All about Google Chrome & Google Chrome OS

14 May 12 10 Ways To Stifle Tech Competition

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The funny thing about the tech industry is that everyone talks about competition but no one wants to compete, at least not on a level playing field.

Today’s tech giants are fine with competing on their own terms, terms that give them an advantage. They’re not so keen to participate in a fair fight.

Usually, tech companies rely on the legal system to insulate themselves from competition. When Apple sued HTC two years ago, then-CEO Steve Jobs condemned HTC for infringing Apple’s patents. “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours,” he said.

Microsoft said as much protesting the European Commission’s 2004 finding that the company had abused its PC industry dominance. As a remedy, the European Commission required that Microsoft disclose its interface documentation to allow non-Microsoft servers to work with PCs.

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Microsoft objected to this requirement. “[T]he compulsory license will allow competitors to replicate Microsoft’s technologies such that their products would be indistinguishable from Microsoft’s products in important respects,” the company said. “This outcome will largely eliminate incentives for these companies to develop alternative or better technologies–precisely the opposite of what competition law is intended to achieve.”

Occasionally, a company will acknowledge wanting to avoid competition. ATT CEO Randall Stephenson, for example, recently suggested that Google and Mozilla object, knowing that their browsers can’t compete on Windows RT devices without access to those APIs.

Harvey Anderson, general counsel for Mozilla, said Mozilla isn’t presently pursuing the issue with the Federal Trade Commission or the Justice Department. “We will continue to evaluate and see if that will be the appropriate mechanism to get the resolution that we seek,” he said in an emailed statement.

2. Apple’s iOS
Apple has not been shy about using patents and copyrights to limit competitors. But it also relies on contracts to constrain developers and makers of peripherals that interface with Apple products. In some circumstances, Apple couples contracts with technological barriers. Apple’s rules prevent the use of writable, executable memory pages, except for its own Safari browser. Apple, in other words, is imposing the same kind of restriction as Microsoft is in Windows RT to preclude the possibility of JIT compilers, which are essential for the operation of modern browsers.

Mozilla is less bothered by Apple’s barriers, presumably due to its traditional focus on desktop browsing. “The similarities to iOS don’t justify an outcome on Windows that deprives users of choice, reduces competition, and hurts innovation,” Mozilla’s counsel Anderson said. “The difference here is that Microsoft is using its Windows monopoly power in the OS market to exclude competition in the browser market. Microsoft also published commitments to users, industry, and software developers … that in essence said Microsoft would design Windows to allow choice and provide a level playing field for third-party applications like the browser. These factors create a situation that is materially different than iOS.”

Perhaps, but the situation is not so materially different that we have Firefox or Chrome for iOS.

3. Google’s Chrome OS
How do you avoid competing with other browser makers? Make an operating system with a built-in browser. Chrome OS supports only Google’s Chrome browser. That’s the way it was made. When Microsoft tried that, the European Commission forced Microsoft to stop bundling its operating system and browser. But Google has gotten away with it, largely because so few people are using Chrome OS devices. Why worry that the playing field isn’t level if Google’s team is the only one that showed up for the game?

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17 Jan 12 Google Chrome’s ‘sponsored posts’ explained

In a nutshell, it appeared that the Google Chrome campaign was doing something that Google has specifically banned in the past: paying bloggers for links that will help the company pad its search results for Google Chrome.

The campaign, run by Unruly Media, was supposedly not intended to do that, however.

In a statement, Google’s corporate communications team said that “Google never agreed to anything more than online ads. We have consistently avoided paid sponsorships, including paying bloggers to promote our products, because these kind of promotions are not transparent or in the best interests of users. We’re now looking at what changes we need to make to ensure that this never happens again.”

According to Sullivan, it appears that Google contracted its Web ads out to a firm called Essence Digital, which in turn asked a company called Unruly Media to implement the campaign.

In a statement, Essence Media reiterated much of Google’s comment and added, “In this case, Google were subjected to this activity through media that encouraged bloggers to create what appeared to be paid posts, were often of poor quality and out of line with Google standards. We apologize to Google who clearly didn’t authorize this.”

For its part, Unruly Media said that it requires bloggers to take steps to make sure their links to paid advertisers don’t affect search engine traffic.

“In line with FTC and EU regulation Unruly always requires that bloggers clearly disclose any post, tweet, or other reference to the video as being sponsored and we provide guidance on how to do this,” said CEO Scott Button in an e-mailed statement. “We also request that if they do link anywhere they use nofollow [which prevents links from affecting search rankings], both because that’s best practice and also because it’s in their own interest to do so.

“Unruly is committed to an ethical, legal, and totally transparent approach to online marketing. It’s crucial that posts are clearly marked as sponsored and that links are marked as nofollow. And it’s crucial that opinions belong to the author, which is why we never push an angle or opinion, and also why, occasionally, bloggers will unfortunately pen a post that deviates from our guidelines, as here.”

In the past, Google has criticized companies that have been a part of ad campaigns that used paid links to skew search results and has set up ways to penalize companies for doing so in the past.

Another major issue in all of this, Sullivan wrote in a subsequent post, is that the posts appear to have contradicted not only Google’s policy on paid links, but were also of such low quality that it’s exactly like the kind of “thin” content that Google has been trying to cut out of its search results. That is “just embarrassing to Google, when it has busy trying to prevent this type of content from ranking in its own search engine,” he wrote.

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