Who is FairSearch.org?

9/10/12 | 11:15:00 AM

FairSearch is an astroturf group comprised of Google's competitors, not consumers

FairSearch claims to represent consumers’ best interests, but it consists of companies who either compete directly with Google or don’t like where their websites appear in Google’s search results. No consumers or consumer groups are members of FairSearch. FairSearch’s members are:

General web search competitors:

  • Microsoft

Travel search competitors:

  • Kayak (owns SideStep)
  • Expedia (owns TripAdvisor, Hotwire; co-founded Level...com)
  • Interactive Travel Services Association (Expedia is member)
Product search competitors:
  • Buscape (owned by same parent company as Allegro)
  • Foundem
  • Twenga
  • TheFind

Search advertising competitors:
  • adMarketplace.com

Other complainants:

  • ShopCity.com (site that has complained about its ranking in Google search)
  • Oracle (lost patent lawsuit against Google)
  • Nokia (Microsoft mobile partners)

Consumers and experts say that FairSearch is “a front for Microsoft” and “not in the customer’s best interest”

Industry analysts call FairSearch “just a bunch of whiners,” “a front for Microsoft,” and say its allegations “are full of exaggerations, half-truths, and mistakes”
FairSearch has almost nothing [to do] with fairness, reliability or protecting the the consumers’ best interests. It also seems that its only objective is to ram Google on every opportunity it has while pretending to be unbiased and only serving the group members’ self-interests.” [Omri Shabat, Working Home Guide, 9/14/12]

“[FairSearch members] have chosen to whine about their poor, poor situation and they want a regulatory body to bring Google down a few pegs... [It] essentially looks like a front for Microsoft to somehow make Google stub its big Internet toe on something to slow them down.” [Frank Reed, Marketing Pilgrim, 7/18/11]

“But reports like [this white paper from FairSearch], which are full of exaggerations, half-truths and mistakes rob from that attention. This report, as well as FairSearch overall, seems designed solely to target Google no matter what it takes, no matter what tall tales need to be told. I find that bizarre, that all this attention seems to be revolving around a tiny number of companies that feel Google is somehow being anti-competitive toward them...” [Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land, 10/11/11]

Consumers say that FairSearch is “not in the customer’s best interest”

“So let’s call this [FairSearch] what it is: Companies attempting to strong-arm their name in front of clients through the use of government regulation. That’s Bing, and that’s every webmaster who signs on to this. That’s not fair. That’s not healthy. That’s not in the customer’s best interest. The customers know that more search options exist. They simply don’t want them.” [MrAndrewJ via Marketing Pilgrim, 7/18/11]

Another misinfomercial from MSs old style PR team. I am neither surprised or delighted.” [jnffarrell1 via Search Engine Land, 9/14/12]

[T]his group is a negative PR and lobbying initiative by Google's rivals to eliminate Google as a competitor, it is a despicable thing and as to why would anyone give them a second glance (specially those in government) is beyond me.” [David via GroovyPost, 12/11]

Comments on FairSearch’s Facebook page criticize its “hypocrisy,” and “obvious smear campaign”

“You talk about fair search yet you only question Google - is that fair? ... This obvious smear campaign should now be shelved, with all of your advertising and after nearly two years in existence, you only have 3,765 likes! Give it up whoever's behind 'Fair Search' - it's clearly not working!” [Nikki Labrum, 8/10/12]

“This is just Google's competitors whining because Google is better than them.” [Daniel B.D. Murray, 9/9/11]
“I feel dirty from the amount of hypocrisy in this place.” [Jeremy Moran, 9/9/11]

FairSearch is powered by Microsoft and Microsoft affiliates

FairSearch is run by Microsoft’s former public relations firm and the former head of Microsoft’s Washington office.

All threads come together at the Glover Park Group in Washington. . . . Those seeking to contact the Fairsearch website will encounter Ben Hammer, a former technology journalist, who today is the vice president of Glover Park. He is willing to talk about anything, just not the relationship between Glover Park, Fairsearch, Expedia and Microsoft. "Transparency is very important to us," he stresses only to express his displeasure at naming who he works for: "That's beside the point. Do I ask you how much you earn?"” [Brand Eins (Germany), 9/12]

The Glover Park Group previously handled Microsoft’s public policy and government affairs public relations.

    • Jack Krumholtz, the managing director of government relations at Glover Park, previously served as managing director of federal government affairs and associate general counsel at Microsoft for fourteen years.

“That [Microsoft lobbying] machine was present in the halls of the Dirksen Senate Office Building just prior to Schmidt's testimony last month. Microsoft's public-relations executives were working the throng of journalists outside the hearing room, pointing to any and all information that would appear to incriminate Google for antitrust violations.” [CNET, Oct. 3, 2011]

Expedia SVP of government affairs calls himself “the Father of Fairsearch”

Expedia manager Brent Thompson [...] refers to himself as the father of Fairsearch...’But we aren't even trying to explain this to consumers. For that, we’d need to launch a massive campaign as big as the one for the seatbelt requirement or cancer prevention. We intervene at a higher level in order to initiate investigations on the part of politicians and investigative authorities."” [Brand Eins (Germany), 9/12]

FairSearch’s so-called “victims” are actually thriving

The Daily Caller reports that “several of Google’s competitors are playing the victim card to regulators while reporting successes to their investors”

“[Expedia] complained to regulators that it was largely dependent upon search engines for traffic in 2011, but in October 2010, CEO Dara Khrosrowshahi told investors that search traffic is “much less profitable traffic” than direct traffic.” [Daily Caller, 9/20/12]

“TripAdvisor has also logged complaints with the E.U. Commission and the U.S. government against Google, charging unfair and “anticompetitive practices.” But according to recent statements by TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer, Google is far from a threat to the company. In a July earnings call, not only did Kaufer think that Google’s Google Places app was not taking traffic away from TripAdvisor, but that it would be even better for the company to shift more resources towards Facebook since it was working out well.” [Daily Caller, 9/20/12]

“In the roughly two years since Google launched flight search and hotel search, Kayak CEO Steve Hafner says, “We haven’t seen any impact on our business.” This statement, made in a CNBC interview, would appear to directly contradict the central claim of the lobbying group to which Kayak belongs, FairSearch.org. The central claim is that there’s “growing evidence that Google is abusing its search monopoly to thwart competition.” . . . By its own account Kayak is prospering.” [Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land, 9/21/12]