Google, for all of its amazing products — just what would we do without the ability to Google web pages? — has certainly been on the receiving end of its fair share of lawsuits. Google’s mobile operating system, Android, has been the target of many a lawsuit, most recently by British Telecom regarding several of the patents that BT is holding. Then, of course, there’s Google Search and many of the anti-trust complaints and allegations surrounding it, including how it deals with advertising, page rankings and other concerns. Most recently, Google became the target of a 400-page lawsuit from the European Commission. Their accusations mostly relate to Google’s search engine, and particularly how they grant their own web pages preferential treatment, and how Google (allegedly) doesn’t allow companies to compete with their own ad services through Google and lowering the search rankings of sites that bought ad space and placement from competitors. Sketchy indeed.
Think That’s Sketchy? It Gets Sketchier
Certainly, the European Commission’s suit stands as a very real threat to Google. It’s over 400 pages long, yet it strictly targets Google search and related web pages and how it (or so accuses the EC) unfairly uses its huge online search market share to punish competitors.
But one thing that suit doesn’t really take into account (or at least only marginally) is the issue of Google+. Of course, Google’s attempt at dethroning the social networking behemoth that is Facebook has been, until now, less than adequate.
Still, at the same time, there is something sneaky and kind of suspect going on underneath all of this: Google+, particularly for those users that are members of the social networking site, has an adverse impact upon search results for web pages. I know what you’re probably thinking: “But of course it does!”
Google+ Is Manipulating Users Into Using It
But it gets more suspect. As ReadWriteWeb acknowledges in their recent article regarding Google+, Google treats Google+ posts as their own web pages. And what that means is that, in some instances, Google+ posts — not links, or brand pages — can outrank the actual websites. Certainly, that may help search ranking but it can also obscure and confuse users who are simply looking for particular websites and not just Google+ posts.
Further, it draws into question just what sort of behind-the-scenes manipulation is occurring at the Google offices. In a lot of ways, Google+ is already encouraging (and even forcing, in some cases) users and web pages to develop and utilize Google+ accounts in the name of customization. Want links from articles in Google searches to display author information, or link to an author page? You have to use Google.
And then, of course, when logged into a Google+ account, there is no way for a user to differentiate between Google+ results and normal web results. Simply put, they are mashed together in a sort of strange, turducken-like mish-mosh of information that doesn’t disseminate where the information comes from and whether or not you are strictly searching for web results, friend (or Circles, in this case) results, or just plain results. Google doesn’t care, it just does.
The Google Experience
Obviously, part of Google’s goal in developing Google+ and integrating it with its search engine and everything else is to try and encourage — better yet, force — us to subscribe to The Google Experience. I have already conceded: I receive all of my mail through Gmail, use Google Search to find information online almost 99% of the time, and frequently use +1s to indicate my approval of websites and articles. I have an Android phone, too. Google, you win.
But the U.S. Government isn’t amused. Last year, they began looking into the suspect practices and conditions surrounding The Google Experience, including how Google strongly encouraged (you know, with vague threats of fire and/or death) businesses to adopt its products or else, especially with regards to phone manufacturers who, as the FTC claim, were also encouraged to adopt Google’s own Android ecosystem over competitor’s ecosystems for fear of being penalized in rankings.
Bring on the Suits
But I expect that the FTC’s current investigation may, sooner than later, quickly evolve into a full-blown lawsuit, with explosions. Well, not actual explosions, but certainly explosive, devastating consequences. Right now, Google’s efforts to develop a self-containing ecosystem, while certainly not infringing upon any sort of anti-competitive or anti-trust laws, have been drawing the ire of government agencies worldwide.
And although Google+ is just another component of Google — another product — it stands to have the greatest room for influencing individuals and businesses. Certainly, Google+ has yet to achieve significant mainstream success, but there still stands substantial room for improvement and growth in that area by Google. After all, initial sales of Android phones weren’t too hot. Now? Pretty hot. Nevertheless, Google, by controlling a larger percentage of social media influence, can then force more and more advertisers to stray away from Facebook by penalizing them through their own search engine. It’s totally not cool, and sort of scary.
But as of now, the FTC is simply ‘investigating’ Google under ‘suspicions’ that it might be committing sinful acts against the Internet community and humanity as a whole. There is no solid evidence, just yet, that Google has been doing anything malicious, and certainly nothing to suggest that the US Government might be filing a suit against them.
But it certainly could happen. Google is becoming increasingly more and more of an important part of our daily lives and routines, and it can often make or break businesses through search indexing.
But as innocent bystanders, all we can do is wait for the flood, assuming it ever comes.
Source: MSM DesignZ, Inc. is a Westchester social media company based in NY specializing in advertising, web and graphic design, and SEO.