$1 billion, which is the amount Google pays Apple each year to be the default search engine in iPhones and iPads. Just goes to show how important mobility — and mobile broadband — now are. (Via Cult of Mac.)
Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission closed its antitrust investigation of search giant Google. At Politico, Tony Romm examines how the company “beat the feds.”
Instead of ignoring Washington — as rival Microsoft did before its costly monopolization trial in the 1990s — Google spent about $25 million in lobbying, made an effort to cozy up to the Obama administration and hired influential Republicans and former regulators. The company even consulted with the late Robert Bork and The Heritage Foundation and met with senators like John Kerry to make its case. In other words, these traditional outsiders worked the system from the inside.
This calculated and expensive charm offensive paid off Thursday when the Federal Trade Commission decided not to challenge the company’s dominance of the Internet search business in court and settled the investigation with what critics allege is a slap on the wrist.
One of those critics of the decision, Microsoft Vice President & Deputy General Counsel Dave Heiner, called the FTC’s investigation a “missed opportunity” on the company’s blog Technet:
As we know from experience, one of the litmus tests of any antitrust outcome is the set of statements made by a company on the day that the outcome is announced. Has the company truly learned from the experience? Does it acknowledge that its practices raise serious antitrust issues?
In response to a question at his press conference today, Chairman Leibowitz said that he doesn’t believe that Google will be emboldened by today’s FTC decisions. But Google seems to be walking with a new spring in its step today. As Google’s official statement on its public blog today put it, “The U.S. Federal Trade Commission today announced it has closed its investigation into Google after an exhaustive 19-month review that covered millions of pages of documents and involved many hours of testimony. The conclusion is clear: Google’s services are good for users and good for competition.”
In other words, there appears to be no reason, despite the FTC’s optimistic statements this morning, to believe that Google recognizes its responsibilities as an industry leader. That is certainly consistent with the lack of change we continue to witness as we and so many others experience ongoing harm to competition in the marketplace.
The once mighty search company Yahoo! has fallen on some rough times as of late, but yesterday the company was the buzz of the Internet. As Andrew Ross Sorking and Evelyn M. Rusli of the New York Timesreport:
Marissa Mayer, one of the top executives at Google, will be the next chief of Yahoo, making her one of the most prominent women in Silicon Valley and corporate America.
The appointment of Ms. Mayer is consider a coup for Yahoo, which has struggled in recent years to attract top talent in its battle with competitors. One of the few public faces of Google, Ms. Mayer, 37, has been responsible for the look and feel of some of the search company’s most popular products.
Microsoft (which knows a thing or two about antitrust cases) is accusing Google of antitrust violations and is asking the European Union to investigation. Reports Steve Lohr of the New York Times:
The litany of particulars in Microsoft’s complaint, the company’s lawyers say, includes claims of anticompetitive practices by Google in search, online advertising and smartphone software. But a central theme, Microsoft says, is that Google unfairly hinders the ability of search competitors — and Microsoft’s Bing is almost the only one left — from examining and indexing information that Google controls, like its big video service YouTube.
Such restraints, Microsoft contends, undermine competition — and thus pose a threat to consumer choice and better prices for online advertisers.
Last night, Google announced it was changing its search algorithm. While the company tweaks their search results all the time, this one seems like a substantial overhaul. From the official Google blog:
Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on.
At GigaOm, Mathew Ingram says the changes are in an attempt to limit search results from so-called “Content Farms” — sites that generate a ton of low-quality content to generate advertising revenue:
Google hasn’t specifically said that the changes are aimed at content farmers — in fact, the term doesn’t appear anywhere in its blog post, which simply refers to “low-quality sites” — but Search Engine Land says the rollout is almost certainly aimed in that direction. According to Google, the changes affect about 12 percent of the company’s search results, which is a fairly large proportion for such a change, and an earlier revision last month targeted so-called “scraper” sites, which simply copy content verbatim from other sites.
With the net neutrality debate having been settled (for now), a new tech fight is brewing on Capitol Hill: search neutrality. Reports Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post:
Google search engine guru Matt Cutts met with members of the Federal Trade Commission and staff on Capitol Hill this week to argue why the firm opposes federal rules on Internet search results.
The visit, what Cutts calls his “education tour,” comes as Washington and Europe have been focusing on the search giant’s business practices. European regulators have launched an investigation brought by complaints from some companies that Google has purposefully lowered their rankings, making it difficult to compete.
Yesterday, Microsoft and Facebook announced they were expanding their partnership in order to enhance search results — and hopefully chip away at Google’s dominance in the process. From Microsoft’s official Bing blog:
People ask their friends for information to help make decisions all the time. How was the food in that new restaurant, should I go see that movie in the theatre or wait till DVD, or what do you think of that hot new phone? Today Bing launches a new feature called Liked Results, which uses Facebook “like” information to help you discover new information and get more personalized results in Bing.
To help explain the new features, Bing has put together this walkthrough video.
Yesterday, Google released an update to its search. Called “Google Instant,” the service predicts the answer to search questions as they are typed. While the new trick is definitely cool (if a little creepy, since it makes it seem like Google now has psychic powers), there was one stat promoted by the company that is truly startling. As Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reports:
Before the change, Google’s search results probably did not strike anyone as slow. But with Google Instant, they can easily be twice as fast.
Most people’s lives will not change with an extra few milliseconds, but Google calculated that the new tool would cumulatively save people more than 3.5 billion seconds every day, which works out to about 11 hours a second.
11 hours saved every second just by tweaking a search algorithm. We truly live in remarkable times.
Last summer, Microsoft and Yahoo! announced they would be joining forces in an attempt to better compete with search giant Google. Today, their deal has finally been given the stamp of approval from regulators in both the U.S. and Europe.
comScore has released its global search stats for December 2009, and while—shocker!—Google still dominated with 87.8 billion searches in December (a 46% increase over last year), Microsoft’s Bing actually saw the greatest growth, with 4.1 billion searches—an increase of 70%.
Yesterday, Microsoft’s search engine Bing had a 30-minute outage. While that in itself is not good news, Larry Dignan of ZDNet believes it was a positive step for Bing. Why? Because people noticed — and when you’re trying to take on Google, every little bit helps.
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