Feeds

EU antitrust probe fishes for Google secrets

Details of APIs, fees, shenanigans sought..

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The EU Competition Commission has shown it means business in its probe into Google by issuing a hard-hitting and wide-ranging set of confidential questions for customers, rivals and clients of the Californian web giant.

The Commission has sent out three sets of questionnaries: to advertisers, to vertical search companies, and to publishers. We obtained one of the sets of questions, and they give a snapshot into the EU's thinking – and areas of contention.

The Commission revealed it was launching an antitrust probe into whether the Californian online giant had abused its dominant position in paid search advertising six weeks ago. Google enjoys a monopoly position in web searches, which gives it a market dominance of the paid search advertising market in most parts of the world (Russia and China are exceptions). And this is a substantial business; paid search accounts for almost half (48.9 per cent) of all the global online advertising market. Google UK's operation now earns more advertising revenue than ITV and Channel 4 combined. We explored the probe, in context, here.

One set of Commission questions asks vertical search companies, who operate specialist search services, if Google's own vertical search services impact their business. Google is able to cross-promote services such as YouTube, Google Maps, Google Shopping and Google Books from its horizontal search pages, in which it has a monopolist's share of the market. It asks for evidence of "differences of your ranking across different search engines" across Google, Bing and Yahoo! – and in particular, any sudden changes in traffic resulting from horizontal search engines rankings.

The Commission asks:

Is your company aware of the existence of features in Google's natural search ranking algorithm which in your view might penalise the ranking or display of your vertical search website pages a) as compared to competing, non–Google owned, vertical search engines; b) as compared to competing, Google owned, vertical search engines; or c) as compared to other websites which would be responding to the same type of user queries?

The Commission is accepting up to six years' worth of traffic data and back contracts with Google from interested parties.

It also asks for hypothetical business impacts – for example if Google lowered the priority of links to vertical search service providers by three places.

One eyebrow-raising price hike took place in the economic meltdown of autumn 2008, as Google saw clicks rise 18 per cent and revenues leap 31 per cent. Google denied that it had instituted a price increase.

One wrinkle is that it is impossible to tell what the market value of a search term is, at any moment. Google claims to be the truest reflection of this, but in truth each company operates a "black box" pseudo-market – they insist on describing them as auctions – and each search engine forbids arbitrage. You must trust them. Or not.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Premier League wants to PURGE ALL FOOTIE GIFs from social media
Not paying Murdoch? You're gonna get a right LEGALLING - thanks to automated software
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Ballmer quits Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Online tat bazaar eBay coughs to YET ANOTHER outage
Web-based flea market struck dumb by size and scale of fail
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.