to an article carefully explaining how Foundem are not a Microsoft shill is "Google should not be forced to open up unless Microsoft are also." Says some interesting things about how much people actually read the articles around here.
Also, I decry the Google fanboyism! Google make some swank apps, it's true. This doesn't mean Google should be granted the ability to run roughshod over the little guy. Once Google has crushed all competition in a given market, (let's say the mapquest/google maps/etc. market,) where is Google's incentive to innovate at all? Won't it simply stagnate the way IE6 did once Microsoft had murdered Netscape in the face with a soup spoon?
Regardless of the cool stuff that some of our favourite large multinational companies make, do we really want to encourage the collapse of tech companies into nothing more than “a handful of tech titans and their sycophantic orbiting mini-corps?” Do all of the commenttards here prefer that the tech world become one of Microsoft vs. Apple vs. Google vs. Sunacle, and oh yeah there might be some hardware guys somewhere, but we don’t care about them any more? As soon as they crush all the little guys, it takes one meeting to form an informal cartel, and we the consumer are boned for the next 50 years.
Right now at least these tech titans have to worry about each other. They also have to keep an eye on some of the smaller established companies like Amazon, Adobe, SAP, PeopleSoft, etc. Companies that own tech markets they don’t yet dominate. Once they get big enough to spread horizontally into every tech market possible...exactly where do the VMWares of the world come from?
VMWare came out of left field and shook the entire x86 market up. It caused some of the biggest players at the time to put the brakes on and completely rethink their strategies. You could even argue it helped spark this whole “cloud computing” thing, though I leave it open to debate if that was a good thing or not.
The point is; if we cheer on the Googles, the Microsofts, Apples or Sunacles of the world...we may rapidly find ourselves in a situation where the only choices are between a limited number of competing “complete technology stacks;” none of which have any innovation and all of which are overpriced.
I know there are some hard core capitalists out there who believe that the “rights” of a company (and it’s shareholders) to make profit should trump everyone and everything else’s rights. Those people can never be dissuaded from this belief. To the rest of you though; do we ever want to allow our tech companies to become “to big to fail?” Do we ever want them to get to the point that “there are a limited number of corporations all with non-interoperable software and hardware; you pick one company to be loyal to, and you are then loyal for life?”
I don’t say any of the above as flamebait, nor am I accusing anyone of anything; I am asking my fellow commenttards to think about the questions raised. As always, thoughtful discussion of this is a goot thing.
A pint for anyone I've offended with my ranty questions; offence was not intended.
There is something illegal
It is called abusing a monopoly position. Competition laws the world over deal with this. Google have managed (for various reasons, including a very clever set of algorithms, and a lot of luck) have managed to dominate the world of search. If they use that dominant position to prevent competition in other areas where they are essentially a start-up; then that is illegal.
Microsoft ran foul of this by including browsers and media players in a dominant position OS. You can choose to use another OS, but Microsoft have close to a monopoly position, so have to follow different rules. Note that Apple are allowed to bundle a browser, as are Red Hat. It is just Microsoft that can't.
Google have been very effective at using their dominant position in search to squeeze out other apps. This is almost certainly anti-competitive, and if there is justice in this world, they will get found against in this or some similar actions. Whether that happens since Google are still considered "darlings of the tech world" whereas people consider Microsoft to be the evil empire. Personally, I think of it the other way around. Microsoft haven't taken a land grab of vast amounts of my personal data; and haven't stolen the entire world's books; and a bunch of other stuff.