Friday, January 04, 2013

FTC rules Google did not break anti-trust laws, does make some requirements; Microsoft "vents" on FTC "leniency"


No, I don’t like to bite the hand that feeds me, or even hold it—but for journalistic completeness, let’s report now that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has determined that Google’s techniques and practices with its industry –leading search engine does not break any anti-trust laws.  The Washington Post story by Craig Timberg (front page on Friday, January 4, 2013 in print) is here

It is all right for search engines to include highlighted results from companies with which they have business partnerships, as long as they don’t overdo it and stay within certain reasonable bounds. 

However, the FTC did require that the search giant make some changes, such as following “FRAND” practices in the way it deploys patents (related to acquiring Motorola Mobility) and not scrape content from rival searches, which may tend to make results similar among companies.  The FTC will monitor the company closely, and Microsoft (Bing) is already venting over the apparent leniency of the ruling.  ZDNet has some details (today) by Charlie Osborne for “Between the Lines” here

Occasionally, I notice searches will start ad-display processes in Windows 7 to display affiliate material with search results.

In my own practice, I tend to get similar results from Google, Bing, and Yahoo! safe search (now, “Ask”, which I often use in Firefox).  I generally don’t filter searches in Google and Bing for safety.  I get similar results on mobile smart phones as on computers.   However, Blogger postings (especially not equated to other domains) are more likely to show up on Google, but sometimes show on other searches.  Wordpress postings are treated about the same by all three.  The use of quotes is less necessary than it used to be.  My “Do ask do tell” shows up number 2 in all three.

In the early days of Web 1.0, we had other search engines like Altavista and Lycos, which I often found used on my web statistics reports.  But they tended to behave in a similar manner.  I never found it necessary to use metatags to get my sites to show up. 

Recent news stories suggest that search engine companies are now  paying more attention to uniqueness and depth of content and less to popularity as measured by links (partly to avoid “link farming” bias). 

The Associated Press has a recent report on the FTC action (which it says was bipartisan and which it passed by wide internal majorities), link here. The video discusses the patent issue and also closes the competitor claim of illegal “bias” in search engine practices.

  


Search engine visibility is critical to small business and to blogger journalism.  

Update:  Jan. 5, 2013

Bruce D. Brown and Alan B. Davidson have a New York Times article ("Is Google like gas or like steel"?) Saturday about the First Amendment aspects of the Google case.  Up to a point, an algorithm to display search results is a form of speech.  But so is a Wikipeida article.  He is the link

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