The European Commission (EC) has been on the warpath recently as it relates to technology, Google, and other tech companies. After the EC decided to re-open their Google anti-trust investigation, News Corp’s Chief Executive Robert Thomson stirred the pot a bit and penned an open letter to the EC, detailing their issues with Google, and lauding the EC for re-opening their investigation. Google, as you can imagine, disagreed with News Corp’s assessment. Yesterday, Googles’s SVP Global Communications, Rachel Whetstone, penned an open letter of her own, responding to and refuting some of Mr. Thomson’s biggest points. I’ll discuss a few of these responses below.
Most notably, News Corp attempted to paint Google as a company that constantly re-works their search algorithms to benefit themselves, an action that Google says is simply not true:
“Sudden changes are made to the ranking and display of Google search results, which inevitably maximise income for Google and yet punish small companies that have become dependent on Google for their livelihood.”
Of course we regularly change our algorithms — we make over 500 changes a year. But these changes are all about improving the user experience, not punishing small companies. Indeed, it’s well documented that the highest-profile change to our search ranking, called “Panda”, actually reduced our advertising revenue. As Yelp, another complainant to the EC, said on a recent earnings call: “Where we have the largest communities in the U.S., we’ve seen actually an uptick as a result of the recent Google algorithmic change. They’re constantly making changes and alterations … and most of that really, on a day-to-day basis, doesn’t have a material effect”.
Most would agree that Yelp probably isn’t a “small” company, but their results speak volumes. Not only are they able to debunk the idea that Google’s algorithmic changes punish the small dependent companies, they go so far as to prove Google’s response. Yelp’s results may not be typical, who knows, but at least for now, I’d say Google 1 – News Corp – 0.
Though somewhat unrelated to their other complaints, Mr. Thomson brought up Android for some reason:
“Google has developed a “certification” process for Android-related products which allows it to delay or deny content companies and other businesses access to the mobile operating system, while giving itseIf the freedom to develop competing products.”
Android is an open-source operating system that can be used free-of-charge by anyone. You don’t need Google’s permission. If hardware manufacturers want to offer applications via Google Play, our digital apps store, we simply ask that they meet a minimum technical standard to ensure these apps run smoothly and securely across a range of Android-powered devices. This is good for users and for app developers. Many manufacturers, including Amazon and Nokia, choose to install their own apps stores on their Android-based devices.
Some will argue that Android is absolutely not an open-source operating system, and those arguments do have merit. Google’s apps have become increasingly closed-source, but as Google states, Android itself can be used by anybody if Google’s apps are not included.
As a final jab back at News Corp, Google finishes with this gem:
“Undermining the basic business model of professional content creators will lead to a less informed, more vexatious level of dialogue in our society … the intemperate trends we are already seeing in much of Europe will proliferate.”
People probably have enough evidence to judge that one for themselves 🙂
It’s important to note, The Sun is a wholly owned subsidiary of News Corp. Very professional of them, don’t you think? We’ll have to wait and see how the European Commission responds, and what direction they’ll take in their quarrel with Google. It’s yet to be seen whether or not either of these open letters will hold any sway over their decision. You can read the original letter as well as Google’s response at the source links below.
Featured image courtesy of the AP (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)