The US FTC anti-trust investigation into Google has finally come to a close, with the Federal Trade Commission announcing that the search giant is not actually skewing its search results in favour of Google products:
“The evidence the FTC uncovered through this intensive investigation prompted us to require significant changes in Google’s business practices. However, regarding the specific allegations that the company biased its search results to hurt competition, the evidence collected to date did not justify legal action by the Commission.”
Beth Wilkinson, Outside Counsel to the FTC
Even though Google have launched price comparison services (and ranked it top of the SERPs), and consistently push their own services ahead of the competitors, the FTC has decided that anti-trust action (similar to that taken against Microsoft in the 90s) isn’t necessary.
But Google didn’t have the ruling all its own way. The company’s Motorola Mobility subsidiary was attacked over its use of patents, and a number of legally-enforced changes must be made to the search engine algorithm. However these comments are small fry compared to what could have happened.
Unsurprisingly, we’ve seen a negative reaction to the news this morning . All across Twitter and Facebook, search professionals have alternated between mocking the FTC and claiming that Google should have been hit hard for their transgressions. And Google’s competitor Microsoft is making noises about demanding investigations by the US Department of Justice – the same body who sued Bill Gates’ behemoth over a decade ago.
All we can say is that there’s still an anti-trust investigation from the European Commission to come – and it’s unlikely that they’ll be quite so forgiving. Especially given Google’s turbulent history in Germany and France.
One thing’s for sure – 2013 is going to be the year that Google starts to seriously change. And we think the courts will have just as much of a say as Google+ into how that happens.
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