From its executives being charged for privacy violations in Italy, to formal complaints from Microsoft-supported entities in Brussels and Google's joust with China over a hack, Google is facing adversity from many fronts in the first two months of 2010. Moreover, many adversaries want to paint Google as the next Microsoft. This is probably not the start to the year the company envisioned, but Google has to deal with each issue with care lest it suffer additional blows to its image, let alone its business.
When you're the hottest team in town,
everyone is gunning for you. No, we're not talking about Major League
Baseball's defending world champion New York Yankees
, even as we look forward
to the 2010 baseball season.
We're talking about Google. Through the first two months
of 2010, Google is fending off assaults on its castle walls from all angles.
The search engine, whose 80 percent worldwide market share (65 percent in the
United States) often seems unassailable, is being rocked by a variety of adversaries.
Let's start with this week and work backwards.
The Italian Job
On Feb. 24, an Italian court
three Google executives of violating privacy laws.
The depressing thing about that case is that it
represents an attack on the Internet more than anything else, setting a
dangerous precedent that search engines such as Google are content providers
susceptible to regulation.
Should Google monitor every piece of content its
algorithms alight on? That is the question. Most
Google is in the right even as they
not every control-the-Web case is so ridiculously myopic.
The Hustle in Brussels
On Feb. 23, we learned three Internet companies filed
complaints with the Brussels-based European Commission alleging that the
search engine is demoting their Websites in Google search results and not
respecting fair competition. The EC, the antitrust watchdog of the European
Union, agreed to look into the matter.
Google intimated this whole affair reeks of Microsoft and
we agree. The great irony is that it may portend that Europe sees
Google as the
. John Briggs, a partner at Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider who has
worked on antitrust, competition and intellectual-property cases, told the Wall
"Google seems to be this century's - or this decade's - new favorite
Xerox Says Google Copied Its Technology
On Feb. 19, printer and copier maker Xerox
Google and Yahoo for patent infringement.
Xerox alleged Google's AdWords
and AdSense violate a 2004 patent on a "system for automatically
generating queries," while Google Maps and Google Video gouge a 2001
patent on a "method and apparatus for the integration of information and
Xerox should not expect an easy resolution in these
matters. Google and Yahoo own myriad patents and it's likely that they have
patented technologies that are similar to the Xerox patents. But it's another
sign of how Google is being targeted for successfully leveraging its Web
Google Book Search in Limbo
On Feb. 18, New York District Court Judge Denny Chin
heard nearly 30 pleas from opponents and proponents of the Google Book Search
issuing a ruling
, let alone tipping his hand as to which direction he was leaning.
We don't know when Chin will write and release an
opinion, but all that means is that Google Book Search, the company's plan to
digitize millions of out-of-print works is in a holding pattern until Chin
rules. He could ask Google to revise the proposal, which would set the project
back several months.