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Google’s Looming Battle Over Search


Futurists say that the total sum of human knowledge doubles every year or two—and that the rate is increasing. “There were five exabytes of information created by the entire world between the dawn of civilization and 2003,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt said at a conference in 2010. “Now that same amount is created every two days.”

That’s part of the reason why “general search”—searching of all of the world’s accessible information and delivering results without differentiation—is fast becoming hopelessly outdated. In an era of exploding data, it is more efficient and more effective to presort information into categories. So it is hardly surprising that Google searches have evolved to emphasize specialized results better targeted to users’ queries.

Yet regulators seem perplexed. Consider what European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said recently about the EU’s formal complaint against Google: “We find the conduct in one area where it has a very dominant position in one market, which is general search, has led to favorable treatment not based on the merits in another related market.”

This reflects a deep misunderstanding. It’s a mistake to consider “general search” and “comparison shopping” or “product search” to be distinct markets.

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