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Microsoft files Google complaint with European Commission

Written by James Delahunty (Google+) @ 31 Mar 2011 11:57 User comments (6)

Microsoft files Google complaint with European Commission Redmond gets involved in EU anti-trust case against web search giant Google.
Microsoft spent nearly a decade being probed and prodded by the European Union for anti-competitive practices, so one is entitled to raise an eyebrow at Microsoft's filing of a formal complaint with the European Commission, as part of the EC's ongoing investigation into Google's Search practices within the EU.

This is the first time that the software giant has ever taken such as step, according to Brad Smith, senior Vice President & General Counsel at Microsoft Corporation. While commending Google's attempts to "organize the world's information," Smith says that Microsoft is concerned about a broadening pattern of conduct aimed at stopping anyone else from creating a competitive alternative to Google's key businesses.

He has pointed to some recent cases in the United States involving Google. In 2008, the Department of Justice (DOJ) considered a suit against Google for attempting to tie up and set search advertising prices at Yahoo!. Google backed down following the DOJ's intervention. Then last year, the DOJ objected to what it said was Google's efforts to monopolize book content. A federal judge ruled in that case just last week.

Smith says that the situation is even worse in Europe than in the United States, and accuses Google of walling off access to content and data that competing services need to provide search results to consumers, and of course, to gain advertisement revenue, the life-blood of the business.

He objects to Google's defense that any PC user can easily navigate to a different search portal, pointing out that there are other ways that search services compete as they index content on the web. Generating good search results is important to attract advertisers and also to get websites to use your search service (you will notice, AfterDawn uses Google currently.)

With that said, Smith has detailed half a dozen examples of what he alleges are anti-competitive practices from Google that block competing services, like Microsoft's Bing or Windows Phone software, from having a fair and level playing field.

YouTube & Search Results

Google acquired the YouTube video-sharing portal in 2006 in a billion dollar deal. It is by far the most popular video source on the Internet and is a common sight in search results from Google.com in particular. Smith alleges however that competing services, such as Bing, are unable to index results from YouTube in the same way that Google can, because Google has, "put in place a growing number of technical measures to restrict competing search engines from properly accessing it for their search results."

Due to the sheer size and prestige of YouTube.com, Smith feels this puts competing services at a great disadvantage.

YouTube & Windows Phone Software

Google has enabled handsets using Android software to access YouTube content easily. Going beyond just being able to play videos, YouTube Android apps can search for video categories, find favorites, see ratings and so on. It also has provided the same level of access to Apple for use with iPhones (and other devices running iOS).

However, Smith accuses Google of clocking Microsoft's Windows Phone software from getting this level of access to YouTube content, which is user-driven. Google has refused to allow Microsoft to utilize the same metadata in use by Android and iOS-powered devices, Smith says, meaning that YouTube Windows Phone applications are basically just browsers loading YouTube's mobile website.

Monopolizing Book Contents

Google has attempted to gain exclusive and unfettered access to a large volume of orphan books (books for which no copyright holder can be found). Smith says that under Google's plan, it's search service would be the only one that could return results from those books. A federal court in New York last week rejected Google's plan, saying, "Google's ability to deny competitors the ability to search orphan books would further entrench Google's market power in the online search market."

Restricting access to customers' own data

Google contractually prohibits advertisers using its services from using data they have input into Google's ad servers, in the course of managing their own advertising campaigns, in an interoperable way with other search advertising platforms. Smith argues that this makes it more costly for advertisers to run portions of their campaigns with any competitors, meaning they are less likely to do so.

"If it's too expensive to port their advertising campaign data to competing advertising platforms, many wont do it. Competing search engines are left with less relevant ads, and less revenue," Smith argues. "And while this restraint isn't visible to consumers, its effects are nonetheless felt across the Web. Advertising revenue is the economic propellant fueling the billions of dollars needed for ongoing search investments. By reducing competitors' ability to attract advertising revenue, this restriction strikes at the heart of a competitive market."

Search Boxes

Websites generally use search boxes for services provided by search portals (or they use internal search instead). Smith says that Google contractually blocks leading Web sites in Europe from distributing competing search boxes. "Google's exclusivity terms have even blocked Microsoft from distributing its Windows Live services, such as email and online document storage, through European telecommunications companies because these services are monetized through Bing search boxes," he said.

Discrimination in advertisement placement

Smith says that Microsoft shares the concerns expressed by others in this case that Google discriminates against would-be competitors by making it costly for them to attain prominent placement for their advertisements. He said that Microsoft has provided the European Commission with a body of expert analysis of how search engine algorithms work and the competitive significance of promoting or demoting various advertisements.


Google controls an estimated 90 percent of the Internet search advertising market in Europe, while Microsoft's Bing is struggling to chip away at its dominance.

Last year, British price comparison website Foundem and French legal search engine ejustice.fr alleged that Google unfairly demoted their sites in search result rankings because they were providing competing services. A third complaint was made by Ciao!, a Europe-based online shopping portal and Microsoft subsidiary, about Google's standard terms of service.

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6 user comments

131.3.2011 14:00

Can't technically resolve your own problems? Sue.
Can't compete in search engine market share? Sue.
Filing lawsuit after lawsuit because another company is using your business practices against you and killing your own monopoly? Priceless.

231.3.2011 22:00

Most of these complaints seem to stem from Google giving priority to its own services. Is that really a crime?
And yes, I'm a Google fanboy.

To paraphrase a redditor: "Google, why don't you stop the foreplay and just take over the world?"

31.4.2011 5:28

LOL,

right! EU you need to do over Google.

So here's all the evidance that's all from the USA.

The EU respond by asking what is this USA? and why do you bring this USA up in a EU case?

Classic

41.4.2011 7:06

well, you guys beat me to say it... they are just complaining about the same things they do. usually they want others to license for the use of anything, even if it is their own finger to push on a button... now they don't even consider licensing, they just want the competing company to be taken down... well have a cup of your own chocolate...
X_x


X_x

51.4.2011 9:36

Probably the best article I've read on afterdawn. Fanboy it up all you want, Microsoft has valid arguments here. Although its nice witness the irony in all of this.

61.4.2011 14:46

How many of these comments are google plants, worried stockholders or just plain blind sheep? What do they stand to gain? From Azuran we hear the validity of neutrality and moderation. No monopoly of any kind should be tolerated. That is neither an American nor a European principal. It is a principal evolved by modern Democracy ... which is still facing it's greatest and longest lived adversary: Business based Totalitarianism.

If information from one venue would shed light on the practices, procedures and how algorithms work in another local, then this is desirable information. If a witness is in a position to provide and explain technical testimony (that can be corroborated) to laypersons, then this is a valid witness regardless of their past sins.

On a more personal note, there was a choice of search engines ten years ago. Alta Vista was better for image searches. Ask Jeeves used it's own engine and gave it's own independent answers. Remember Exite? Remember WebCrawler? Remember alltheweb? How many dozens of others were "acquired" and then closed down? Or had their independently designed algorithms and engines quietly trashed and replaced? Or had competing features removed? How many of those "lost others" would have provided fresh, different or more relative and less sponsored results? Now I have to click "next-page" three of four times to get past the results imposed by clever algorithms that produce results that pre-favor certain websites and restrict other website results ... and only then if I can manage to avoid the mouse-overs, the popups, the bandwidth-sucking moving-ads, the un-removable control-based sidebars and every other irritating, bloody little trick that can be pushed in my face or pitched at me. And when the hell did the word google replace the word search? It's not like Clorox or Xerox entering the vocabulary by way of consumer identification. Those two companies didn't buy and destroy the competing companies. ... like the two companies (bing being by no means excluded) mentioned in this article. ...like what we are supposed to accept as normal business behavior.

Why are google and microsoft (et al.) allowed to acquire and then kill competition? For the same, easier to see, reason that costco was allowed "merge" with priceclub. ... because anti-trust enforcement & permissions favor the stock value and not the price competition and the product selection choice that benefits the consumer. And what kind of "lobbying" might be involved that so favors the carnivorous and turns the consumer into prey? Business and democratic values should be able to coexist. Greed is not good. "We the people..." is good. Don't loose site of the fact that it is OUR bloody money and we should have a fair choice on how to spend it. But we let this go on ... why? We are not a stupid people. We started democracy. But we ARE stupid consumers. We apathetically let ourselves be tread on by another aristocracy.

The Monopolistic Beast was not destroyed by the anti-trust legislation of the last century. They have somehow "acquired" (as assets) the regulatory agencies, the "lobbied" legislatures and the judicial systems of all lands and the beast has come back with an un-natural(ly) selected vengeance. It represents the greatest threat to democracy since aristocratic rule. Anti-trust laws and fair trade regulations, the agencies and legislation involved and their enforcement by the courts is not supposed to be for the benefit of the stockholders and corporate management. ...it's supposed to be about the consumer ... the people.

The predatory corporations in this article are only representative of the far greater collective of business-world-norm tyranny. It doesn't matter that such corporations give equal rights to women in the workplace or provide ramps for the handicapped. Contrary to their slick PR department releases, they are, have and ever shall seek to consume the consumer. World without end. Consumer rights and democratic ideals face an extinction born of the industrial revolution and evolved into a great killing machine. I believe that democracy and business can coexist. But Corporanus-Rex must be slain.

I believe that there is a higher level of capitalism possible than now exists. Maybe if it were given a name, then it would be possible to define it and to strive to attain it. ...but, above all, the people should decide, not the predators.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 01 Apr 2011 @ 21:47

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