Google came to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission today in a high-profile antitrust case involving 9 million pages of testimony. Although it agreed to give competitors access to key mobile patents and make it easier for advertisers to use rival search engines, the decision is an important victory for Google.
The big question was whether the company unfairly stifles competition by favoring its own services, such as shopping, local, and travel, or demoting the rankings of competing services in its search results.
The FTC decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant legal action. “Undoubtedly, Google took aggressive actions to gain advantage over rival search providers. However, the FTC’s mission is to protect competition, and not individual competitors,” said the FTC’s outside counsel Beth Wilkinson.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Google will continue to allow companies like Yelp to opt-out of having their content “scraped,” a practice that allows snippets of text to appear in Google products like Maps. It promised it won’t demote search results of companies that opt-out. The FTC is trusting Google to maintain neutrality going forward, and has no plans to monitor its search algorithm for bias.
The FTC’s investigation of this issue took almost two years. As Eric Goldman of Forbes points out, that is far too long to match the rapid speed of technology development on the Web.