Google’s long-running battle with the European Commission could be coming to an end, with the search giant potentially agreeing to link to rival sites on specific channel searches, such as shopping or maps.
Under the new proposals, Google will offer a larger space in its search result for rivals’ sites for “vertical” activities. These would appear as logos in Google search results pages with their logo and explanatory text, with their position chosen by an auction system.
Rivals have the possibility to display their logo next to the link, and there will be a dynamic text associated to each rival link to better inform the user of its content.
The proposal would apply not just to desktop searches but also to mobile phones, which are a growing source of hits for Google, which has around 90% of the market for search in Europe.
Reacting to the proposals, EU commissioner Joaquin Almunia, told the European Parliament this morning that he had concluded that the ad giant’s revised offer of concessions on its search biz had “more appropriately” addressed “the need for any commitments to be able to cover future developments”.
Almunia’s office is working on “the precise drafting of the proposed commitment text” with Google over the next few weeks.
The investigation by the European commission began back in November 2010. A response from Google in the spring was judged inadequate by its rivals, the commissioner said, and intensive negotiations have been conducted since.
Almunia said the Google investigation was difficult and complex because it was the first time Brussels had scrutinised the online search market and because the sector was changing at such speed.
Google confirmed that it had made “difficult” concessions in an attempt to defuse the dispute.
Kent Walker, Google senior vice-president and general counsel, said: “This has been a very long and very thorough investigation. Given the feedback the European commission received on our first proposal, they have insisted on further, significant changes to the way we display search results. While competition online is thriving, we’ve made the difficult decision to agree to their requirements in the interests of reaching a settlement.”