Google slips out of FTC search noose

Core business unaffected in ‘weak and unusual’ antitrust settlement

Tags: Google IncorporatedUSA
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Google slips out of FTC search noose Google is now free to continue its dominance of the $50bn Internet-search market. (Getty Images)
By  Stephen McBride Published  January 6, 2013

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has concluded that Google Inc was tying to improve service levels rather than trying to gain competitive advantage through its search rankings, Reuters reported.

At a Washington press conference on Thursday, the FTC closed its 20-month anti-trust investigation into the search giant's business practices and its chairman Jon Leibowitz made comments suggesting the practices had benefited consumers.

While Google has voluntarily curtailed some of its other controversial policies - such as those of using essential-standard patents it holds to try and push smartphone competitors out of the market - its search unit will remain unaffected, allowing the company to pursue its core business without industrial sanction and extend its supremacy over a market projected to be worth $50bn this year, according to a 2012 ZenithOptimedia report.

"Nothing in the decision is a serious blow to any of Google's ambitions," said Gartner analyst Whit Andrews, pointing out that the FTC avoided mention of "where the boundaries are going to get drawn" in the Internet-search industry.

EMarketer predicts a 76% share for Google of 2013 US online advertising revenue, up from last year's 75%. Microsoft is expected to take 9% and Yahoo 6%.

Google's critics expressed disappointment in the FTC's decision. Dave Heiner, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel called the resolution "weak and - frankly - unusual" in a blog post following Thursday's announcement.

"Google has long said that it merely aims to offer customers the most relevant answer to their query, and the FTC commissioners accepted that view," Heiner said. "Yet we know that Google routinely and systematically heavily promotes its own services in search results."

"Is Google+ really more relevant than Facebook?" he asked. "Are Google's travel results better than those offered by Expedia, Kayak and others?"

Heiner has previously accused Google of blocking Microsoft's new Windows Phones from operating fully with the Google-owned YouTube video service, while its own Android operating system remains compatible.

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