Google’s conflict with European publishers reached a new level on Wednesday as Google agreed to stop publishing extracts and thumbnails from stories published by a group of German publishers who are unhappy with the search engine’s dominance in Europe.
In a blog post published Wednesday, Google explained that search results for stories from some of Germany’s biggest websites would be stripped back to just the headline, omitting the thumbnail image and extract that is customary for Google News listings.
The change will effect search results from media sites such as bild.de, bunte.de and hoerzu.de, all of them part of the legal case against Google.
One of the most outspoken critics of Google has been German media executive Mathias Döpfner of Axel Springer, who published an open letter in April that was heavily critical of Google’s business practices.
In the letter, addressed to Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Döpfner claims that German publishers are “afraid of Google” because of its dominance in Europe and the way it republishes snippets of content in search listings.
The changes announced by Google on Wednesday will be seen as a partial victory for German publishers. They had previously accused the search engine of piracy because of the way it displays search listings. Publishers had lobbied for Google to pay a fee every time it reposted extracts, but this compromise means that at least Google can’t be accused of piracy any longer.
Google is the most commonly used search engine in Europe, and it actually has a higher market share here than in America. 90% of European web searches go through Google, while that figure is at 68% for the US.