Feeds

Watchdog backs Google antitrust complaint with (more) data

YouTube on Google = IE on Windows?

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Public advocate and longtime Google critic Consumer Watchdog has issued a report alleging that the web giant may have used its search monopoly to illegally drive traffic to its own services.

Citing three years of web data from research outfit Hitwise, the report claims that Google significantly increased its share of three separate online markets after rolling out its so-called Universal Search setup, which inserts links from other Google services into prominent positions on the company's search results pages. Most notably, the report says, after launching Universal Search in 2007, Google doubled its share of the online video market.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. According to some estimates, the company controls as much as 85 per cent of the global search market.

The report also claims that Google made similar leaps in the online mapping and price comparison markets. Consumer Watchdog's John Simpson singles out the rise of Google Maps at the expense of Mapquest, the former market leader. "One of the things that really struck us was what happened with Mapquest. When Google Maps started to get high priority — bam! — Mapquest just crumbled," Simpson tells The Reg. "And we see a similar situation with video."

It should be noted, however, that unlike with Google Maps, YouTube was already the market leader when Universal Search debuted. But in the last three years, according to Consumer Watchdog's data, YouTube's share climbed from just under 40 per cent to just under 80 per cent.

Consumer Watchdog on Google video share

YouTube video traffic share since 2007 (source: Consumer Watchdog and Hitwise)

This is share by traffic, and it should also be noted that a separate report from comScore puts YouTube's share of video views at about 43 per cent.

Consumer Watchdog intends to share its report with regulators in the US and the EU. "We're in the process," Simpson says. The report was sparked by a recent EU antitrust complaint filed against Google by UK-based price comparison site Foundem. In its complaint, filed in late February, Foundem makes similar accusations of monopoly abuse. The complaint is under seal, but the portion related to Google's Universal Search was echoed in filing with the US Federal Communications Commission.

"Universal Search transforms Google’s ostensibly neutral search engine into an immensely powerful marketing channel for Google’s other services," the FCC filing reads.

"[It] allows Google to leverage its search engine monopoly into virtually any field it chooses. Wherever it does so, competitors will be harmed, new entrants will be discouraged, and innovation will inevitably be suppressed."

The filing accused Google of illegally harming competitors in the online mapping and price comparison markets, hinting the practice was akin to Microsoft abusing its operating system monopoly in bundling applications with Windows. With its report — released today — Consumer Watchdog has expanded on the scope of the filing to include video as well.

According to Consumer Watchdog's numbers, since the advent of Universal Search, Google's share of the online mapping market has jumped from about 17 per cent to 51 per cent, while Mapquest's share has dropped from 57.24 per cent to 32 per cent. And it cites the same numbers as Foundem in showing Google's share of the price comparison market climbing at the expense of competitors. From November 2007 to December 2009, according to the data, Google's Product Search service — formerly Froogle — leapt from 1.3 million users to more than 20 million.

Google Product Search statistics

Unique monthly US visitors to Google Product Search, January 2007 - November 2009 (source: comScore)

Google Product Search, however, still trails Shopzilla, which boasts 21 million uniques, according to Consumer Watchdog's numbers.

Consumer Watchdog stresses that its data does not necessarily show that Google's rise in the video, mapping, and price comparison markets was caused by Universal Search. It merely points out that the company's rise in the markets began around the same time as the debut of the search setup.

"Google would say 'Gol-lee, this all happened because our products are so much better,'" Simpson tells us. "But we are saying 'Gol-lee, in 2007, they made this change with Universal Search and there products got advantaged in the results and that's when the traffic started to climb. We think there's an interesting correlation there that needs further study." ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Big Content outs piracy hotbeds: São Paulo, Beijing ... TORONTO?
MPAA calls Canadians a bunch of bootlegging movie thieves
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Verizon bankrolls tech news site, bans tech's biggest stories
No agenda here. Just don't ever mention Net neutrality or spying, ok?
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.