Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Antitrust Charges against Google

The EU has filed anti-trust charges against Google, asserting that
Google diverts traffic from its rivals to favor its own products and services, particularly websites for shopping.
I am somewhat ambivalent about this. On the one hand Google's power over the internet is vast; readership on this blog has jumped up and down dramatically several times, I assume because of tweaks Google has made to its search algorithms. Any nod they give to their own products, or those of allies and advertisers, would be of great value. So their actions merit scrutiny.

On the other, I have tried every other search engine I have heard of, and none of them work as well for the sort of things I research. Bing seems very weak on scholarship, and for me it has never turned up any great finds that Google missed. I also greatly value Google's lean, fast interface, so different from the slow, cluttered pages of the previous generation of search engines.

So whatever corruption is embedded in Google's formula, it still works better than any other I have tried. Google keeps its dominance only because people continue to find it useful; if they didn't, Google's market share could evaporate overnight. That, it seems to me, is the thing that has kept them mainly honest. Proposals from EU lawyers are not going to be nearly as effective at keeping them mainly honest in the future as the threat that some other gang of young hotshots will come along and do to them what they did to Yahoo and AOL. As long as the internet is kept essentially open -- net neutrality, as they say -- consumer choice will be the best reign on monopoly power.

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