Google has defended its search practices by saying they are designed to benefit web users, not websites, in response to a call from European publishers urging European commissioners to reject Google’s most recent search concessions.
In February the European Commission (EC) announced that it had accepted a third round of commitments from Google relating to concerns that it was abusing its dominance in the search market to promote its own products.
The commitments have been under scrutiny since then and European publishers have banded together to voice their unhappiness with Google’s offerings.
The crux of their argument is that Google promotes its own services far ahead of rivals, or draws data from other sites for information such as news, weather or map locations, thereby reducing the chance of someone visiting their sites.
“The commitments do not preclude Google from favouring own services. Nor do they limit Google's ability and incentive to demote rivals. The most relevant concerns remain unaddressed,” read the statement from the publishers.
“The most prominent areas of any search results pages would be reserved for Google's own services, independent of their quality, while all rival services, even if they are far more relevant to a search query, have to accept inferior visibility.”
The publishers instead want Google to ensure no services, including its own, have any bias displayed in searches, that no content is taken from third-parties, and that there are no search punishments for sites that restrict their data from Google searches.
However, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt has hit back at the report, arguing that Google is not designed for websites and the businesses behind them, but for web users.
As such, Schmidt wrote in a post on Google's European public policy blog entitled, 'We built Google for users, not websites,' that the firm believes it is doing the right thing by displaying information directly on its search page, such as weather data.
“Ask for the weather and we give you the local weather right at the top. This means weather sites rank lower, and get less traffic. But because it’s good for users, we think that’s OK,” he wrote.
"If you’re after directions to the nearest pharmacy, you get a Google Map with the closest stores and information to get you there. Again we think that’s a great result for users."
Schmidt added that the EC's latest statement on Google's concessions acknowledged it was important that Europeans were not deprived of such search innovations.
"In each case we’re trying to get you direct answers to your queries because it’s quicker and less hassle than the 10 blue links Google used to show. This is especially important on mobile where screens are smaller and typing is harder."
The EC is still in the process of receiving feedback from those involved in the dispute before it makes a final decision on whether to accept Google's commitments as legally binding. There is no set date for when this will happen.
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