European regulators are once again scrutinizing Google as complaints mount that the search giant is diverting traffic away from competitors in favor of their own services. But Eric Schmidt insists the only ones calling Google a monopoly are jealous haters who want to see the internet go back in time.
In a speech yesterday in Berlin, Google's executive chairman invoked the legacy of the Wright Brothers and Karl Benz in an attempt to brush off the antitrust investigations. To Schmidt, Google is just a company that took an early search engine concept—a filtered list of blue links to other websites—and turned into a site for "answers."
Maps now feel like such an integral part of search that most users probably can't imagine Google without them. It's the same with many of our changes. Your search just gets better and better over time. Google "Berlin weather" and you'll no longer get ten blue links that you need to dig through. Instead, you'll get the weather forecast for the next few days at the top result, saving you time and effort ...
Schmidt tried to spin the situation by calling competitors regressive: "they'd rather [Google] go back to 10 blue links." The real threat isn't Yelp, said Schmidt, it's a scrappy startup "somewhere in a garage"—a fairly ridiculous claim for such a monopolistic company.
He then went on to describe Amazon as Google's chief competitor, noting that many customers looking to buy products begin their shopping with the retailer.
If you are looking to buy something, perhaps a tent for camping, you might go to Google or Bing or Yahoo or Qwant, the new French search engine. But more likely you'll go directly to Zalando or Amazon . . . last year almost a third of people looking to buy something started on Amazon — that's more than twice the number who went straight to Google. [...]
But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon. People don't think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon . . .
Emphasis added. Never once did Schmidt acknowledge that the two sites are selling different products—Amazon is in the business of selling you goods; Google is in the business of selling your data.
Just prove how little Google is concerned with this "monopoly" allegation, Schmidt tried yet another tactic, insisting that Google is not a utility in the classic sense:
The reality is that Google works very differently from other companies that have been called gatekeepers, and regulated as such. We aren't a ferry. We aren't a railroad. We aren't a telecommunications network or an electricity grid . . . No one is stuck using Google.
Schmidt is technically correct—no one is stuck using Google, and there are scores of largely inferior competitors people could switch to. However, Google is the default search engine on most browsers, and consumers are too confused or lazy to swap it out for a viable alternative.