First, for Google’s opponents, let’s look on the bright side.
The company’s tentative deal with European regulators in April to head off a formal anti-trust complaint was, according to critics, worse than useless. In the words of Silicon Valley lawyer Gary Reback: “They were Nowheresville”.
Tuesday’s revised deal at least fixes the most glaring flaws. Whether it will do anything meaningful to change the competitive situation is another matter.
If Googlers were in any doubt of the seriousness of the European Union’s investigation into the search engine’s business practices, the detailed questionnaire sent to advertising agencies this week should set them straight.
It was only a matter of time before Brussels began looking at an antitrust complaint against Google. Murmurings of discontent about the dominant search engine have been going on for several years now, and recently there has been a rash of smaller cases against the company.
Three particular cases are being considered by the European Commission. A complaint by Foundem, a UK vertical search company, one from ejustice.fr, a French legal search site, and a complaint made initially in Germany by Ciao!, a vertical search site recently bought by Microsoft.
Despite signs that the over-heated rhetoric is cooling down a bit, it’s too soon to predict a compromise in the transatlantic falling-out over Oracle’s plan to buy Sun.
European competition commissioner Neelie Kroes was more measured in her comments to reporters on Wednesday, suggesting that some sort of agreement might be possible that would protect competition in the database market and allow the dispute to blow over. That certainly sounded less punchy than her own spokesman’s attack on Oracle earlier in the week as “facile and superficial”.