A Guide to the Senate Judiciary Hearing

9/19/11 | 11:15:00 PM

Here’s a viewer’s guide to the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee’s Google hearing on September 21:
  1. When you hear, “Google is a gateway to the web and controls what people see,” remember...
  • Using Google is a choice. Sure, Google has lots of users, but Google is more like a GPS for the Internet -- a helpful guide, but not necessary to get around
  • Why do people use Google? Because it gives them the answers they’re looking for.
  • Unlike technologies of the past (like browsers or operating systems), the Internet is fundamentally open, which means if consumers don’t like the answers Google provides, they can switch with one click to sites like Bing, Yahoo, NexTag, Amazon, Yelp, Facebook or any other website.
  • AOL and MySpace were called “gatekeepers” once too...
  1. When you hear, “Google favors its own content,” remember...
  • Google ranks search results to deliver the best answers to users, and that is the only consideration – not political viewpoints, and not advertising dollars.
  • Sometimes the best, most useful answer to a query is one of the traditional “ten blue links.” But sometimes it’s a news article, sports score, stock quote, flight times, video, shopping results, or a map -- any of which we may place above or among the other results from across the web.
  • Every search engine has shifted toward providing more answers directly in the search results -- because it’s what consumers want. Microsoft and search experts agree.
  • Can you spot any differences how Bing, Yahoo! and Google answer these queries?
    “samsung bd-p1600 prices” : [
    Bing result] [Yahoo! result] [Google result]
    “chinese restaurants san francisco” : [
    Bing result] [Yahoo! result] [Google result]
    (we can’t either...)

  1. When you hear, “Google’s search ranking changes hurt a certain website or caused them to lose traffic,” remember...
  • Google makes more than 500 changes to our search algorithms every year, and each change is designed to improve the quality of our search results for consumers. Consumers come to search engines to help them sift through all the information on the web, and not every site can appear at the top of the results.
  • We have a rigorous scientific testing process to assess how consumers respond to potential algorithm changes.
  • We understand that it’s frustrating for websites when their sites fall in the search results. That’s why we provide a huge amount of information to websites about how to improve their performance.
  1. When you hear, “Google deters other companies from innovating,” remember...
  • The Internet is the ultimate level playing field. Google’s success in search hasn’t stopped companies like Facebook, Twitter, Groupon or LinkedIn from finding huge audiences online. Google’s success hasn’t stopped the explosion of mobile apps as a new way for people to consume information.
  • Google has affected innovation in positive ways. Android has sparked new innovation in mobile devices, while our web browser, Chrome, helped jump-start innovation in the stagnant browser space.
  • Google’s programming tools have allowed new businesses to be created. For example, a business called MapMyRun.com allows you to track your running routes, utilizing Google Maps to power its service.
  1. When you hear, “Google is hurting small businesses,” remember...
  • It’s just not true. In fact, Google’s search quality team has worked hard to develop algorithms that surface small and local business home pages (sometimes ahead of large review sites) when someone is searching for them.
  • We continually keep small businesses in mind when we test out new algorithms and evaluate possible improvements to the algorithms.
  • The biggest problem small businesses face is not being online in the first place (63% of small businesses don’t have a website). Google is helping solve that problem through our “Getting America’s Business Online” initiative.
  1. When you hear, “Google used third party reviews improperly for its Place Pages,” remember...
  • Partly in response to business conversations with third party review websites, Google changed its Place Pages in July to no longer include review snippets from third party review sites (Google never showed whole reviews from other sites). Independent analysts said that this change “Essentially...gives Yelp and Trip Advisor their wish...”

  • Google still wants to be able to provide high-quality local business information to consumers, which is why we acquired Zagat.
  • If consumers don’t like the answers that Google is providing about local businesses, they can switch to Yelp, TripAdvisor or other sites with one click
  1. When you hear, “Google limits choice in the Android mobile operating system,” remember...
  • Android is open source, and any phone manufacturer can use it for free. That’s led to more choice and competition in the smartphone space.
  • Google doesn’t require phone manufacturers who use Android to pre-install Google apps. If they choose to pre-install Google apps, that doesn’t stop consumers from installing apps from Google’s competitors.

For more, visit http://www.google.com/competition/