Google responds to FTC inquiry: Antitrust? What antitrust?

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Yesterday we wrote that the Federal Trade Commission was readying a large-scale Google antitrust probe, and today Google confirmed that it has received notification of an investigation from the regulatory agency. Google Fellow and key search engineer Amit Singhal responded to the situation in a blog post today, entitled “Support choice, ensuring economic opportunity.”

Singhal notes (hilariously) that “it’s still unclear exactly what the FTC’s concerns are” — even though it’s not difficult to see why the agency may be getting suspicious of the company’s extensive range of services, most of which inevitably tie back to Google’s search and advertising business. “We respect the FTC’s process and will be working with them (as we have with other agencies) over the coming months to answer questions about Google and our services,” Singhal said.

He went on to explain Google’s general philosophy when it comes to providing services:

Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that, if we focus on the user, all else will follow. No matter what you’re looking for—buying a movie ticket, finding the best burger nearby, or watching a royal wedding—we want to get you the information you want as quickly as possible. Sometimes the best result is a link to another website. Other times it’s a news article, sports score, stock quote, a video or a map.

Singhal noted that “using Google is a choice,” since there are plenty of other search engines, webmail options, and maps services online. Google aims to differentiate itself from the competition by focusing on what the user wants, providing relevant answers quickly, being clear about advertisements, being transparent, and encouraging loyalty, not lock-in. The subtext, of course, is that all of those goals keep Google from appearing too monopolistic — even if its reach on the web is undeniable.

This is just the beginning of what looks to be a long and drawn out antitrust investigation. The European Commission began its own investigation into Google’s advertising business last November after complaints from several companies, including Microsoft subsidiary Ciao.de.

Image via Florida Venture Blog


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