ARE WE REALLY GETTING THE BEST OF THE WEB IF GOOGLE PRIORITIZES ITS SERVICES OVER OTHERS?
Adding Kelkoo and Shopzilla shopping searches where relevant — as Google has proposed in previous negotiations — might not improve on Google’s own results, but it gives the user visibility on what alternatives exist. This is a direct means for disciplining Google to stay competitive: a failure to find and provide the best prices cannot be masked by the comparative anonymity of specialized search engines. Any regulatory action would start from this basic premise of ensuring equal opportunity to be seen for both Google and its rivals.
The European Union doesn’t perceive Google as a villain so much as a clumsy giant that’s having deleterious effects on other web businesses. As Europe’s authorities seek to build a single digital market — one that includes a strong commitment to net neutrality— they see Google’s ability to manipulate search results and give preference to its own services as an imbalance to be corrected. It wouldn’t matter if Google controlled a small segment of web searches, but the company is the de facto search engine for the entire continent. The latest vote from Europe doesn’t compel Google to do anything, but its suggestion of "unbundling" search from other commercial services is certainly the most aggressive language we’ve yet heard, as it would dramatically undermine the nexus of Google’s profitability.
TALK OF BREAKING UP THE COMPANY IS PREMATURE WHEN IT'S ACTIVELY NEGOTIATING
Unlike the Microsoft saga, an agreement between Europe and Google has been extremely close in the past and looks likely to come in the near future. It’s just a matter of deciding how many concessions Google will make to its competitors and how visible they will be. The Randian nightmare scenario of Google having to break up is unlikely to ever come to pass, but the company does need to change. If Google is to continue serving as the gateway through which most internet queries pass, it must be held to a standard of fairness that’s above and beyond that required of a private company.