Google confirmed on Friday that the Federal Trade Commission is looking into its practices. Although the exact nature of the civil probe isn't clarified yet, the WSJ reported that the FTC is seeking to find out if Google search unfairly places its own services higher on search queries or charges them less for search advertising.
If so, Google might be guilty of exploiting its dominance in one field to gain dominance in other fields.
Google started out as a website search engine but it now owns an images search engine, video services, map services, news, email, browser, finance website, calendar services, book services, and more.
A search query on Google revealed the following*:
Query Rank of Google Service
images Google Images #1
videos Youtube #2
maps Google Maps #1
news Google News #2
email Gmail #1
browser Google Chrome #2
finance Google Finance #1
calendar Google Calendar #1
books Google Books #2
This simple exercise showed that Google does indeed rank its own services high on its search engine. If they're truly the best and most relevant for the queries, Google shouldn't have to censor its own services.
However, if Google manually manipulates their services higher, it would be an obvious violation of anti-trust regulations. A more subtle point is if Google designs its services to be search engine optimized and thus higher ranking.
Of course, many companies engage in search engine optimization. The unfairness, though, is that employees at various Google services may know more about search engine optimization than outside competitors.
Google, on its part, insists that it's only seeking to bring the best search results to users. It also pointed out that Google and search engines in general aren't monopolies; alternate destinations and portals are just a click away.
*Google individually tailors search results, so what shows up on my computer might not show up on yours.