People should be watching the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights hearing on "The Power of Google: Serving Consumers or Threatening Competition?" today. Executive Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt will testify along with a number of his competitors who claim Google has hurt their business. NextTag, Yelp, and Expedia will be represented.
The Power of Google
The UK Guardian thinks Schmidt will "argue the company offers a level playing field for rival products – and is increasingly facing competition from social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. He will argue that Google's position as the world's No 1 search engine belies a rise in alternative ways to find information online, pointing to Facebook and other social networks. Research from Nielsen last week showed that US internet users spend more time on Facebook than any other website."
Additionally, All Things Digital reports Schmidt will testify that “Microsoft’s Bing launched in June 2009 and has grown so rapidly that some commentators have speculated that it could overtake Google as early as 2012.”
What is being overlooked here is one is not the same as the other. Google isn't a social network - even with what they have on offer in Google Plus – it is a search engine. Comparing it to Facebook is like comparing radio and TV – true one impacted the other but they were different mediums.
Regardless, Google has prepared its own website, Facts about Google and Competition, which Google is calling a "viewer's guide" to the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee's hearing. Featuring seven talking points, Google preemptively tries to spin the following topics in their favor:
- Google is a gateway to the web and controls what people see.
- Google favors its own content.
- Google's search ranking changes hurt a certain website or caused them to lose traffic.
- Google deters other companies from innovating.
- Google is hurting small businesses.
- Google used third party reviews improperly for its Place Pages.
- Google limits choice in the Android mobile operating system.
Startup search engine Blekko offered support to Google yesterday. In a blog post, "Blekko's not afraid of Google, why is Washington?", CEO Rich Skrenta noted that the products Apple has brought to market have done far more damage to Microsoft than the Department of Justice lawsuit they faced in the 1990s.
"The success of Google should be applauded on Capitol Hill, not derided," Skrenta wrote. "Let’s let entrepreneurs, technology and good old-fashioned innovation deal with Google. Consumers will always be the winners in that scenario."
How to Watch the Hearing
In the early days of television Senate subcommittee hearings were as popular as soap operas. "From the 1950s through the 1970s, televised Senate hearings played a major part in shaping public opinion on topics ranging from organized crime and alleged communist infiltration of federal agencies to the war in Vietnam and the Watergate scandals," the U.S. Senate site explains.
Sadly, yet realistically, we no longer keep that close an eye on our public and corporate officials. The major networks aren't covering it live – we'll have to see how many minutes it gets in the news.
If you want to watch the Senate is streaming it and cable channel C-SPAN3 will air the hearing live at 2 p.m. ET. I wonder what most of the monitors will be tuned to in Mountain View today?
I'll be watching and I hope they discuss their impact on the analytics market when they bought Urchin and started giving away a service numerous companies were making a living charging varying fees for.
What Will Be Covered?
Search rankings will obviously be the large focus of the hearing. Given Expedia is represented by counsel, the purchase of ITA will no doubt be front and center. Yelp will be able to tell how their information has been usurped and dropped by Google, while NextTag will be able to present their case for loss in rankings.
While Google addresses the U.S. Senate they are also dealing with numerous antitrust issues in Europe and have court dates in numerous countries.
"Today Google, like Microsoft then, is both admired and feared. Google has used the riches from its dominance in search and search advertising to expand into video distribution with YouTube, smartphone software with Android and Web browsers with Chrome. It has added online commerce offerings in local retail and restaurants, comparison shopping and travel, and folded them into its search engine, prompting complaints that Google is giving its businesses preferred placement in search results," the New York Times noted.
What they are missing is they are buying into those areas where their major advertisers are. That Google knows conversion numbers of successful advertisers cannot be denied, whether they use such information for developing programs and products is unknown.
Have the manipulated results for their own benefit? There are numerous types of articles on this issue. The fact Google laid a trap for Bing by manipulating their results shows they can do it... whether it is done any other time and for what reasons is the big question.
Must Watch TV
People in our industry need to watch this hearing, as should the generic public, to understand exactly what this company does. Their latest Droid phone ad even plays with the attitude of them taking over. We really don't need a Big Brother and this may be the start of the break up of a dominant force in everyone's lives. Either way, it is must watch TV.
What would you like the Senate to ask Google? Leave us your questions in the comments below.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!