Here’s What Google Will Look Like in Europe Now
Google’s antitrust case in Europe finally got to the specifics. The European Commission said today that Google had agreed to label search results from its own properties, link to at least three rival services, allow sites to opt out of providing data for Google’s vertical search sites without impacting their own rankings and give newspaper publishers more control over how their content is displayed in Google News.
Basically, this covers search labeling and scraping, as expected. It’s trying to set a more level playing ground for how Google treats its competitors, and to address some of the ways it may have abused its power in the past — like by including Yelp reviews in its own local search in a way that discouraged people from ever visiting Yelp.
You can see in the illustrations here that Google will include a little lowercase “i” with a circle around it next to results from its own properties, and will also sometimes encase them in a “sponsored” box:
As part of the agreement, Google also conceded some limitations it had put on its advertisers, similar to the deal it made in the U.S. The commitments don’t include anything related to concerns about use of patents.
Competitors now have a month-long “market test” to comment, then Google has to implement the changes for five years throughout Europe.
So why is this different and stronger than the mild hand-slap that Google received in the U.S.? Well, first of all, European laws are stricter, and Google is much more dominant than it is in Europe, with search market shares above 90 percent.
But, second, competitors are already saying that this won’t go far enough.
ICOMP, an organization representing Google’s competitors, immediately fired off a round of comments today about how labeling something as wrong doesn’t fix the fact that it’s wrong.
“If the proposals don’t clearly set out non-discrimination principles and the means to deal with the restoration of effective competition, plus effective enforcement and compliance, it’s very difficult to see how they can be satisfactory,” ICOMP said in a blog post. “[I]t is clear that mere labelling is not any kind of solution to the competition concerns that have been identified. Google should implement the same ranking policy to all websites.”
Said a Google spokesperson, as usual, “We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission.”
Embedded below is the text document of Google’s commitments, which contains a bunch of images showing how the proposed labeling will look: