This is a bad week for Google. Seemingly every government regulatory agency in the world is currently investigating Google for anti-trust and unfair business practices. As of right now, the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department, the Senate's antitrust subcommittee, the European Commission, several state attorneys general, plus other agencies are all investigating the same ideas but all separately.
Google is everywhere - what exactly might they be investigating? Well, almost all of their actual business is search and advertising. They currently have around 66% of the US search business and around 80% of the European. When an organization gets that kind of popularity, the temptation to prioritize your own stuff gets very strong; that is what is currently being investigated.
For example, let's use video search. When you do a Google search for anything and there is a video that matches your search terms, whose results will be first? Usually YouTube. In fact, you will almost never see a Vimeo result in your search unless there are no YouTube results. Is it because YouTube just has better results or is it because Google owns YouTube and wants people using their service instead of Video?
For more complaints against Google and how this could all end, hit the break.
Some of the current complaints comes from services like Yelp. For those who may not know, Yelp is a localization tool that allows you to find restaurants and the like based on where you are or where you are going. The locations are maintained by users and rated, sometimes with extremely detailed ratings, by users for Yelp. Google now takes those ratings and incorporates them into their own service, Google Places. Yelp has, at no point, allowed Google to do this and, in fact, has fought against the practice since Google started.
Google's response to requests like this is always the same: you can always remove your content from Google's index and it will no longer appear in Google Places. The problem with this is that so much traffic comes in from Google because they are the largest search engine. So, now they have to make the choice of removing themselves from Google all together and not getting search result hits or allow Google to steal their content and present it as their own.
These are the practices that will be investigated. The case has been compared to the Microsoft cases of the 90s, mostly falsely. Obviously this is another giant technology firm being investigated, but that is where the comparison stops. Google has proven themselves as an untrustworthy and unfair player in the market for the last few years. They will make a product open, then close it up when it becomes popular, like the recent move with Android. We all know the result with Microsoft - they are still around because they actually promote competition (they have invested in Apple twice to keep them afloat) whereas Google wants to be your Internet overlord, even providing - a Google DNS service to ensure all traffic goes through them.
There is no way to know for sure how this will all end, but I can guess that there will be large sums of Google money going to the government or a Bell Telephone type situation where the corporation is split up. Only time will tell.