Blending or bundling?
Google may paint this kerfuffle as Foundem struggling to come to terms with its algorithms, but Google whitelisted Foundem back into AdWords in 2007, and on December 1, after our original story ran, restored the site to its unpaid results. The EU complaint is not an effort to somehow change Google's algorithms or expose them. It asks that Google opens up about how it handles penalties and introduce some fair play to Universal Search.
On the penalty front, Foundem is asking that Google come clean on the existence of search penalties, the criteria for applying the penalties, and the rationale behind them. Plus, it wants a formal appeals process. "They need to be much more transparent and effective with appeals so that no other company takes three and half years to get fixed," Shivaun Raff says.
Separately, the Raffs have called for a complete overhaul of Universal Search. "Google should not discriminate - at all - not even in favor of Google's own services," she continues, accusing Google of using completely different algorithms to rank results for its own services. The complaint also argues that when Google inserts its own services, it should clearly label them - just as it labels advertising on its search engine.
As the Raffs point out in their FCC filing, Google has said that Universal Search is a way of "blending" its own services into web results. But the filing also points out that others have called it "bundling". The onus is now on the European Commission to decide whether it should launch a formal probe that will settle these semantic differences.
Shivaun Raff is confident that a probe will indeed be launched. That's her opinion, incidentally, not Microsoft's. She is clearly someone who can speak for herself - and does. Google doesn't seem to realize this. But that's part of the problem. Human interaction is not its strong suit. ®