If Google's Upstart Competitors Aren't Afraid Of Google, Why Is Washington Upset?

from the it's-all-political dept

With Eric Schmidt in DC today to be grilled by a Senate commission about antitrust issues, it's interesting to see that Rich Skrenta, the founder/CEO of an upstart competing search engine, Blekko, come right out and tell DC to keep its hands off Google:
We donít need federal intervention to level the playing field with Google. Innovation and competition are far more powerful instruments to battle companies that have grown powerful and influential. Which has been more detrimental to Microsoft's business? The lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice in the 90s, or the innovative products Apple has brought to the marketplace?

The success of Google should be applauded on Capitol Hill, not derided.

Letís let entrepreneurs, technology and good old-fashioned innovation deal with Google. Consumers will always be the winners in that scenario.
If a company is holding back innovation through market control, I'll be the first to worry about it, but I'm at a loss to see where Google's choices have directly harmed consumers. It's nice to see Skrenta making this point when it would be easy to score a cheap political point by jumping on the bandwagon. No doubt that a broken up Google would present an opportunity for Blekko to take more marketshare -- but real entrepreneurs know that getting the government to attack your competitors is no way to build a truly innovative company.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    out_of_the_blue, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 7:03am

    So many wrong premises.

    First, capitalism isn't just for corporations, so premise that only competitors can object is wrong. For all we know, Google has funded fake startups to present the illusion of competition, just as NFL is split into teams, or pro wrestlers are actually enemies and not actors. Phooey.

    2nd, it's not a question as: "Which has been more detrimental to Microsoft's business? The lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice in the 90s, or the innovative products Apple has brought to the marketplace?" -- It's whether any given company is TOO BIG and controlling, period. Just because apparent "good" is resulting is no guarantee that the situation is optimal, either. Without some action sheerly because large, we'll never know what might be better.

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Sep 21st, 2011 @ 7:16am

      Re: So many wrong premises.

      First: If Google were engaged in such nefarious activities, the truth would come out. (In fact, I just Google it--they're not ;)

      Second: Crap over-priced operating systems and legalistic stupidity were more detrimental to Microsoft's business than anything else ever, duh.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 8:22am

      Re: So many wrong premises.

      The difference here is that the NFL benefits from the government establishment of monopoly power.

      In order for me to start my own sports league and to broadcast it over public airwaves and cableco infrastructure, I must go through a government established monopoly gatekeeper (broadcasting monopolies and cableco monopolies). That's not free market capitalism by a long shot. The existing status quo has a government established advantage.

      Google has no such government established advantage. They play on a level playing field, if anything, the government doesn't like them.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 9:10am

        Re: Re: So many wrong premises.

        What the government wants to do, and about the only thing it ever does when it comes to these sorts of regulations, is to minimize social benefit in favor of creating centralized benefits.

        It's why the government has established monopoly power in so many other industries. Government established monopolies minimize social benefit in favor of creating centralized benefits.

        Google's innovative endeavors have created plenty of socialized benefits. The public benefits. The government sees this and angers. So what does it want to do? It wants to find ways to minimize the social benefit provided in favor of creating more centralized benefits into the hand of a few government established monopolists.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 10:16am

      Re: So many wrong premises.

      It's whether any given company is TOO BIG and controlling, period.

      Did you just make the argument that large companies should be forced by the government to be made smaller? When has that ever worked in the past, and what other sectors do you see this being applied?

       

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    Hephaestus (profile), Sep 21st, 2011 @ 7:11am

    Face it this has nothing to do with google being a monopoly. It has to do with Microsoft losing market share in every arena to google, android, search, web apps, cloud computing, cell phones and tablets.

    Microsoft is pushing at the state level, the federal level and the international level to stop microsoft. The SCO Unix lawsuit, EU antitrust, US antitrust, and state level laws banning imports into the US can all be traced back to microsoft.

     

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    RichWa (profile), Sep 21st, 2011 @ 7:19am

    MS Lawsuit

    Actually the fed's lawsuit was very effective against Microsoft and would have been even more effective had the Bush administration not dropped it. Apple would not be where it is today, (most likely there would be no Apple,) without the fed lawsuit as the tactic Gates employed would have driven Apple out of business just as countless of other companies with superior technology were. Apple was used by MS for a very long time to justify it's untrue claim of not being a monopoly and that is why Apple survived in it's niche.

    Now if we can just get rid of software patents.

     

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      johnny canada, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 8:46am

      Re: MS Lawsuit

      @ RichWa

      " .... without the fed lawsuit as the tactic Gates employed would have driven Apple out of business ..."

      Google it ' Bill gates invests in Apple '

      If not for Bill Gates Apple would be out of business $ 150 million of MS / Gates monies help Apple out of a bind.

       

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      Any Mouse (profile), Sep 21st, 2011 @ 9:31am

      Re: MS Lawsuit

      the tactic Gates employed would have driven Apple out of business just as countless of other companies with superior technology were.

      Can you give some examples of this superior technology? Honestly, I haven't heard of it. I KNOW you aren't talking about OS/2 or AmiDOS.

       

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    Pretended To Be Ben Edelman, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 7:26am

    This is a list of how Google is abusing it's dominant position and harming consumers:

    http://www.benedelman.org/news/092011-1.html

     

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      The Incoherent One (profile), Sep 21st, 2011 @ 7:43am

      Re:

      I damn near had an aneurism reading that self cited post. As to who Firefox uses for their search default, they have a little drop down in that window which allows you to switch engines to whomever you like. As for Chrome..... Well DUH it favors Google. Last I checked that's who wrote it.

       

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Sep 21st, 2011 @ 8:01am

      Re: Ze Eyes!

      Thanx [/SARC], now my eyes won't stop rolling!

       

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      Ben Edelman, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 8:14am

      Re: the real Ben Edelman

      Ben Edelman here -- the author of the article linked above (7:26am post) but interestingly *not* the author of that 7:26am post. Who posted it? Not me! I'll check with Techdirt site operators to see if they logged IP address or other information that can help us figure out who's impersonating me.

       

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        kirillian (profile), Sep 21st, 2011 @ 9:22am

        Re: Re: the real Ben Edelman

        Interesting...wonder if Mike could clear this up. I have the inclination to believe you, but a confirmation would be nice.

         

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        Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 21st, 2011 @ 9:29am

        Re: Re: the real Ben Edelman

        Indeed. The original comment was most likely not from Ben Edeleman, and we've changed the name on the comment to "Pretended to be Ben Edelman." We don't reveal IP info on a commenter without proper court authority, but in this case all I can say is that whoever left that comment did so via a proxy, which likely makes them untraceable. In theory, that could actually be Ben using a proxy, but I find that to be highly unlikely.

         

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          Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 21st, 2011 @ 9:31am

          Re: Re: Re: the real Ben Edelman

          Oh, but that said, I actually don't have a problem with someone self-citing a post if it's relevant. In this case, it's absolutely relevant, even if I disagree with Ben's analysis.

           

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        Gordon (profile), Sep 21st, 2011 @ 9:58am

        Re: Re: the real Ben Edelman

        I haven't read into how Google writes their policies, so I won't comment on most of the points in your article.

        The one point of it I will comment on is the bit in there where you're talking about lock in. The Android platform most certainly NOT locking all customers into using Google search, as proven by Verizon using Bing search on the middle and lower tier Android phones almost from the beginning, and also not allowing you to choose to use another engine (may have changed since last time I looked).

        The only VZN Android phones to use Google search by default were and I believe still are the "Droid" line of phones, and or any one of them using stock Android.

        My 2 cents.

         

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      Marcel de Jong (profile), Sep 21st, 2011 @ 8:19am

      Re:

      [citation needed] And no self-citing isn't a valid citation.

       

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      Ben Edelman, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 10:02am

      point-by-point on Google's harm to advertisers

      All right, now that we've cleared up the mystery of the original comment, it's time to turn to substance --

      Incoherent one: The question isn't whether you know how to change Firefox defaults, but whether users actually do change search defaults. If users overwhelmingly stick with Google -- and all evidence is that they do and that they have -- then advertisers have to buy placements on Google; no competitor can offer a comparable service. Competition is not one click away from an advertiser's perspective. What exactly is an advertiser supposed to do if the advertiser wants paid search traffic but doesn't want to buy from Google?

      As to Chrome favoring Google: One can suggest that that's Google's prerogative as maker of Chrome. But how much may Chrome favor Google? In one of the articles I linked, I showed Chrome autocompleting a direct navigation attempt in a way that turned the direct navigation into a search (at Google) -- with a top-most listing being, predictably, an ad. The result is to confront a user with ads when the user tries to run a search. It's clear why this is in Google's interest -- more ad clicks, more money. But I don't know why this would be in users' interest. And it's clearly not in the advertiser's interest; the advertiser would much prefer to get that user for free, than to have the user diverted to Google where the user may click an ad or even end up at a competitor's site.

      Anonymous Coward (7:49am) says I'm "wrong" about all-or-nothing placements in Search Network. AC, if you claim this is so easy, can you link to a screenshot or help page showing how an advertiser can buy just some of Google Search Network without accepting the undesirable parts of Search Network that I describe in my article? I think you'll find that it's truly not as easy as you suggest. Content Network has fine source selection, but Search Network does not.

      Finally, Anonymous Coward (7:49am) suggests a manual export from AdWords to CSV (or similar) and then an import into a competing platform (like AdCenter/Yahoo). I agree that that's possible. But one wouldn't want to do that every day. Nor can that process readily be automated. In contrast, were it not for Google's prohibition on use of AdWords API to copy/synchronize campaigns, advertisers could have easy one-click or even zero-click (automatic) copying between ad platforms. Makers of PPC management software tell me that this is the single most-requested feature their customers want. But Google specifically bans this feature. Do you see any plausible pro-competitive justification for the ban? As I mentioned in the article, a Google exec once told me "we don't have to make it easy" -- confirming my long-held suspicion that Google is intentionally making data portability difficult, in this area, in order to hinder use of competing services and strengthen Google's market position. I believe that's contrary to well-established principles of antitrust law.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 10:38am

        Re: point-by-point on Google's harm to advertisers

        Maybe people keep google as the default search engine because, wait for it.... Its a better search engine. At least for me and my searching habits, this is the case.

        Also, why is it ok to tell a company how to design their own product? If google chrome wants to prefer google stuff, let them. It is their product to do with as they please. If I don't like it, there are plenty of other great browsers out there to use.

        I am sure no one is forced to use google products, ads, etc. They do so, in my opinion, because its better for them or makes them more money.

        I believe the gov should not get involved. It is always tough to beat the #1. However, if you do it the right way. In this case through innovation, everyone wins.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 10:42am

        Re: point-by-point on Google's harm to advertisers

        1) That is a problem of the advertisers not Google and certainly not customers that are not forced to use Google they choose to use and every chance to chance the settings is given to them including the one most obvious you can just type the url of any search engine out there and it will show up on any browser that includes Google-Chrome. Natural monopolies do happen and the good thing about it is that they can disapear as quick as they appeared one just have to convicne the public that it is in their best interest to do so, is that what you are trying to do?
        I don't see it.

        2) You do understand again that there are 2 versions of Google-Chrome, one is Chrome and the other is Chromiun the one which a lot of others use and can be modified, so Google is basically giving away the tools to others to compete with itself it is that not shocking?

        3) Banning tools to help advertisers move elsewhere.
        Really only the big boys can write a javascript line of code that would take 3 to 5 lines? Not to mention one can use Python, Bash, Batch(in Windows), it is not that hard actually.
        Also for the programming challenged there are action-recorders in the market that do that(e.g. iMacros or the likes of it).
        http://wiki.imacros.net/Sample_Code

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 7:49am

    Re:

    Most of those are just wrong. Like the all-or-nothing placements, Google does allow you to specify URLs on which you want your ads to appear such as YouTube and NYTimes. And the Banning of Tools, to copy a Google ad campaign all you have to do is export it through AdWords itself then you can import to many different competitors.

     

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    anonymous, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 7:59am

    if any site is conducting customer tracking, it should be clearly displayed. Google's tracking options should be disabled to start with. if a person doesn't mind being tracked he/she should be asked first and then give permission. the tracking option should not be enabled by default, then the option to turn it off either be unavailable or so hidden that people dont look for it.
    as far as 'let entrepreneurs, technology and good old-fashioned innovation deal with Google', the same should apply to the entertainment industries. what a shame they are so useless and have such an inferiority complex that they cant deal with any of these things, have to rely on paying out a fortune in bribes and lobbying to keep their old business models, withhold payments from those they are supposed to represent, whilst lining the execs pockets only.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 8:18am

    Why can't we just consider Google too big to fail?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 8:39am

    What the government wants to do here is to create a government established search monopoly.

    Mark my words, just like what the government did for so many other industries (from government established taxi cab monopolies to government established broadcasting monopolies to government established cableco monopolies to government established mailbox delivery monopolies to government established electricity delivery monopolies with a company that pays no taxes, to government established intellectual property monopolies, to government established gambling and liquor monopolies and even its attempts to provide for the government establishment of online gambling monopolies), the government wants to do here exactly what it did to so many other industries. It wants to provide someone with a government established monopoly. It's itching to do this, it's been wanting to do this for a while, it can't wait. It wants to do exactly this, it wants to provide for the government establishment of search engine monopolies. This is its goal, the same exact goal it accomplished in SO MANY other industries.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 8:45am

      Re:

      So it did this in other industries? Government establishment of monopolies? In other industries? Were there other industries where this happened? Did they grant government established monopolies?

       

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    Bengie, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 8:41am

    Cheaters!

    Google has less internal red tape and has more of its decisions done by engineers/developers.

    Because of Google's long term thinking, they now have an unfair advantage against short-sighted corps.

    Won't somebody please think of the golden parachutes?!

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Sep 21st, 2011 @ 8:50am

    "Why Is Washington Upset?"

    Because Microsoft is upset.

    Washington does not give a flying flip about Blekko, but it does care what Microsoft wants.

     

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    Lord Binky, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 9:06am

    Silly mortals

    Washington is upset because the upstarts don't use money to lobby them and instead stupidly use their resources to make a better business.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 9:10am

    I am slowly seeing the truth about how Washington who has fucked with us little guys for so long has also fucked with Big Business in so many screwed up ways that when you wonder why some rich CEO builds a plant in Vietnam instead of doing it here and helping us out I know think it is not him trying to gouge us for money but it is Washington who fucked us again.
    Maybe those Republicans are right about Washington making it so hard to do business with their laws and rules it forces some to just go elsewhere.

    Leave Google alone assholes !!!!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 10:54am

      Re:

      One example that sounds like a joke but it is not.

      There are no American car manufacturers investing in self-driving cars at the moment, why is that the only prototype representing American business comes from Google?

      Shouldn't GM or Ford be the ones doing research on that crap?
      Probably if it was not Google paying for that only Europeans would have that technology advanced enough to do something, along with the Chinese.

      It is just mind boggling since the American government is trying hard to push down the throats of everyone that IP is the future and they need to be protected, but in reality what they are doing is giving others the tools to hammer down America even further since nobody in America seems willing to do even research and because of strong IP constraints little people can't push into the market without great risks of liability.

      Thanak you Washington you have destroyed America, you just didn't realize it yet.

       

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    Albe23 (profile), Sep 21st, 2011 @ 2:28pm

    Beer

    Somebody buy Rich Skrenta a beer, well said good sir. Well said.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 5:05pm

    It seems to me that bankers are the most desperate critics of credit unions, who largely offer the same services at a fraction of the price. The bankers feel that all those credit union customers would be THEIR customers (and resultant profits) if the credit unions would just go away.

    This whole Google thing is similar -- a company wants to give "product" away and make money around the edges, while all those competitors want to sell "product" and just want Google to go away so they can go back to making money selling tired old ideas.

     

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    Androgynous Cowherd, Sep 25th, 2011 @ 4:35pm

    Another reason for Blekko to side with Google here is this: if the government meddles with Google for being "too big", it would set a precedent and if in the future Blekko became The Big Search Engine then Blekko would be in the firing line. It's a classic do unto others thing: if you wouldn't want the government doing this to your search company if you made it big someday then you don't want it doing it to Google.

     

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    Bnesaladur (profile), Sep 26th, 2011 @ 6:59pm

    High quality only

    Personally I like Google. It offers us a well rounded collection of internet resources on top of Google search itself. Now, though, apparently they are a monopoly. idk if the government looked into it but Google works to create ad targeting so that you receive ads you will be interested in, at the same time allowing you to not get targeted ads if they make you feel uncomfortable (privacy invasion).

    I really like the part in the list of "Benedelmans" that says that if Google was in a competitive marketplace they would have to provide "high-quality, trustworthy traffic." Basically Google would somehow have to ensure that only people with money, willing and ready to buy would respond to ads; and somehow to ensure that all the people who filled that category would receive the ads. I don't think I like the idea of anyone, especially advertisers knowing everything I want, how much money I have, and whether I am ready to buy. I don't mind them knowing which ads I read though, but its a fine line between privacy invasion and doing their job.

     

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      Bnesaladur (profile), Sep 26th, 2011 @ 7:10pm

      Re: High quality only

      Oh yeah, and if you really want to whine about Googles contracts, perhaps look into every telecommunication and ISP contract ever written.

      Also complaining that Google isnt fair because they are good at what they do is a bad argument. It isnt default that cause this, IE is windows default browser and Bing is IEs default search engine. Guess what, first thing I do when I get new PC? I change it to Google because Google works best.

       

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