DOJ Confirms What We Already Knew: Explorer Searchbox Not In Violation

from the the-once-mighty-monopoly dept

Earlier this month, Google revealed that it was upset that the forthcoming version of Vista would make MSN the default search engine in the searchbox. The DOJ has wasted little time determining that the searchbox is not in violation of anti-trust law. Furthermore, they noted that in both IE and Firefox (where Google is the default) it takes exactly five clicks to change the default search engine. Though everyone seemed to recognize that the initial complaint was baseless, if you're Google there's nothing to lose by harassing your biggest competitor on the taxpayers' dime -- even if that means having DOJ lawyers sit around counting clicks.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Dan Ushman, May 15th, 2006 @ 11:34am

    Having having

    Typo!!!

     

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  2.  
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    Rajesh, May 15th, 2006 @ 12:05pm

    IE v Firefox

    Using the number of clicks to switch search engines on Firefox and IE seems sort of spurious test. I imagine the majority of Firefox adopters to be early adopters and tech savvy types. For them to switch using even 10 clicks shouldnt be an issue. MS is counting on the fact that their product is not going to be used by techies alone but by people who dont bother to change their settings much. Based on user's habitual reliance on default settings alone, Google seems to have a valid complaint.

     

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  3.  
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    Jeremiah, May 15th, 2006 @ 12:30pm

    Google is still king....

    ...nobody "Microsoft's" anything. Microsoft has not become a verb in common parlance (i.e. Fax, Xerox..)

    MSN can be the default anything it wants....nobody will "MSN" their latest resume submissions....

     

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  4.  
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    Jamie, May 15th, 2006 @ 12:38pm

    Re: IE v Firefox

    Of course Microsoft is counting on users not bothering to change the default search engine. What we need to ask is, why is that a bad thing? If firefox and opera both have a default search engine, why can't IE?
    While I'm not a big Microsoft fan, I do get tired of people always wanting to apply a different standard to Microsoft. If we are going to make microsoft stop putting its search engine as the default on the browser, then we should make opera and firefox do the same with google. Microsoft shouldn't be penalized just because it has more market share than others. They should be made to play by the same rules that everyone else plays by.
    Maybe the solution is to ask the user at install time to choose a search engine. Then give him/her a list of popular search engines to choose from.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2006 @ 1:23pm

    Are they counting typeing in Google.com as clicks ?

    All you have to do is drag google to your home icon & click yes, how do they get 10 clicks out of that ?

     

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  6.  
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    detour, May 15th, 2006 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Re: IE v Firefox

    Microsoft shouldn't be penalized just because it has more market share than others.

    If they are using that dominant market share to force as many people as possible to use another of their products in a complete different market, than yes, they should. In this case, Microsoft has two seperate businesses here, making software (IE) and making a search engine (MSN). By leveraging their dominant market share in the broswer market they are ensuring their success in the completely separate search engine market. That's the issue.

    Maybe the solution is to ask the user at install time to choose a search engine. Then give him/her a list of popular search engines to choose from.

    This would be brillant, in fact, it should work the same way for web browsers, media players, email clients, word processors, etc. Unfortuntely, Microsoft won't do this unless they are forced to, hence Google's complaints.

     

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  7.  
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    Rajesh, May 15th, 2006 @ 1:28pm

    Jamie - if it is agreed that MS is counting on user traction to get a leg up on competition then its an anti-trust issue. This is no different than Microsoft making MSN the dialup ISP in Win95 and not granting AOL equal opportunity (the entire basis for the anti-trust violation and eventual settlement).
    Also, Google is asking for exactly what you highlight in your last paragraph, but Microsoft refuses to make the default selection during the installation process which brings me to my earlier point.
    Finally, if they are to follow the same rule as others, then IE7 should be a separate download rather then being bundled in Vista as the default search engine - another luxury not afforded to Firefox. Abusive practices die hard because its the easiest way out!

     

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  8.  
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    Joe, May 15th, 2006 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: IE v Firefox

    Detour, simply using one business to help boost another one doesn't rise to the level of monopolistic abuse. Businesses do this all the time -- like the Google search engine being the only one available in Gmail. The issue is whether such action makes it impossible for a competitor to compete; such impossibility is rarely demonstrated, which is why anti-trust is rarely invoked.

    Again, it doesn't matter that consumers aren't likely to change the searchbox, what matters is whether they can. The answer, in this case, is clearly yes.

     

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  9.  
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    Moogle, May 15th, 2006 @ 1:50pm

    Re: Re: IE v Firefox

    It's plainly evident (to me, at least) that MS has a clear advantage in any area where windows can be used as an option. Even with a shoddy product, if it's on the desktop as a default option, it will crush its rivals, even if those rivals are free and easy to install/use. They've done EXACTLY this on numerous occasions, so it's not a double standard for MS, it's pattern recognition. They've done it before and it would be foolish to expect them not to do it again.

    In fact, as been argued many places, MS threw money in a hole with IE. They had almost nothing to gain by entering the field except to disrupt the a platform (netscape + java) that some, at the time, thought could eventually compete with microsoft. Is it fair for MS to crush an industry on the off chance that they might lose some market share in the future if it matures in a certain direction?

    It's then no longer about competition, but about killing off random young industries. This means there's less competition, less innovation, less ideas, less choices, more monoculture. This is what antitrust laws are for, but they're too specific to what monopolies did in the past, and we've become complacent by having some laws that we aren't willing to adapt them to new offenders.

    >>"Maybe the solution is to ask the user at install time to choose a search engine. Then give him/her a list of popular search engines to choose from."

    This is an excellent solution, and it's exactly what MS will fight tooth and nail to prevent, and it probably fits exactly as something Google would want. Google is probably (rightly) afraid that they'll have a valid antitrust case 10 years after it's too late and they've collapsed as a business, before they've had a chance to establish other markets to sustain their growth. I think it's fair for them to point out a pattern and ask for some leverage to do something about it beforehand.

     

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  10.  
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    Pronoun, May 15th, 2006 @ 2:33pm

    2 clicks in firefox

     

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  11.  
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    imp, May 15th, 2006 @ 2:35pm


    All you have to do is drag google to your home icon & click yes, how do they get 10 clicks out of that ?

    Your default search engine, not your homepage.

     

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  12.  
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    DJ-Panic, May 15th, 2006 @ 3:15pm

    actually, if you don't count typing in "www.google.com", it took about 2 clicks in the latest build of IE 7 for me to set google as my default search.

    As soon as you go to google the first time with IE 7, it presents you with a box asking you if you would like to set google as your default search engine, you click yes, it installs, and it's done.

    What's so bad about that?

    In the IE 7 dev blog they even stated that the search box is YOURS, not Microsofts's, and you can use whatever search box you want, because it uses the OpenSearch format, a FREE and OPEN SOURCE search format.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2006 @ 3:16pm

    IE7 Bundling

    Windows' draw (and biggest advantage over Linux) is that it's a fool-proof operating system that works with most features right out of the box. If you argue that in-browser search shouldn't be bundled with IE7 when it's a common feature on other browsers, or if you argue that IE7 or Windows Media Player shouldn't be bundled with Vista, you neuter the one draw of Windows.

     

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  14.  
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    ?, May 15th, 2006 @ 3:26pm

    MS Monopoly

    Just a friendly reminder: The Supreme Court ruled that Microsoft was a monopoly. It isn't an opinion, it is a fact. Anytime MS takes advantage of their market share, it is healthy and prudent to see if they are overstepping anti-trust laws.

    The DOJ has a responsibility to ensure competition (i.e. bust up monopolies). In this case it is clear that Google isn't going to go away simply because MS adds a configurable search box to IE.

    We'll all get a good laugh out of this once Google's browser and OS have the majority market share.

     

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  15.  
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    kman, May 15th, 2006 @ 3:34pm

    Re: Google is still king....

    Not true - many Microsoft products are now de factor generic terms:

    Powerpoint for presentation (or even present)
    Word for all word processors
    Excel for anything spreadsheet related (or even simple numerical graph related)

    Users often even use the term 'Windows' to generically refer to GUI-based OSs (as opposed to Linux).

    Besides, googling something is because that's all anyone used it for for many. many years. And I don't see anyone AOLing or Firefoxing or WordPerfecting.

     

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  16.  
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    Bryan, May 15th, 2006 @ 11:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: IE v Firefox

    By leveraging their dominant market share in the broswer market they are ensuring their success in the completely separate search engine market. That's the issue.

    This is getting ridiculous. A business absolutely CAN leverage one business market to assist another. If you don't think so, perhaps you endorse Apple being forced to let the user pick, upon initial connection of an iPod, which music store they wish to buy their music from. In that case, Apple the hardware maker is assisting Apple the music download seller. Must be illegal, right?

    Using one market to leverage another isn't illegal, it's smart business.

    If Google thinks that MS's Windows software gives MSN an unfair advantage, maybe they should start writing a competing operating system (and maybe even give it top billing whenever someone googles "Operating System" or perhaps "Windows").


    If they are using that dominant market share to force as many people as possible to use another of their products in a complete different market, than yes, they should.

    I disagree that Microsoft is "forcing" users to use MSN. The default search engine is easily changeable. If Microsoft had installed MSN as the ONLY search option, without the option to change, I'd be right there with you, but the argument that most users are too stupid to figure it out isn't any excuse. Microsoft made it reasonably easy to change the default. That's all they should be required to do.

     

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  17.  
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    RJ, May 15th, 2006 @ 11:27pm

    Re: Google is still king.... by kman

    "Not true - many Microsoft products are now de factor generic terms:

    Powerpoint for presentation (or even present)
    Word for all word processors
    Excel for anything spreadsheet related (or even simple numerical graph related)"

    Maybe those terms are standard parlance in the business world - that is, a community who knows diddley about tech. But in the community of users who know what a spreadsheet is, or a word processor is, or even what presentation software is, those terms would never be used.

    I might give you PowerPoint because it was the first and may still be the best presentation software, but Microsoft didn't invent it! They only bought it!

    So no, you're wrong.

    The level of user who might confuse Word with being the only word processing software probably doesn't even know that what he's typing into is a *program* called *Word*. But maybe I'm exaggerating a little there.

    "Googling" became a term because the Google search proved to be and still is?) the most accurate search on the 'net. Not only that, but Google was the first site to do accurate phrase searching. And don't even get me started on ranking. Before Google you'd just get sites ordered by the frequency of your search terms. I don't miss those days.

    But mark my words: the new hotness will be "Wiki it". Soon shortened to "Wik-it".

     

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  18.  
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    Brad, May 16th, 2006 @ 3:16am

    This was mentioned early on, but seems to have been left behind very quickly in the anti-microsoft zealotry that seems to clog every "tech savvy" discussion board.

    Microsoft produces an INTERNET TOOL, and then couples it with an INTERNET BROWSER. The end result is a tool which provides greater utility to the user than not.

    Now, I really hate the whole anti-trust thing. I mean REALLY HATE. If they weren't Microsoft, no one would bat an eye. AOL's browsers use AOL as a default search engine, pleanty of ISPs switch your default search engine to theirs when you run the automated setup disk (something I'm sure very few of you do, because you recognize it is worthless), but no one complains. When you buy a car, you don't expect them to ask you who's engine, seats, headlights, etc you want installed. You get the whole thing as one package.

    MSN being coupled with IE is no different in my book. Yeah, on my car I can pop out the headlights and seats, but for the vast majority of people, you want a system that was built with both pieces in mind. No one forces you to do it, and in fact they make it easier each time to switch to whichever you prefer, but the default must come from somewhere, and for free software, in my book, whoever writes it gets to pick.

    The whole Apple iLife suite seems like a raging bit of anti-trust, except that they're small enough that no one cares. Plus they're Apple, and can do no wrong, right?

     

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  19.  
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    anon, May 22nd, 2006 @ 4:39am

    i dont like msn and always use Google as i understand the format better.

     

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