Key takeaways from the Search trial

This week, our trial with the Department of Justice and State Attorneys General came to an end. After 10 weeks, the evidence confirms what we’ve said all along: People have many choices when searching for information online, and they use Google because it’s helpful.

Here are our key takeaways from the trial:

Our success is due to our constant commitment to innovation and quality.

Throughout the trial, we heard testimony on the many ways Google constantly innovates in Search to create a better experience for our users. As our VP of Search Quality, Pandu Nayak, said on the stand, “there’s no sense that Search has ever been good enough.” That’s why we invest billions in R&D every year and have pioneered advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence. By comparison, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella confirmed that Microsoft’s “failure to make capital expenditures to support its search business” was not because they lacked the resources, and that in 2018, Google Search’s engineering team was five times bigger than Bing’s. And DuckDuckGo’s CEO testified that it has distributed capital to shareholders several times, rather than investing in improving its search engine.

Our investment in mobile was the right call at the right time.

Our former VP of Search, Ben Gomes, testified that in 2007, our founders instructed a “mobile-only” approach to innovating and improving Search. The Court heard how this was a gamble, since mobile queries were a small fraction of total queries and the vast majority of searches still occurred on desktop. Google’s investments and innovations to advance mobile computing and Search on mobile devices — including the launch of the open-source Android operating system and the Android mobile application distribution and revenue share agreements — made us the most attractive partner to mobile device makers like Samsung. As our CEO Sundar Pichai testified, these companies wanted to give their users “essential out-of-the-box functionality.” By contrast, a Microsoft executive testified that they did not even launch a mobile browser until 2017 and failed in various efforts to develop a competitive mobile platform.

We compete for promotion to make Search easily accessible, but people can easily find alternatives.

As Sundar said, “We want to make it very, very seamless and easy for users to use our service.” We compete for promotional opportunities so people can easily access Search and so that people search more. Our revenue-sharing payments have increased over time because people are searching more with Google, enjoying the benefits of incredible innovations in our partners’ mobile devices and browsers. But just being the default does not guarantee success, because users know how to find the alternatives they prefer. For example, even though Microsoft preloads Edge and Bing, and puts up obstacles to switching, the large majority of Windows users search with Google. Satya Nadella testified that Bing’s share of search queries on Windows is “in the teens.” We also learned that when Bing was the default on Blackberry and Windows Mobile mobile devices, the majority of searches still went to Google. Mozilla’s CEO, Mitchell Baker, testified that when they changed the default on Firefox to Yahoo!, “we found our users trying all sorts of different ways to get back to Google, and we experienced lots of people leaving Firefox.”

Our partners choose us because they say we’re the best.

Apple’s Eddy Cue testified: “When we were doing the deal with Google, we wanted the capabilities to provide the best — the best service, the best application, the best thing for customers. Google was the best one.” Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker said, “Our users made it clear that they look for and want and expect Google, and that when they get Google Search results and Google as the default, that’s what they expect, and they’re happy.” And Motorola’s Erik Christensen agreed that preloading Chrome and Google Search on Motorola phones was in the “best interest of…its consumers.”

Google has many competitors, not just general search engines.

Evidence at trial shows we face fierce competition from a broad range of competitors — from specialized search engines like Expedia, Angi and Yelp to social-media firms like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. As Prabhakar Raghavan, our SVP of Knowledge and Information, said, “We feel ourselves competing with them every day.” Economist Dr. Mark Israel testified that “each query made by a user is a meaningfully distinct choice about where to go [to] get information. Amazon competes for shopping queries, Expedia competes for travel queries and Yelp competes for local queries.” We compete for all of these queries and innovate every day so users will choose Google for their information needs.

Scale is not nearly the whole story.

Experts and our top engineers testified the DOJ overstates the value of click-and-query data.

Several of our top engineers testified that there are many important aspects of search quality that require little or no click-and-query data, including recent innovations in large language models and building a comprehensive index of the web. (In fact, Microsoft’s head of search and advertising testified that one of Bing’s major challenges was that its web index has historically been far smaller than Google’s and didn’t invest in expanding it until 2019.) And the founder of Neeva testified that he believed one only needs 2.5% of users to have a competitive general search engine.

When the DOJ filed their lawsuit over three years ago, we said its case was deeply flawed. Over the last ten weeks, we presented the facts to back this up. We appreciate the opportunity to tell our side of the story and look forward to continuing to make our case in the post-trial proceedings.

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