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Archive for November, 2014


European Parliament: Google should be broken up

Google has gotten too big for its own good and the good of everyone else, European leaders say:

The European Parliament has voted in favour of breaking Google up, as a solution to complaints that it favours its own services in search results.

Politicians have no power to enforce a break-up, but the landmark vote sends a clear message to European regulators to get tough on the net giant.

US politicians and trade bodies have voiced their dismay at the vote.

The ultimate decision will rest with EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

She has inherited the anti-competitive case lodged by Google’s rivals in 2010.

Google has around 90% market share for search in Europe and rivals asked the commission to investigate four areas:

  • The manner in which Google displays its own vertical search services compared with other, competing products
  • How Google copies content from other websites – such as restaurant reviews – to include within its own services
  • The exclusivity Google has to sell advertising around the search terms people use
  • Restrictions on advertisers from moving their online ad campaigns to rival search engines

Emphasis is LGB’s.

This is a smart and commendable move on the part of the European Parliament. Someone has to stand up to the increasingly powerful Monster of Mountain View. The government of the country where Google is based is unwilling to do anything more than slap Google on the wrist every now and then (usually when privacy violations become too egregious to ignore), so it’s good that Europe is stepping up.

There is ample precedent for large companies being broken up. The United States government forced the breakup of AT&T, Standard Oil, and other large firms during the twentieth century. Microsoft came close to being broken up at the end of the 1990s and is used to responding to antitrust challenges.

Google is increasingly everyone’s competitor. Microsoft has known this for a long time; Apple and Amazon have only more recently begun to appreciate how grand Google’s ambitions and aims are. Google wants to be the dominant provider of search, email, social networking, DNS resolution, maps, domain names, web browsing software, mobile phone software, cloud storage, and a zillion other things.

Google has gotten too big and the world would benefit from its breakup.


Mozilla *finally* ditches Google as Firefox’s default search engine

This should have happened in 2011, when Mozilla and Google last extended their deal. Unfortunately, for some lame reason, Mozilla’s leadership at the time simply didn’t seem to appreciate that Google was intent on siphoning away their users and dominating browser market share with Chrome just as it has dominated search. But better late than never:

Mozilla is breaking up with Google and switching to Yahoo as the default search provider for its popular Firefox web browser.

Mozilla’s partnership with Google had been rocky for years, so its end was not entirely unexpected. Google is America’s favorite search provider, with about two-thirds of the market, according to comScore, but it also created and actively promotes its own web browser, Chrome.

Mozilla, meanwhile, has sought to create its own mobile phone software, competing with Google’s Android, and has tried to distinguish itself from rivals by committing to customer privacy technologies that are opposed by Google, Facebook, Yahoo and just about every other major website that sells advertising

As a result of this deal, the world’s three most widely used web browsers will all have different default search engines.

Google naturally has its own search engine set as the default in Chrome, although it is changeable (Bing and Yahoo are the only other built-in choices). Firefox will now have Yahoo as the default, and is adding DuckDuckGo as one of the built-in options, like Apple. Internet Explorer naturally uses Bing as its default search engine, and like Chrome, the default can be changed.

Years ago, such favoritism by Microsoft would have drawn far more scorn and scrutiny, but at least when it comes to search, Microsoft is the underdog and Google the giant. Internet Explorer still has plenty of browser market share, but it’s down from what it used to be. The latest version of Internet Explorer is only available for Windows 7 and Windows 8, not XP or Vista. Amusingly, up to date versions of Firefox and Chrome can be installed on all four.

Apple, meanwhile, has been increasingly moving away from Google. Apple is using Bing to power Siri and search results for Spotlight. Google remains the default in Safari for the time being, likely due to a contractual arrangement. When Apple inevitably ditches Google as the default for search in Safari, that will just leave Opera as the only other browser maker to use Google by default. Opera would be wise to do what Mozilla and Apple are doing and choose a different default search provider.