It's hard to find folks who believe the European Commission will successfully hammer Google for pumping up its search results over those of smaller rivals.
Legal experts, search gurus and financial analysts don't believe Google
should sweat the European Commission's formal investigation into it allegedly
boosting its search results over smaller rivals.
That's because Europe's antitrust watchdog is saddled with the burden of
proving that Google fiddled with the math that drives its complex search
algorithm, which leverages hundreds of signals to place search results on
The European Union said
Nov. 30 its antitrust watchdog will scrutinize Google
based on allegations from Foundem, eJustice and Microsoft's Ciao that the
search engine surfaces links for its own Web services over those of the smaller
comparison-shopping engines on Google.com.
The Commission will further look into allegations that Google lowered the
quality score for sponsored links from competing search services and consider
whether Google prevented ad partners from placing competing ads from some
vendors on their Web sites.
The complaints were initially broached
to the Commission last February. Google said that
its machine-based search algorithm is designed to provide the best results
possible for users in an unbiased fashion.
"Not every Website can come out on top, or even appear on the first
page of our results, so there will almost always be Website owners who are
unhappy about their rankings," Google said in a blog post
The Commission, therefore, has the burden of proving that Google
deliberately toyed with the search algorithm to push Foundem, Ciao and eJustice
lower in its search results, said Brett Gordon, marketing professor at Columbia
Gordon explained that Google's search result rankings, or PageRank,
naturally change over time based on users' queries, browsing behavior, and the
structure of links across pages.
"The EC would have to show that Google unfairly tampered with their
algorithm to disadvantage other search services," Gordon said in an e-mail
sent to eWEEK
Moreover, sponsored-links ranking depends on how advertisers bid for
particular keywords, as well as their respective quality scores.
"The EC will have to show that any apparent drop in a sponsored
advertisers' ad rank was the result of a specific action by Google to limit
competition and not the natural outcome of competition in the
marketplace," Gordon added.