New Google Search Design Lawsuit: Read This First
As you see coverage about the new state AG lawsuit regarding Google Search, remember these three things:
— Google Search provides immense value for small businesses and consumers.
— Google faces growing competition in search.
— Global regulatory bodies have repeatedly found that Google’s search innovations benefit consumers.
Google Search provides immense value for consumers and small businesses.
Consumers attach enormous value, namely $17,500, to free search engines. The Economist: “Part of the problem is that GDP as a measure only takes into account goods and services that people pay money for. Internet firms like Google and Facebook do not charge consumers for access, which means that national-income statistics will underestimate how much consumers have benefitted from their rise.”
Google Search offers a wide array of rich and helpful features for consumers and businesses to productively engage information. “Presenting information in rich features, like an image carousel or a map, makes Google Search more helpful, both to people and to businesses. These features are designed so you can find the most relevant and useful information for your query. By improving our ability to deliver relevant results, we’ve seen that people are spending more time on the webpages they find through Search. The amount of time spent on websites following a click from Google Search has significantly grown year over year.”
Google Search enables small and local businesses to better connect and share relevant information with consumers online:
— “Search results that show local places and businesses now drive more than 4 billion connections between customers and businesses every month.”
— “Each month Google connects people with more than 120 million businesses that don’t have websites.”
— “With the pandemic causing daily disruptions worldwide, Google has helped businesses keep customers updated about everything from new services to adjusted store capacity and hours. Since the start of COVID-19, businesses made nearly 700 million edits to their Business Profiles.”
Google faces growing competition in search.
Google faces competition from well-heeled rivals like Microsoft Bing and Yahoo, rapidly growing providers like DuckDuckGo, and new entrants:
— Apple is reportedly working on a new search engine. “This aspect of search engine history plays in favor of Apple, which does not need to differentiate itself from Google. In fact, Apple’s search results need to be “just good enough” to be adopted by its users en masse. We can see this with the results of Apple maps, which was launched back in 2012.”
— Salesforce’s former Chief Scientist, Richard Socher, has announced a new search engine to take on Google.
— Former Google advertising executives founded a new search engine, Neeva, to compete in the search market.
Vertical search providers have been thriving for decades, and new entrants continue to emerge, including:
— Search engines face increasing competition from vertical search providers, with shoppers benefiting from more search options. According to an August 2020 survey from ChannelAdvisor, less than 25% of Americans start product searches on search engines, instead preferring specialized providers and websites when planning to make a digital purchase.
Leaked Google documents by the HJC investigation—which were also reviewed by the FTC’s search investigation in 2011-13—confirm that as early as 2010, Google was focused on user-centric improvements to compete in a crowded and competitive vertical search space. “[Google] began investing heavily in vertical-based improvements beyond universal. Staffed up ranking teams to improve shopping results, began rich snippets. More recently added focus on people… Vertical search is of tremendous strategic importance to Google, … [with] many many strong niche competitors: Amazon (shopping), Yelp (local), Kayak (flights), Hotels.com (hotels), Edmunds (cars), AllRecipes (recipes)… In addition, Bing has explicitly made improving verticals a key part of their strategy to beat Google.”
Global regulatory bodies have repeatedly found that Google’s search innovations benefit consumers.
The FTC concluded in 2013—following a multi-year, in-depth investigation—that Google’s updates to its search algorithms were largely a result of pro-competitive efforts to meet user preferences. “Google adopted the design changes that the Commission investigated to improve the quality of its search results, and that any negative impact on actual or potential competitors was incidental to that purpose. While some of Google’s rivals may have lost sales due to an improvement in Google’s product, these types of adverse effects on particular competitors from vigorous rivalry are a common byproduct of ‘competition on the merits’ and the competitive process that the law encourages… these changes to Google’s search algorithm could reasonably be viewed as improving the overall quality of Google’s search results because the first search page now presented the user with a greater diversity of websites.”
The Canadian Competition Bureau found that Google’s product changes are made to improve the user experience. “Google’s changes are generally made to improve user experiences. For example, Google takes steps to demote websites that attempt to artificially increase their ranking in the search results independent of the quality or relevancy of their content… In fact, providing objective answers in prominent places on the SERP is generally beneficial to consumers.”
A German court rejected the notion that Google owed duty to any vertical-content publishers at the expense of improved user experience. “It is fundamentally legitimate [for Google] to seek to increase the quality of its offer by displaying its own content, rather than confining itself to presenting the results of its [web search] algorithm.It is fundamentally legitimate [for Google] to seek to increase the quality of its offer by displaying its own content, rather than confining itself to presenting the results of its [web search] algorithm.”
A British court established that Google’s pro-competitive innovation enhanced the quality of the search product and service. “I have concluded that introduction of the new-style Maps OneBox was intended to improve Google’s offering in the market for general search. And it is indisputable that the display of a thumbnail map on the SERP in response to a geographic query indeed enhances the quality of the Google SERP.”
A Brazilian court ruled that Google developed algorithms to promote quality and relevance of search results for end users like consumers and retailers. “There are reasonable arguments that the innovations introduced by Google in its products (i) were well received by the end user, who, on average, understood that the changes improved the search experience: (ii) they are also valued by retailers that advertise on these products; (iii) reduce transaction costs for the final consumer, by providing more accurate results to the search terms entered in the search engine.”
Taiwan’s FTC concluded that Google’s search display practices are consistent with their goal to provide user convenience and benefits. “Our investigation shows that this [search display] practice could be seen as providing convenience to users and in line with users’ benefits.”