Google came out on the short end of the Friday morning news cycle, but ended the day by coming out swinging.
European Union's top antitrust regulator Joaquín Almunia outlined a timetable for negotiations in his ongoing probe into the search giant's business practices. Bloomberg reported that Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin tapped a blue chip D.C. law firm to handle their depositions with the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. version of the antitrust case. To top it off, Jeffrey Katz, the CEO of Nextag and one of Google's antagonists in the antitrust arena, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal reiterating the charges that Google holds a monopoly in search and search advertising and suggesting possible remedies for Almunia to pursue.
Amit Singhal, Google's Senior Vice President of Engineering, fired back at Katz in a point-by-point riposte on Google's Public Policy Blog.
For those watching the case closely, Singhal did not exactly deny the charge that Google is using its dominant search platform to promote its own content sites -- an allegation that was included in Almunia's preliminary complaint. "It's understandable that every website believes that it is the best, and wants to rank at the top of Google results," Singhal wrote. "The great thing about the openness of the Internet is that if users don't find our results relevant and useful, they can easily navigate to Nextag, Amazon, Yelp, Bing or any other website."
Almunia did not come across as a regulator who was prepared to be convinced of this argument in a May 21 press statement outlining the scope of the E.U.'s issues with Google's business practices. He said, "In its general search results, Google displays links to its own vertical search services differently than it does for links to competitors. We are concerned that this may result in preferential treatment compared to those of competing services, which may be hurt as a consequence."
It will be worth watching to see if this is a rehearsal for arguments Google intends to make in negotiations with the E.U., or if Singhal's post is intended for domestic consumption.