Mozilla Drops Google For Yahoo; The Fascinating Problem We Might Be Able To Solve As A Result

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SHAFAQNA –  We’ve the news that Mozilla has dropped Google as the default search engine in favour of Yahoo (and thus Bing). This is a technological move that doesn’t much concern me here. However, if we study this change carefully and in detail then we should end up with very interesting, even fascinating, evidence to help us solve a public policy problem.That problem being, well, how much control should we be trying to exert over how Google presents its search results? Currently the answers between the US and the European Union are very different. And which method you support is, at present, most likely determined by your basic attitudes towards commercial freedom and regulation: not anything so annoying as actual evidence one way or the other. However, this change, Mozilla moving from Google to Yahoo, might, if we bother to examine the information that will be available, present us with some actual evidence to help us make up our minds.

One version of the announcement is here:

Mozilla has announced a new five-year deal to make Yahoo! its default search engine, ending a long-standing agreement with online goliath Google.

However, embarassingly for the two companies a surge in traffic led to Mozilla’s announcement page crashing, shortly after the news was announced late on Thursday night.

The new partnership, announced in a blog post by Yahoo! chief executive Marissa Meyer, will result in a major win for Yahoo.

Mozilla Firefox users search the web more than 100 billion times each year. By comparison only 10pc of web searches are made through Yahoo!, which is powered by Microsoft Bing.

So here’s the basic background. In the US, as a court agreed last week, Google can display its results any darn way it wants to. This is a free speech issue and yes, corporations do have the right of free speech. Over here in Europe the situation is very different. The European Union insists that Google is the dominant search engine (which it is in many markets although not all. Where there was spirited local language competition, like in the Czech Republic, Google barely has a majority of search rather than anything approaching a dominant position). This near monopoly means that the EU should be allowed to specify, on pain of fines for non-compliance (and those fines can be as much as 10% of global turnover) how Google presents search results. We’ve thus got detailed negotiations going on about whether Google can present its own travel results, or hotel booking ideas and so on, in preference to those of other firms, alongside those of other firms or even whether it must privilege the results of other firms.

This brings us back to the prejudice I mention above. I am prejudiced towards the free speech view, that it’s Google’s property and that they can do what they darn well like. I would only countenance regulation where there was a technological or natural monopoly, something I don’t believe exists here. That’s not the way that much of the EU thinks (and by that I don’t just mean the institution, but much of the populace as well). The general belief is that any dominant player must be controlled and guided to give others a chance.

But what this announcement does is allow us to see whether Google has a technological lock in or whether the dominance is simply because people prefer that engine.

Think of it this way. There’s two (and this is being extreme just to show the logic) ways in which people choose a search engine. The first is that they just use whatever they’re presented with. If Google turns up on the Mozilla screen then they’ll just use Google. If they’re at Yahoo and Bing is there then they’ll use Bing. So, whoever owns that real estate of that first screen has a technological lock in.

So here’s the basic background. In the US, as a court agreed last week, Google can display its results any darn way it wants to. This is a free speech issue and yes, corporations do have the right of free speech. Over here in the situation is very different. The European Union insists that Google is the dominant search engine (which it is in many markets although not all. Where there was spirited local language competition, like in the Czech Republic, Google barely has a majority of search rather than anything approaching a dominant position). This near monopoly means that the EU should be allowed to specify, on pain of fines for non-compliance (and those fines can be as much as 10% of global turnover) how Google presents search results. We’ve thus got detailed negotiations going on about whether Google can present its own travel results, or hotel booking ideas and so on, in preference to those of other firms, alongside those of other firms or even whether it must privilege the results of other firms.

This brings us back to the prejudice I mention above. I am prejudiced towards the free speech view, that it’s Google’s property and that they can do what they darn well like. I would only countenance regulation where there was a technological or natural monopoly, something I don’t believe exists here. That’s not the way that much of the EU thinks (and by that I don’t just mean the institution, but much of the populace as well). The general belief is that any dominant player must be controlled and guided to give others a chance.

But what this announcement does is allow us to see whether Google has a technological lock in or whether the dominance is simply because people prefer that engine.

Think of it this way. There’s two (and this is being extreme just to show the logic) ways in which people choose a search engine. The first is that they just use whatever they’re presented with. If Google turns up on the Mozilla screen then they’ll just use Google. If they’re at Yahoo and Bing is there then they’ll use Bing. So, whoever owns that real estate of that first screen has a technological lock in.

Source : http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2014/11/20/mozilla-drops-google-for-yahoo-the-fascinating-problem-we-might-be-able-to-solve-as-a-result/?partner=yahootix

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