IDG News Service - The European Commission said today that it's in the early stages of an antitrust investigation into search giant Google Inc.
"The Commission can confirm that it has received three complaints against Google which it is examining," the European Union's top antitrust authority said in a statement.
It added that this doesn't amount to a formal investigation "for the time being."
The Commission said that it informed Google of the investigation earlier this month and asked the company to comment on the allegations. Google will cooperate closely with the national competition authorities from the 27 E.U. member states, it said.
According to a Google blog post that appeared overnight European time, the complaints filed with the Commission came from U.K. price comparison site Foundem, a French legal search engine called eJustice.fr, and a German search site called Ciao that was recently acquired by Microsoft Corp. The Commission did not name the companies.
Google pointed out in its blog that Foundem is a member of a trade group called iComp, which is largely funded by Microsoft.
In a statement, Microsoft said that "it's natural for competition officials to look at online advertising, given how important it is to the development of the Internet and the dominance of one player."
Google's top antitrust lawyer, Julia Holtz, said in a conference call with journalists today that she doesn't expect the Commission to pursue its probe beyond the preliminary stage it is at now.
"We are hopeful we can convince the Commission not to pursue a case. I am confident they will conclude there is nothing to it," she said.
She blamed Microsoft for sparking the probe in the first place. "Microsoft is our competitor, and that explains many actions," she said.
Google's algorithms lie at the heart of the inquiry. While they are written by the company's programmers, Holtz said they try to match what users are looking for as closely as possible. The same is the case for all search engines.
Foundem's complaint focuses on the fact that its Web site dropped sharply down the rankings of pages that appear in Google searches. Foundem argues that this happened because it is being blacklisted because it competes with Google. In December, the price comparison site returned to the high position in the page rankings.
Holtz claimed that Google neither blacklists nor whitelists pages. She said that Foundem returned to greater prominence in Google's search results because "they made changes to their Web site that caused them to rise again." She noted that the webmaster tools on the Google search Web sites give detailed instructions how to gain a higher position in search results.
However, she was less clear about why Foundem fell in the first place. She said Google makes around 400 changes to its search algorithms every year, explaining that changes are necessary in order to stay one step ahead of spammers, who constantly try to get high page rankings for their Web sites, even when their sites don't offer what the users are searching for.
The main factor influencing how pages are ranked is whether they contain users' search terms, but there are around 200 signals that help determine how pages are ranked, Holtz said.
Other Web sites can also influence Google's search results, she said, explaining that "references from others is a good indicator of the importance of a Web site."
- Yahoo can't stall Bing rollout in Taiwan, Hong Kong
- Google keeps Bing, Yahoo at bay in search business
- Google updates Google Now, makes it more prominent on phones
- Yahoo to focus on search -- and Google
- Microsoft's Bing counters Google with Yelp partnership
- Mozilla dumps Yandex as default search for Russian Firefox
- Google aims to make search smarter, easier
- Microsoft Bing goes social in search war with Google
- Facebook tries to out-Google Google with new search tool
- Google, Microsoft each seek search 'game changer'
- 18 Hot IT Certifications for 2014
- CIOs Opting for IT Contractors Over Hiring Full-Time Staff
- 12 Best Free iOS 7 Holiday Shopping Apps
- For CMOs Big Data Can Lead to Big Profits
- Slideshow: 5 ways to lock down your mobile device
- Slideshow: 10 mistakes companies make after a data breach
- How to rob a bank: A social engineering walk through
- Which smartphone is the most secure?
If you think getting it right from day one is always what matters, you probably haven't been following technology too closely.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Mitigating DDoS Attacks with F5 Technology
- This document examines various DDoS attack methods and the application of specific ADC technologies to block attacks in the DDoS threat spectrum while...
- The DDoS Threat Spectrum
- Bolstered by favorable economics, today's global botnets are using distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks to target firewalls, web services, and applications, often simultaneously.
- Defending Against Denial of Service Attacks
- By utilizing end-user interviews, this whitepaper explores a deeper understanding of DDoS defense plans and reveals the knowledge gaps around the Denial of...
- Strategic Solutions for Government IT
- This paper outlines why F5 is the optimum partner to help achieve the levels of security, performance and availability that are vital to...
- Armed and Dangerous: Help your IT Organization Embrace Enterprise Mobility
- Becoming a mobile enterprise means new opportunities for your organization yet letting employees choose their own devices and then access corporate resources, apps,... All Government IT White Papers
- Modernizing SAP environments with minimum risk - a path to Big Data Hear from top IDC analyst, Richard Villars, about the path you can start taking now to enable your organization to get the benefits...
- Fighting Fraud Videos: IBM Intelligent Investigation Manager Short videos about IBM Intelligent Investigation Manager (IIM) for Fraud. IIM optimizes the investigation of fraud for customers across many industries in both...
- IBM Intelligent Investigation Manager: Online Product Demo Intelligent Investigation Manager optimizes fraud investigation and analysis and it dynamically coordinates and reports on cases, provides analysis and visualization, and enables more...
- Webinar: IBM IIM for Fraud, Abuse and Waste in Government View this IBM webinar to learn about the challenges and opportunities in fraud reduction, waste, and abuse in government programs and agencies. You...
- Pre-Engineered solutions from VCE Simplify Core Infrastructure Implementation In this video, the CTO of Purdue Pharma, a privately held pharmaceutical company explains how Purdue transformed their data center infrastructure with VCE.
- All Government IT Webcasts
Does your organization offer extensive benefits, cool perks, competitive salaries, opportunities for training and advancement? Then get it recognized!
Nominate your company or another deserving organization for Computerworld's 2014 Best Places to Work in IT list now through Dec. 12, 2013.