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Microsoft joins protest against Google web travel buy

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Microsoft has joined a coalition to challenge Google's purchase of ITA Software, teaming up with a one-time critic of its Bing travel service.

Redmond is one of three new members of FairSearch.org, founded to persuade the US Department of Justice to block Google's proposed purchase of ITA Software.

Microsoft's Bing search engine – which is crawling very slowly towards Google's mighty search market share – uses ITA's software for its travel service's flight search information.

ITA makes QPX, which you can see here. Google announced the acquisition on July 1 this year.

FairSearch.org's members include Kayak – the online flights, car rental, and destinations site that in June 2009 complained the just-launched Bing looked too much like its own service. Kayak contacted Microsoft about Bing Travel, saying the similarities would confuse users. Microsoft said at the time it was discussing the matter wit Kayak.

That squabble now looks like history as Microsoft has thrown its lot in with Kayak and its SideStep brand. FairSearch. org also includes Expedia - a division of Microsoft spun out in 1999 - and its brands Expedia.com, Hotwire, and TripAdvisor as well as Farelogix and Sabre Holdings, with its brand Travelocity.

The other newbies joining with Microsoft on Monday are Zuji, an online Singapore-based online travel agency owned by Travelocity; UK vertical search engine Foundem, which is at the heart of an EU antitrust complaint against Google; and French online travel agency association Level.com.

FairSaerch.org said in a statement the fact new, international members had joined signaled "the growing concern around the world about the broader threat the Google-ITA deal poses to travel consumers."

The group claims owning ITA would give Google control over the software that powers "most of its closest rivals in travel search and could enable Google to manipulate and dominate the online air travel marketplace."

This would lead to higher travel prices, fewer travel choices for consumers and businesses, and less innovation in online travel search, FairSearch.org said. ®

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