First the search giant attracted almost universal opprobrium and a tonne of legal headaches when it accidentally recorded personal data from unprotected wireless networks in various countries. Then some much-hyped new services flopped in particular Google Wave. It faces formal investigation by the European Union into allegations that it has broken antitrust rules by abusing its dominant position in the online-search business to stifle competition. It is not doing any wonder in rest of the world either, except beefing up its market cap at the expense of many small firms and individuals. Monopolising information distribution in association with paid media houses in weaker countries governed by corrupt leaderships. The search engine’s only focus on ruling elite, status-quo and pure ROI.
The European Commission which announced the investigation on November 30th says it will look into several issues. One is whether Google has manipulated the algorithms that underpin its search engine in order to penalise links to competitors in search rankings. Another is whether it has tried to impose agreements on websites that prevent them from running ads that compete with those delivered by Google.
News of the investigation predictably sparked complaints in America that Europe was once again out to bash a wildly successful American firm. Yet such gripes overlook the fact that Ciao one of several companies that have complained to the EU about Googles behaviour is owned by Americas Microsoft which also has links to another complainant. They also ignore the fact that the gravity of the allegations merits a close look by regulators.
Google is confident that the investigation will conclude it has done nothing wrong, see how confident! It acknowledges that an element of judgment is involved in deciding what results its search engine should prioritise; without this the information that it serves up would be less relevant to users and riddled with spam. But it insists that it has never tinkered with the results of searches to give its businesses an unfair advantage. And it says that the notion that it has a dominant market position in European markets is wrong as the competition is just a click away.
Perhaps but Google has been able to turn itself into a verb precisely because the company has become a default option for so many folk combing the web. Indeed its stickiness is such that its share of online searches in many European countries is even higher than in America where it accounts for two-thirds. Google also dominates the market for search-related online ads. And its strong position does not come as a surprise. Because of scale economies and network effects the information-technology business tends to spawn networks that swiftly become dominant – think of Facebook in social networking.
Recently some pages from our portals were covertly removed by Google from its so-called search index, possibly due to complaints from paid media houses in India or Google thought why give free coverage to social pages. Maybe some other businesses and interest groups are paying to promote their agenda. Ours is not the only network, all those who write or publish for causes not related to Google’s interest or inside it’s close circuit will be a target, now and possibly in future. And it’s interests are as wide and diverse as the universe itself.