In the roughly two years since Google launched flight search and hotel search, Kayak CEO Steve Hafner says, “We haven’t seen any impact on our business.” This statement, made in a CNBC interview, would appear to directly contradict the central claim of the lobbying group to which Kayak belongs, FairSearch.org.
The central claim is that there’s “growing evidence that Google is abusing its search monopoly to thwart competition.” FairSearch says that Google’s ability to “send traffic to its own [vertical] properties,” such as flight search or hotel search, gives the company an unfair advantage. Accordingly FairSearch has been lobbying regulators to bring antitrust cases against Google to “protect competition, transparency and innovation in online search.”
If the argument is persuasive in the abstract it doesn’t seem to have come to pass in Kayak’s case. By its own account Kayak is prospering.
Beyond this the conservative blog The Daily Caller offered an assessment of the health of an array of companies that have formally lined up against Google. Some of the companies featured are members of the FairSearch coalition while others testified against Google during Congressional antitrust hearings, a year ago to the day. You don’t have to read it; the title of the article conveys its substance: Google’s ‘victims’ thriving, despite telling regulators otherwise.
In particular, the rise of the mobile internet has taken considerable pressure off the companies’ SEO efforts. Indeed, in mobile, conventional web search has been partly displaced by direct navigation through apps. For example, TripAdvisor, another FairSearch member, was recently crowned the top mobile travel app/site according to comScore.
Source: comScore (September, 2012)
Expedia, the number two mobile travel destination after TripAdvisor in the chart above, is also a member of FairSearch.org. Though not on the above chart, Google Maps is the top local and travel app according to comScore rival Nielsen.
The Daller Caller article also points out how Yelp has prospered through the rise of the mobile internet. Yelp’s stock price is doing fine and the company has recently reported advertiser and usage growth (especially in mobile) despite Google’s new Google+ Local and Zagat integration initiatives.
Not all of the companies above can boast that they’re doing well however. Nokia, for example, continues to lose smartphone market share. But that’s the result of the growth and popularity of other smartphone operating systems (i.e., Android, iOS) rather than anticompetitive manipulation of the traditional search market by Google.