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Google defends its search ranking system in face of European antitrust inquiry

February 25, 2010 | 12:33 pm

As Europe’s powerful antitrust regulator looks into complaints against Google from three of its European search-engine rivals, Google went on the offensive Thursday, saying in a new blog post that the Internet giant’s algorithms generate better and more relevant results.

Amit Singhal, a Google employee who works on the ranking system, wrote: “Other search engines approach this differently, selecting some results one at a time, manually curating what you see on the page. We believe that approach, which relies heavily on an individual’s tastes and preferences, just doesn’t produce the quality and relevant ranking that our algorithms do.”

The blog post did not shed any light on the black box of how Google's algorithms actually work. The European Commission has launched an inquiry. Google is expected to respond to complaints in the next few weeks and has denied that it has abused its market power. The commission will then decide if it should open a formal investigation.

A formal investigation could result in a major showdown, said Siva Vaidhyanathan, an associate professor of media studies and law at the University of Virginia who is writing a book about the Internet giant.

"European search engines are suspicious that they are being downgraded by Google's search engine. If the commission wants to investigate that, it may ask Google to open up information about how its algorithms work," Vaidhyanathan said. "Google does not want to reveal its secret formula. The moment European regulators figure out why one link is higher than another, that's the end of Google's competitive advantage."

"What's likely to happen is that Google is going to try to figure out a way to make those particular companies happy with the situation or happier with the situation. Google really doesn't want to invite hardcore regulatory scrutiny."

-- Jessica Guynn

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