More from the US v Google trial: vertical search, pre-installs and the case of Firefox/Yahoo

We are almost two months after the Justice Department milestone antitrust case against Google – one of the biggest tech antitrust fights since the US took Microsoft to court in the 1990s – and the revelations just keep getting juicier.

In our latest overview, we learned how Google spent $26.3 billion in 2021 to become the default search engine on all platforms and how Google tried to pre-install Chrome on iPhones. Over the past few weeks, more details about the inner workings of Google have been revealed, including some of the search engine’s most lucrative search queries, what revenue-sharing deals look like between Google and Android OEMs, and why Expedia has a role to play. choose with Google.

Before we get into some of this information…

Why the Google vs. US antitrust case matters

The government has argued that Google uses its platforms and deals with partners to block any competition in search or advertising, preventing competitors from accessing the data they would need to improve their products.

If Judge Amit Mehta rules against Google, the search giant may have to change its behavior and share its APIs with third-party developers. It may also be prohibited from entering into anti-competitive and exclusive agreements with smartphone and computer manufacturers and wireless carriers.

Google may end up having to pass on all or most of the collected data to other search engines so they can improve their products and attract more users. The DOJ said Google receives 16 times more data daily than Bing.

The authorities want to show that antitrust law remains relevant and that even though Google is basically the God of the Internet, it still doesn’t measure up to US law.

Google’s result could also have a ripple effect on other Big Tech deals. The FTC sued Amazon in September for using anticompetitive and unfair strategies to illegally maintain its monopoly power. THE The DOJ investigated Apple for years about the company’s policy regarding third-party apps on its devices and whether it unfairly favors its own products. There is an ongoing affair between the FTC and Facebookin which the agency uses Facebook to sell Instagram and WhatsApp.

This isn’t the only Google antitrust case going to trial right now. The search engine giant settled a separate antitrust law last week lawsuit with dating site Match Group. On November 6, Google was judged with Creator of Fortnite Epic Games. The latter hopes to prove that Google is adopting anti-competitive behavior with regard to its Android application store, Google Play, and its commission structure.

Now for the summary!

A window into Google’s most popular search queries

Justice Amit Mehta decided to make a public list which gives an overview of the search terms that generate the most revenue for Google. The list of popular search terms ranked by revenue includes 20 lucrative terms for the week of September 22, 2018. Information such as revenue per search term, number of queries received by each of these terms, as well as a separate list of popular search terms ranked. by requests (and not by income), have all been redacted. The list we can see is as follows:

  • iPhone8
  • iPhone 8+
  • Car insurance
  • Car insurance
  • Cheap flights
  • Auto insurance quote
  • Direct television
  • Online Colleges
  • AT&T
  • Hulu
  • iPhone
  • Uber
  • Spectrum
  • Comcast
  • Xfinity
  • Insurance quote
  • Free credit report
  • Cheap car insurance
  • Aarp
  • Life Lock

In reality, there is little surprise here. We’ve already established that Google and Apple have a long and mutually beneficial relationship, even when they compete. So it’s no surprise to see three Apple Search-related queries bringing in big money – especially since September 22, 2017 was the official release date. of the iPhone 8.

Meanwhile, queries like “car insurance”, “cheap flights” and “credit report” are perennial favorites and show how Google dominates vertical search, i.e. searching in very specific market categories. As for LifeLock…the big Equifax data breach of 2017 was a hot topic in September 2017 and LifeLock was trying hard to win business from people who wanted to purchase identity theft protection.

Revenue shares to pre-install Google apps on Android

Jamie Rosenberg, a Google employee who focuses on Android and Google Play, testified in Google’s defense on November 8. He said the competition between Google and Apple is “as intense as it gets.” reports Bloomberg.

Rosenberg explained how Google gets manufacturers to sign a Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) which requires Android smartphone makers (like Samsung or Oppo) to preload a set of 11 Google apps on the device, including Search, Chrome and Play. They don’t have to be the default choices, he said.

Google also has revenue sharing agreements (RSA) with smartphone makers and wireless carriers (like Verizon) that require them to set Google Search and the Chrome web browser as default. Rosenberg defended the decision and said it was because Google apps [like Search] are “best in class”. RSAs also motivate other companies to make or sell more Android devices, he said.

Expedia complains about too many search ads and costly ad payments

On November 1, Barry Diller, president of Expedia and IAC, expressed his concerns about the growing number of search results impacting organic listings.

“I must say that I am on the verge of revolt now that Google’s actions are so punitive, not only to Expedia but also to IAC and everyone who depends on a level playing field,” Diller wrote in a letter to Google. in 2019, according to Bloomberg.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai countered that Google’s travel listings were one of the most popular experiences the company created.

Expedia executives also testified about the cost of ads and how the increases had no impact on search results. On October 19, former Expedia COO Jeff Hurst told the court that the company’s advertising costs had increased tenfold, from $21 million in 2015 to $290 million in 2019. And yet, Expedia’s traffic from Google hasn’t increased. The implication was that this was due to direct competition from Google itself. Hurst pointed out that Google began sharing its own flight and hotel data in search results during this period, according to the Seattle Times.

European antitrust fine encourages Google to improve the quality of its search engines

The government argued on November 10 that Google only tried to improve its search engine in the European Union after falling victim to a Antitrust fine of 5 billion euros in 2018internal documents revealed, according to Bloomberg.

The EU antitrust order forced Google to offer Android phone users a screen with five search engine options to choose from, according to the DOJ. In response, Google adopted a plan, called “Go Big in Europe”, aimed at improving search results in France and Germany in 2019 and 2020 with more local content: news, post-football video clips , information about local TV options for users. streaming and pronunciation practice for different languages. The goal was to encourage users to click on Google’s home screen rather than the competition’s.

This revelation effectively supports the Justice Department’s argument that Google, without competitive influence, has little incentive to improve its products, which constitutes a classic consequence in monopoly.

Mozilla questions Google’s supremacy in search

Interestingly, on November 1, Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker defended Google’s quality as a search engine, even in “competitive” environments. Specifically, Baker recounted how Mozilla “failed” when it switched Firefox’s default search engine from Google to Yahoo.

Quick story: Yahoo signed a deal with Mozilla in 2014 paying the browser maker $375 million a year to be the default search engine on Firefox. At the time, Google was offering $276 million, Baker said. Reader, that was a bad deal.

“I felt like Yahoo wasn’t offering the search experience that we needed and contracted for,” she said, according to Bloomberg. The executive said Yahoo promised to reduce the number of ads and offer less user tracking, but still ended up serving more ads to users.

“The number of users who stuck with Firefox declined noticeably during the years when Yahoo was the default,” Baker said.

Baker, giving a recorded deposition in Google’s defense, noted that Mozilla users apparently wanted and expected Google.

However, that’s not the whole story. Yahoo was already well behind Google in terms of search technology at this point. But also, Firefox was very far behind Chrome, which ended 2014 with almost 50% market share and ended 2017 (when Google got the top search position by default on Firefox) nearly 65% ​​of all web browser usage on computer: and mobile is even more oriented towards Chrome. In other words, Firefox user numbers might have declined for other reasons, although blaming Yahoo certainly works in Google’s favor here!

The trial continues…

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