Monday, May 9, 2011

Google, Bing and Yahoo, Time for Anti-Trust or Unfair Trade Practices Regulation

The great thing about the Internet is that anyone can create their own website, and many sites make it easy to create a "site withing a site" for those without extensive knowledge of computers or the Internet. Also, a wealth of information and easy access to commerce and shopping is also readily available, along with sites which serve the vital interests of expressing free speech about a range of topics from public events, politics, issues which confront us, and on and on.

The problem with all this information, Internet commerce, and multitude of websites (offering goods and/or services) is finding them. Hence, the advent of that successful Internet business, the "web crawler" also known as a Web Search Engine. Google was not the first, but gained prominence as one of the most independent and best. Unfortunately, all three of the biggest, including Google, and also Yahoo and Bing (the first and the last, respectively) is that they pervert the very essence of their purpose in a manner which constitutes, possibly, anti-trust concerns as well as unfair and deceptive trade practices.

They do this in several ways. First and foremost, the most egregious manner in which they do this is when the search results appear in an order which places paid advertisements on top of the list. The innocent public is relying upon these search engines to provide a list of the most relevant web sites according to the objective criteria usually used by the Web Search Engine. Instead, sites which pay money jump to the top of the list, giving them an unfair advantage and misleading the innocent public.

I am not talking about the use of banner advertisements. We all know what they are. In fact, our viewing these advertisements is the compensation we expect to pay, and we expect the search engine to receive, for allowing us to use their search engine. It is analogous to the manner in which we (are forced to) watch commercials on TV, which funds the production and airing of the program we are watching.

Instead, the search engines hit us with a second, and hidden, way of getting compensated. This constitutes unfair and deceptive trade practices because we don't know that it is happening, and it is to our detriment and the search engine's profit. And don't let the search engines argue that they advise you in their disclaimers that this can occur. First, no one can find, read, and comprehend all the disclaimers they are hit with on the Internet. Second, as there are only three major search engines, these disclaimers still run afoul, potentially, of anti-trust laws.

Specifically, as there are only three search engines which dominate the market, their dominance of the market deprives us of the ability to seek alternative search engines which do not engage in this activity. Because this activity inhibits and dominates our access to all of that essential information, commerce, etc. on the Internet, regulating and prohibiting such practices is greatly in the public interest.

The second manner in which these search engines harm the user/consumer is by creating and purchasing other web sites, such as Google Earth and YouTube. Many of these products/services were created by other companies, but either purchased by the big three search engines or competing versions have been offered by them. I have no problem with this, so long as it is made clear to the consumer that they are being directed to a website owned by the search engine.

I have no problem with Google, even though it is arguably the most guilty of this, as they are the biggest search engine and have bought some of the biggest related web sites, like Google Earth (which I thoroughly enjoy.) Google deserved to be the biggest, as it was built from scratch, and its independence and the quality of its service was the best.

I am also troubled by the entry of Microsoft into search engines and related products. A strong Google is a counter measure to Microsoft, which continues to enter each and every aspect of software and the Internet.

Internet Explorer is now the number one Internet browser, and has dominance in the market, even though it was not even close to being the first. There were many word processing programs and other office related programs, like Word Perfect and Lotus 123 which were innovators and preceded Microsoft Office, yet were effectively driven out of business by Microsoft and its business products. I could go on and on, and for example, mention Microsoft's entry into the Instant Message area, e-mail area, video and audio player areas, and on and on.

I am glad Google is far ahead of Bing (owned by Microsoft), and I hope Bing fails. But, no matter how many search engines there are, with related services, they need to get their act together and act honestly towards the user/consumer, especially with regards to the results in their search engines.

Postscript: Just two days after I wrote and posted this blog, on May 10, 2011, Microsoft announced its purchase of Skype. This shows that my concerns were well founded and the problem I discuss is getting worse.

Back to Main Page of Blog

E-Mail Me with your comments


  1. What choice do we have? Don't these companies have the right to do what they want? There are some other lessor known search engines.


  2. Don't people understand that basic principles of capatilism are opposite to monopolies. Free markets do not work when there are monopolies. Our gut reaction against regulation is in fact a license to destroy capitalism.

    Wharton Student (University of Pennsylvania) like you

  3. You are right. This is why is is so hard for all of our blogs to come up on search engines. Especially Google blogs on Yahoo and Bing.

  4. I can sort of understand why you say this. On Google, your blog pops right up, so there you may be wront. But it is almost totally ignored on yahoo or bing.

  5. People, especially the people who are manipulated by Republican anti-regulation anti-union special interests don't understand that capitalism works only when there is transparency, equal bargaining strength, and no hidden costs, and the free exchange of information. Regulation and unionism, whether it is pollution controls, prohibitions against unfair labor practices, rules against unfair and deceptive trade practices, etc. actually help capitalism work, and are an integral part of capitalism (which is based on the premise that people will act in their own self-interests and therefore markets will reach maximum efficiency.

    This works, however, only when there is: (i) equality of bargaining strength [which implicitly rules out monopolies] so that the individual is able to make choices which are in a person's best interest (whether that person is a consumer, business, employee or employer); (ii) full and complete information and transparency and the ability the process that information (so the individual has the requisite knowledge to make the correct decision); and, (iii) no "hidden" costs or benefits.

    On this last point, what the individual pays and the benefits received need to be the same as for society overall. Use of imported oil is an excellent example of hidden costs (see my blog post on this topic.) Pollution, foreign policy concerns and other hidden costs do not discourage an individual from consuming this product to the same extent they would be discouraged, and would seek alternative sources of energy or alternative means of transportation if the true costs were reflected (in the price of a gallon of gasoline) and paid by the consumer. These hidden costs are as antithetical to capitalism as state subsidies in a planned economy.

    David M. Ginsberg

  6. I hate sponsored links

  7. You are not coming up a lot better on Google searches, but still not on Bing and Yahoo. I am finding, on all three searches, a link to your site through Youtube and a blog site "ChinaBlogNetwork" or something like that. It is screwy.