When it comes to maximising profits and developing new revenue streams, there’s little doubt that Google is a genius in both departments; but things aren’t going its way in Europe, after the European Commission bowed to growing pressure to seek new concessions from the search giant on how it displays search results.
This is the latest twist in the long-running Google anti-trust investigation in Europe, which began in 2010 after allegations started flying that it was abusing its dominant position in the European search market, 90 percent of which belongs to Google.
Only last Friday, a deal seemed to be in the air: Google would reserve space for its competitors near the top of its search pages, which they could bid for through an auction. Done and dusted? No.
What was seized on by rivals was the fact that this “solution” would place whacking sums in Google’s bank account amounting to more than 300 million euros. Lawyer David Wood, who represents the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace (iComp, which counts Microsoft and Foundem among its members) put the case against rather colourfully:
“Under the auction system Google would get another massive revenue stream. It’s a bit like telling a robber than he can’t rob any more but instead can set a toll on the High Street.
“The real remedy is for Google to use the same algorithm for third-party sites that it applies to its own.”
Competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia has now done a volte face, dropping his previous support for Google’s proposals in the face of “very, very negative” feedback, which included a slew of prominent European publishers and digital content producers.
Google’s proposed solutions to the anti-trust problem in Europe have now been rejected three times and a heavy fine is in the air if no agreement is reached. But most experts are of the opinion that there’s little prospect of such an agreement before the end of Mr Almunia’s term of office in October.
Brilliant and dynamic though it unquestionably is, maybe it’s time for Google to stop assuming that it is God. Its competitors are turning into enemies with every passing day.