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Watchdog Backs Google Antitrust Complaint with (More) Data

YouTube on Google = IE on Windows?

 

Public advocate and longtime Google critic Consumer Watchdog has
issued a report [1] alleging that the web giant may have
used its search monopoly to illegally drive traffic to its own
services.

Citing three years of web data from research outfit Hitwise, the
report claims that Google significantly increased its share of three
separate online markets after rolling out its so-called Universal Search
setup, which inserts links from other Google services into prominent
positions on the company’s search results pages. Most notably, the
report says, after launching Universal Search in 2007, Google doubled
its share of the online video market.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to some estimates [2], the company controls as much
as 85 per cent of the global search market.

The report also claims that Google made similar leaps in the online
mapping and price comparison markets. Consumer Watchdog’s John Simpson
singles out the rise of Google Maps at the expense of Mapquest, the
former market leader. “One of the things that really struck us was what
happened with Mapquest. When Google Maps started to get high priority
— bam! — Mapquest just crumbled,” Simpson tells The Reg. “And
we see a similar situation with video.”

It should be noted, however, that unlike with Google Maps, YouTube
was already the market leader when Universal Search debuted. But in the
last three years, according to Consumer Watchdog’s data, YouTube’s
share climbed from just under 40 per cent to just under 80 per cent.

Consumer Watchdog on Google video share

YouTube video traffic share since 2007 (source: Consumer Watchdog
and Hitwise)

This is share by traffic, and it should also be noted that a separate
report from comScore puts YouTube’s share of video views at
about 43 per cent.

Consumer Watchdog intends to share its report with regulators in the
US and the EU. “We’re in the process,” Simpson says. The report was
sparked by a recent EU antitrust complaint filed against Google by
UK-based price comparison site Foundem. In its complaint, filed in late
February, Foundem makes
similar accusations
[3] of monopoly abuse. The complaint is under
seal, but the portion related to Google’s Universal Search was echoed
in filing with the US Federal Communications Commission.

“Universal Search transforms Google’s ostensibly neutral search
engine into an immensely powerful marketing channel for Google’s other
services,” the FCC filing reads.

“[It] allows Google to leverage its search engine monopoly into
virtually any field it chooses. Wherever it does so, competitors will be
harmed, new entrants will be discouraged, and innovation will
inevitably be suppressed.”

The filing accused Google of illegally harming competitors in the
online mapping and price comparison markets, hinting the practice was
akin to Microsoft abusing its operating system monopoly in bundling
applications with Windows. With its report — released today — Consumer
Watchdog has expanded on the scope of the filing to include video as
well.

According to Consumer Watchdog’s numbers, since the advent of
Universal Search, Google’s share of the online mapping market has jumped
from about 17 per cent to 51 per cent, while Mapquest’s share has
dropped from 57.24 per cent to 32 per cent. And it cites the same
numbers as Foundem in showing Google’s share of the price comparison
market climbing at the expense of competitors. From November 2007 to
December 2009, according to the data, Google’s Product Search service —
formerly Froogle — leapt from 1.3 million users to more than 20
million.

Google  Product<br />
Search statistics

Unique monthly US visitors to Google Product Search, January 2007 –
November 2009 (source: comScore)

Google Product Search, however, still trails Shopzilla, which boasts
21 million uniques, according to Consumer Watchdog’s numbers.

Consumer Watchdog stresses that its data does not necessarily show
that Google’s rise in the video, mapping, and price comparison markets
was caused by Universal Search. It merely points out that the company’s
rise in the markets began around the same time as the debut of the
search setup.

“Google would say ‘Gol-lee, this all happened because our products
are so much better,’” Simpson tells us. “But we are saying ‘Gol-lee, in
2007, they made this change with Universal Search and there products
got advantaged in the results and that’s when the traffic started to
climb. We think there’s an interesting correlation there that needs
further study.”

Links

  1. http://insidegoogle.com/2010/06/google-using-search-engine-to-muscle-into-internet-businesses-study-finds-2/
  2. http://marketshare.hitslink.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx?qprid=5
  3. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/03/29/foundem_fcc_filing_on_google/