That didn’t take long. In my coverage today about the new Google “Search Plus Your World” feature, I detailed how part of it gave hefty ammunition to claims that Google is abusing its dominant position in search. The anti-trust charges have now already started. Here’s the short story why.
Imagine, Sending People To Other Stores!
One of my favorite movies is “Miracle On 34th Street.” The original, not the remake, by the way. For those not familiar, Kris Kringle — the real Santa Claus — gets hired to play the Macy’s Santa Claus.
He nearly gets fired when it’s discovered that he’s sending people away to other stores rather than Macy’s, if other stores have the right gift for a child or a better price. But then Macy’s realizes the shoppers love its store even more for the “send away” policy.
One woman in particular says:
Listen. I want to congratulate you and Macy’s on this wonderful new stunt you’re pulling. Imagine, sending people to other stores. I don’t get it… Imagine a big outfit like Macy’s putting the spirit of Christmas ahead of the commercial. It’s wonderful.
Search Engine Santas
That’s how search engines are supposed to be. They’re supposed to send you away to the best information, even if they don’t have their own in stock.
In fact, at first, search engines didn’t even have anything “in stock” of their own to send people to. When some search engines like Yahoo or Lycos became portals in the late 1990s, we started seeing a “Search Santa” that wasn’t so generous, that didn’t want the shoppers to leave.
Google’s Has Been A Stellar Santa
Google has largely held up to the Miracle On 34th Street model. The charges that Google favors itself have come from an incredibly tiny number of competitors, some of whom complain they’re not being favored enough when they get three-quarters of ALL their traffic from Google.
Hey, that’s not Google competing. That’s Google ushering huge numbers of its own potential “shoppers” out the door to Gimbel’s.
Most of these charges I find laughable. Seriously laughable. Quite frankly, if Google never existed, and the dominant search player that had grown up was Yahoo or Microsoft, there’s an excellent chance that people would be paying through the nose just for the “right” to be included for a chance to rank well.
People who don’t understand this simply have no idea of history in the search space, no memory of the dark days of paid inclusion. Google has been an exceptionally good actor given the dominance it has in the search space.
If you really don’t believe it, go check the traffic you receive from search engines. Is 65% of it coming from Google versus other search engines? Chances are, you’re getting more than that, despite that being Google’s share of the search market. For that to happen, it means the other search engines are recycling more “shoppers” back to their own stores than Google does
If you really care about understanding these facts. If you really want to have an open mind, to form an opinion out of evidence and rational thought rather than knee-jerk anti-Google hatred, check out the articles I’ve listed at the end in the anti-trust section for some really detailed send-ups of anti-trust claims.
But Google’s Showing A Different Side, Today
Today is different. Today’s change is one of the few times where I’m thinking “What the hell are you doing, Google?” Anyone familiar with my writings, I’d like to believe, knows that when I ring an alarm bell, there’s a really good reason to start heading toward the fire exits.
I’m not alone. Twitter’s already sent out a statement over the move:
For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet.
Often, they want to know more about world events and breaking news. Twitter has emerged as a vital source of this real-time information, with more than 100 million users sending 250 million Tweets every day on virtually every topic. As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter; as a result, Twitter accounts and Tweets are often the most relevant results.
We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.
MG Siegler also gives Google a hard rap on the head, as well, in his post. There will be more of this to come.
On The Matter Of Anti-Trust, The Court Will Hear Evidence….
There are two areas of possible dispute:
- Google is only listing information from its Google+ posts
- Google is offering suggested users to follow from its Google+ network
The first is debatable. Google is prevented for various reasons from accessing privately or less-than-publicly (let’s call this “limited”) information shared at places like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and others.
Some of these reasons aren’t in Google’s control. Does anyone really believe that Facebook decided to let Bing have its data but not Google because Mark Zuckerberg thought an “underdog” would do better with it, as he said at the time?
In Twitter’s case, it generates so much data that it simply cannot be gathered up by Google in normal ways. If Twitter wants to be fully indexed by Google in the way its statement claims, it need to provide a firehose of data to Google.
Google would gladly take it, I’m sure. But my guess is that Google no longer wants to pay for it, much less carry Twitter’s ads on its own site, both things that were part of its previous deal with Twitter and virtually unprecedented for Google to do for anyone.
We don’t know all the details, who’s to blame for what and in what proportions for all of this. We do know that both Facebook and Twitter currently get plenty of traffic from Google even without formal cooperation.
This Isn’t Santa-Like
The second is cause for serious concern. There’s no reason that a search for something like “music” should give special positioning to suggest people follow social media accounts from Britney Spears, Alicia Keys or Snoop Dogg, just because those accounts are on Google Plus:
If these artists are on other social networks (and I’m sure they all are), those should be suggested as well. If Google’s in the business of now recommending people to follow socially, then as a Search Santa, it should be sending people to wherever the best places are. Even if they’re not at Google.
That, by the way, is equally true for Bing. Ironically, it kicked out a bunch of merchants on what seems pretty flimsy grounds just before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That felt very much like it wasn’t playing the Search Santa role it’s supposed to, as well.
NOTE: Miracle On 34th Street imagine blatantly taken from IMDb. I hope they’ll forgive me. Read about the movie there.
- Schmidt: Google+ Not Favored, Happy To Talk Twitter & Facebook Integration
- Real-Life Examples Of How Google’s “Search Plus” Pushes Google+ Over Relevancy
- To Understand Google Favoritism, Think “If Google+ Were YouTube”
For further follow-ups on the Twitter-Google dispute.
Related: Facebook, Twitter & Google Data War
- Facebook On Social Search: ‘We Want To Work With Everybody’, Oct. 2010
- Facebook: You’ve No Right To Export Email Addresses (Unless It’s To Yahoo & Microsoft), Nov. 2010
- Google & Facebook: If You’re So Smart, Work It Out!, Nov. 2010
- Examining Facebook’s “Smear Campaign” Concerns About Google Social Circle, May 2011
- How Facebook Enables The Google Social “Scraping” It’s Upset About, May 2011
- Google Realtime Search & The Aftermath Of The Google-Twitter Split, July 2011
Related: Facebook & Bing
- Bing, Now With Extra Facebook: See What Your Friends Like & People Search Results, Oct. 2010
- Bing’s Facebook Fans Do 68% More Searches Than Average Bing Users, Aug. 2011
- Bing Integrates Facebook Likes Further Into Its Search Results, Feb. 2011
- Bing Ups Ante In Social Search, Adds More Facebook “Likes” To Search Results, May 2011
- Has Facebook Become The Master Key To Unlocking The Web?, May 2011
- Facebook’s Zuckerberg To Charlie Rose: “We Just Do One Thing”, Nov. 2011
- Facebook Timeline Officially Released To The Public, Dec. 2011
Related: Google Anti-Trust
- Googleopoly: The Definitive Guide To Antitrust Investigations Against Google, June 2011
- Google Senate Hearings: The Post-Game Show, Sept, 2011
- Dear Congress: It’s Not OK Not To Know How Search Engines Work, Either, Dec. 2011
- Bing’s Travel Search & Kayak Favoritism Angers No One, While Google’s Gets Headline Attention From WSJ, Dec. 2011