Posted in Legal Troubles

Europe initiates antitrust investigation of Google

The Monster of Mountain View’s monopolistic practices are finally drawing a response:

The top European antitrust regulator opened an investigation into Google on Tuesday to examine allegations that the Internet giant has abused its dominance in online search.

The decision follows complaints by specialized search-related companies about “unfavorable treatment of their services in Google’s unpaid and sponsored search results,” the European Commission said in a statement.

The commission said it was also looking into whether Google might have given its own services “preferential placement” in search results. In addition to its search engine, Google has a growing number of other online businesses, including mapping, translation, video and electronic commerce services, many of which, like the search engine, are supported by advertising.

Google’s tendency to give its own services preferential placement in search results appears to be an internal policy. It’s already been well-documented by critics. From Google’s perspective, cross promotion makes a world of sense. The growth of Google’s spyware-laden browser, Chrome, has been mostly driven by Google’s own Internet properties, including YouTube and Blogger, where users are encouraged daily to try Chrome. Most people who download Chrome have absolutely no idea what the implications are for their privacy and security.

Aggressive cross-promotion is also what got Microsoft in trouble years and years ago. Microsoft used its Windows operating system to destroy the market for Netscape Navigator, by giving Internet Explorer away for free and then bundling it into Windows as the default browser. Microsoft managed to survive its own antitrust investigation, but the legal battle and other circumstances took a toll on Microsoft’s stock, which is still limping along nearly a decade later.