Google CEO Eric Schmidt told the Telegraph newspaper that the company is willing to change how its search algorithms work, as long as the changes don’t help spammers game search results.
Gosh, how nice of Google to agree to cooperate with regulators! Within reason, of course.
Google will soon learn that the EU is boss, and doesn’t particularly care what the companies it investigates say to the press.
As Microsoft learned last decade, once the European Commission has launched a formal investigation, it may investigate almost anything, for any amount of time, and can take advice from any party it likes, including competitors to the company being investigated. It is under no particular obligation to share what it’s digging up until it issues an official Statement of Objections, and that can take months. Or years.
In the meantime, companies under investigation have no way of guessing what the EU might ask them to do.
Google can say it’s willing to change its search algorithms, but the EU hasn’t asked it to make any changes yet.
Once the specifics come out, Google may think the EU is asking it for too much. If so, it will fight, argue, and appeal just like Microsoft did — anything less would be a breach of duty to shareholders. And if it fights, it will probably lose. Just like Microsoft did.
Microsoft seems to have learned its lesson: in 2009, the Commission issued a statement of objections about Web browser choice, saying that Microsoft wasn’t playing fair by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. Instead of striking a belligerent pose, Microsoft immediately suggested a couple of changes, including a “ballot” that would let users pick a default browser upon startup. The EU accepted and the investigation ended without any fines.