While we’re fortunate to have been very successful in Europe, it’s not the case that Google is “the gateway to the Internet” as the publishers suggest. Think about how people use the web today:
- To get news, you’ll probably go direct to your favorite news site. It’s why newspapers like Bild, Le Monde and the Financial Times get most of their online traffic directly (less than 15% comes from Google). Or you might follow what other people are reading on Twitter.
- To book a flight or buy a camera for your next holiday, you’re as likely go to a site like Expedia or Amazon as you are Google.
- If you’re after reviews for restaurants or local services, chances are you’ll check out Yelp or TripAdvisor
- And if you are on a mobile phone -- which most people increasingly are -- you’ll go straight to a dedicated app to check the sports scores, share your photos or look for recommendations. The most downloaded app in Europe is not Google, it is Facebook Messenger.
Nor is it true to say that we are promoting our own products at the expense of the competition. We show the results at the top that answer the user’s queries directly (after all we built Google for users, not websites). Let me give you some real-life examples.
- Ask for the weather and we give you the local weather right at the top. This means weather sites rank lower, and get less traffic. But because it’s good for users, we think that’s OK.
- It’s the same if you want to buy something (whether it’s shoes or insurance). We try to show you different offers and websites where you can actually purchase stuff -- not links to specialized search engines (which rank lower) where you have to repeat your query.
- If you’re after directions to the nearest pharmacy, you get a Google Map with the closest stores and information to get you there. Again we think that’s a great result for users.
In each case we’re trying to get you direct answers to your queries because it’s quicker and less hassle than the ten blue links Google used to show. This is especially important on mobile where screens are smaller and typing is harder. Many specialized search services don't like these improvements because they mean less traffic for them. But as European Commissioner Almunia has said: “Imposing strict equal treatment … could mean returning to the old world of Google displaying only ten undifferentiated search results - the so-called ten blue links. This would deprive European users of the search innovations that Google has introduced.”
We agree. In fact, the allegations now being made by publishers have been extensively investigated by regulators in Europe and America over more than seven years. To date, no regulator has objected to Google giving people direct answers to their questions for the simple reason that it is better for users.
Finally, it is said that Google’s success reduces our rivals’ incentives to innovate and invest, which is bad for consumers. But as the Financial Times recently reported, European media companies – including some of those behind today’s ads -- are investing heavily in specialized search engines. As Axel Springer explained in a press release announcing their most recent investments: “there’s a lot of innovation on the search market”. Economists will tell you that innovation is typically the sign of a healthy, competitive marketplace.
Posted by Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google