In an astonishing display of pique, Google (the new Microsoft) has complained bitterly to both the US DoJ and the European Commission about Microsoft (the old Google).
What exactly has the Boy God Gates done to annoy billionaire double act Brin and Page so? At the risk of reading like a Monty Python sketch script, it would appear that having the audacity to use MSN as the default search engine in the latest IE7 web browser client Beta was enough to get Google running to tell teacher they were being picked on. Google complains that it’s unfair for IE7 to default to MSN, complains that users should have the right to choose. Yet changing to another search engine, yes even Google, is just a matter of picking one from a drop down list. That’s not so different from the Firefox situation, except Firefox default to, who is it again, oh yes – Google. In fact, Google pays Firefox handsomely (as they do Opera for that matter) to ensure they default to Google. Please feel free to rearrange the following words and email them to Brin and Page: kettle, pot, black.
Indeed, if we want to talk about monopolies then why not look at the search business itself. Who has a market share of more than 80% globally there again? Well, for the time being anyway. Perhaps that’s another issue that is hitting home at Google HQ, that the climate may be changing against them. Amazon announced yesterday that they have ended their relationship with Google and will now use MSN through Windows Live Search to power their A9 tool. Then there’s the interest Microsoft has apparently been expressing in Yahoo, could this be all just too much for the delicate business flowers at Google? Of course, nobody really expects any kind of Microsoft takeover at Yahoo, but the search number twos have been quick to point out the double standards at Google. Jeremy Zawodny, from the Yahoo Technical Development Group, has written about how “Google bought their way into the default position of both Firefox and Opera, and the small matter of a ‘Googleized’ browser that ships with Dell PCs.
The real problem, I suspect, is that Google is just a tad scared now that they have woken the sleeping giant of Microsoft, and in particular now that it’s showing signs of Captain Bill being back at the helm. Despite the popularity of Firefox amongst, dare I say it, the geekier of online users, when it comes to the average consumer it’s still no contest: Internet Explorer has a global 85% market share. Now that’s an awful lot of ‘bums on seats’ and what Google is undoubtedly worried about is the heads attached to those bums being driven towards the forthcoming AdSense competitor, MSN adCenter. Look beyond the brand and what Google has is a multi-billion dollar advertising revenue stream, and they are going to protect that in any way they can. But it’s not Microsoft’s fault that Google is a one trick revenue pony, nor a crime that they happen to have been astute enough to spot that and attempt to do something about it.
Sure, there’s a lot at stake here but do we really need Browser Wars 2.0? Why can’t everyone handle such problems with the same style and humour as little guys Opera (remember them, they used to be the alternative browser of choice before Firefox rained on their parade) did in their spat with Microsoft back in 2003? It all started in October 2001 when Opera users were blocked from the MSN portal site in a blatant act of browser protectionism, and the resulting web community outcry forced Microsoft to back down. Then in February 2003 it was discovered that MSN was providing Opera users with a broken page, effectively forcing them to use IE if they wanted to use MSN. Did Opera go running to tell Mum, did they scream at the EC, did they stamp and shout? Nope. In suitably cool Norwegian style they simply released the Opera 7 Bork edition. The same as standard in all regards except one: access the MSN site with it and the content was translated into the language used by the Swedish Chef from the Muppet Show. If only Google could display the same sense of humour, maybe we’d all start liking them again. Bork, Bork, Bork!