Google FTC Probe Is Not About Search

WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 17:  (L-R, back row) Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Attorney General Eric Holder and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan attend a meeting with attorneys general from 12 states about combating fraud in the housing markets at the Treasury Department September 17, 2009 in Washington, DC. Attorneys general from Arizaona, Nevada, Arkansas and other states participated in the meeing.I keep hearing how users have a choice in search engines, Google is making a great search engine and shouldn’t be punished by the FTC for being so good.  I keep reading that this is like the Microsoft/OEM Anti-trust case.  That argument is backwards.

Google's search dominance is not the problem it is their advertising dominance.  Google can give preference to their properties,  increase the price of a keyword and put their own ad up for free.  Type "Image Search" or "find images" in chrome and "Google Search" is an ad.Type a product name and Google's comparison shopping engine appears.  Since they are a publisher and an advertiser, they can bid up keywords and advertise for free.  This is not about consumer choice but advertiser choice.  An advertiser sees Google as a monopoly.  If you want to advertise a keyword there is finite inventory and 80%+ is on Google.  Google sets the price and every serious advertiser HAS to deal with them.

For the record, I have great respect for Google, and believe they are not being Evil, just misunderstood.  They may have made some mistakes and if they did, they will correct and move on.  Nonetheless, the debate is about advertiser choice, not user choice.