…the [FTC] decided on a 5-0 vote that Google’s prominent promotion of its own products and services in search results is not biased towards competitors. [Source: Adage]
The ultimate takeaway from this investigation is that Google can keep buying near-monopoly information services and rank its own properties well in search results. YouTube was already dominating when Google bought it, and it would have been mighty difficult to ever lose than dominance (via some catastrophic error), or for a competitor to ever best their first mover advantage. Sure, if you had a few billion spare you could run a comparable service that was ad-free… for a while.
A better way to describe Google’s future monopoly would be that they have five options when an website starts to dominate search results for a particular niche:
1) Buy it
2) Buy a competitor
3) Ban it
4) Copy it
5) Give in
Google also agreed to no longer scrape content from other properties for inclusion in its own search results. Google was alleged to have grabbed content from other sites such as restaurant reviews site Yelp, leading consumers to believe the scraped content was Google’s, said FTC
So, back to their five choices… It is unlikely that Google can make a case for banning Yelp. Buying Yelp might be tricky, given that it was specifically part of this investigation. Copying is unlikely, because Google hasn’t exactly excelled at social – but they might try to incorporate reviews into Google+.
That leaves buying a competitor – and they already have, Zagat just over a year ago.