How is Google damaging consumers?

I kept this post as draft since I read Wired’s article about Google and their supposed dominant position. Today I read again about the new investigation of US Antitrust targeting bigG because it holds too much market share in online advertising and advertisers are getting upset.  I can’t understand why an antitrust agency is taking care of this. How is Google harming consumers? This seems to me a totally different case than the Microsoft antitrust judgement. With Microsoft, consumers were being harmed directly left with little to no choice to use their products in order to have ‘compatibility’. At that time, I think that antitrust bodies had a clear case: Microsoft dominance and abusive business practices were removing options to consumers.

With Google the case seems very different: advertisers are free to stop advertising on Google any time they want. Contrary to Microsoft, Google cannot leverage any network effect to keep Internet users (the ‘consumers’) to stop using Google for search. I can go and use Bing any time I want: Google search uses an open standard, it’s a freakin web site. The simplest thing Microsoft has to do in order to take 40% of Internet users’ search is to pay a sufficient amount of money to Mozilla, and voilà: all Firefox users will have Bing as default search engine.

Same thing with many other Googl services. If you don’t like Gmail anymore you can take all of its archive, contacts, and everything else and move it somewhere else: open standards (IMAP) at work again.

And, should Microsoft not want to pay Mozilla, Google’s search engine can start to suck  any time or more privacy issues may arise, and users will move to the next best one (didn’t we all move to Google from Altavista already?)

What am I failing to see in these new wave of antitrust complaints against Google?

Microsoft pulls the antitrust trigger

I love it: Microsoft calls the European antitrust authorities against Google. Ironic. And a waste of time: the consumer is not harmed by Google, consumers are getting software and services for free. Interoperability is saved and guarded. Case dismissed.

FIEG si lamenta di Google ma i giornalisti dimenticano la sintassi

Se poi uno si chiede perché i giornali non li vuole comprare più nessuno, leggete qui sotto cosa scrive il Corriere online e ditemi voi se ci capite qualcosa:

Il colosso del web si impegna anche a comunicare «attraverso l’interfaccia della rete AdSense (il programma di affiliazione attraverso il quale i proprietari di siti internet possono vendere spazi pubblicitari utilizzando Google come intermediario) disponibile on-line, della percentuale di revenue-sharing, e delle sue eventuali modifiche, spettante agli editori affiliati al programma AdSense Online», ovvero il programma di affiliazione attraverso il quale i proprietari di siti internet possono vendere spazi pubblicitari utilizzando Google come intermediario.

Evidentemente è andato male il copia-incolla, ma nessuno ha riletto. La FIEG se la prende con Google, mentre dovrebbe pensare ad innovare e dare prodotti di qualità. Invece ci tocca sorbire il solito pianto greco della tassa sulle locomotive elettriche.

L’Antitrust detta le regole a Google – Corriere della Sera.

I wish antitrust bodies didn’t exist

My good friend Carlo Piana, the lawyer that helped Samba and FSFE in the antitrust trial Microsoft against the European Commission, says today:

priority #1 is to keep a close eye on the only overdominant company in the IT market

But given the outcome of the trial, with Microsoft getting a ‘get out of jail free’ card, I think it’s time to ask DG Competition to declare its failure as a body and never start any antitrust investigation anymore. I have seen them only do damages, no real positive effect. And they keep damaging users and freedom of business now with the Phase II investigation for the Oracle + Sun M&A.

Go home, Commissioner Kroes and take your toys with you.

via Let’s keep eye on the ball | Carlo Piana :: Law is Freedom ::.

Ozzie talks about FLOSS and FLOSS advocates talk back

Lots of talking about Microsoft lately.’  As I expected, Ray Ozzie’s public appearances are increasing with declarations of love for the magic word interoperability and with a new, more open, attitude.’  I believe it’s true that “Microsoft fundamentally, as a whole, has changed dramatically as a result of open source,” as Ozzie said.

Roberto wrote a long post about Microsoft Open Source strategy. Having talked to him long enough, I know he sees the big potential for new Open Source firms to prosper on Microsoft ecosystem.’  I suspect he is right, given the fact that the *nix competitors have lost 15 years of evolution fighting each other instead of building a common (superior) platform. Only with GNU/Linux such common platform arrived, but it probably came a day late and a dollar short.

Contrary to Roberto, I think that Microsoft change is not sufficient yet for Free Software advocates like me to merrily lift the precautions. I can still hear Ballmer shouting threats and see him trying to twist the arms of the EU Commission (as Carlo remembers very well). I’m not confident yet that these moves represent a new strategy and they’re not merely tactics to penetrate the FLOSS market and break it from the inside (patent lawsuit?).’  If I were a developer I wouldn’t trust any promise not to sue by Microsoft, even if that promise uses the same (murky) words of IBM’s promises. I don’t care: Microsoft track records on Free Software is bad, bad, bad and worse. Microsoft must do better than IBM, it must be perfect (they can, if they want to).

W3C under siege: developers want free hands

Standards can be a Royal PITA and every developer and hacker knows that. But for users they’re the only way not to go crazy. Web standards give users the possibility to connect to the Internet from any device and blog, check email, get and make information. The debate is heating up on top of the Opera-vs-Microsoft complaint. A nice summary is: Is the Sacred Cow of Web Standards Headed for the Slaughterhouse?

There’s a movement afoot in the web development community that says it’s time to move beyond standards and take the web to a new levels. Unhappy with the pace of innovation at the W3C, many developers are calling on browser manufacturers to go beyond supporting official W3C specifications and develop tools to support new features.

I understand hackers and their frustration, but we must be aware that power in the digital domain is mainly in hackers and developers, users are at their mercy. But powers must be balanced and at the moment I see the W3C as the only organization that can still balance freedom for hackers to innovate with users’ freedom of choice. I wouldn’t trade my freedom as a user with that of developers to push proprietary tools like Flash or Silverlight and patented formats.

Microsoft, antitrust, EC, interoperability: deja-vu

Here we are again with the European Commission being asked by a competitor to remind Microsoft that competition doesn’t mean abuse of dominant position. I have a sense of deja-vu. Opera Software has asked the EC to investigate if Microsoft is abusing its dominant position by tying its browser, Internet Explorer, to the Windows operating system and by hindering interoperability by not following accepted Web standards.

As in the past antitrust case, won by the EC, there are two parts: one is the bundling IE with Windows and the other is the interoperability issue. As before, the bundling issue is less important because the real problem is interoperability, a word that Microsoft has always interpreted in a monopolist way: I do whatever I please, and I set ‘industry standards’ by myself convincing clients and partners to either follow me or be squashed.

There is little doubt that Internet Explorer doesn’t support W3C standards well as Safari/WebKit, Firefox and Opera do, but nonetheless many web application prefer to support the non-standard browser because of IE has 80% market share. So, the question whether Opera is right to complain to the antitrust authority is a clear yes. Opera made a tactical move to pressure the dominant gorilla and at the same time inform the public about the interoperability issue. If Opera really cares about interoperability it should also support the W3C to keep its power and resist against Nokia’s proposition to remove referent to patent-unencumbered OGG format from HTML5.

Update: Microsoft informed that internal builds of IE8 pass the ACID2 test