Proposed Changes to Google Search Not in Compliance with DMA

Yelp found that Google’s proposed redesign of their search results resulted in less competition:

The experiments found that about 73 percent of about 500 people using that new design clicked results that kept them inside Google’s ecosystem—an increase over the 55 percent who did so when the design Google is phasing out in Europe was tested with a smaller pool of roughly 250 people.

Yelp also tested a variation of the new design. … with only about 44 percent of consumers in the experiment sticking with the search giant. …

Yelp proposed to EU regulators that to produce more fair outcomes, Google should instead amend the map widget on results pages to include business listings and ratings from numerous providers, placing data from Google’s directory right alongside Yelp and others.

The design decision is whether Google should place the “Box” which contains alternatives to Google Maps above or below the Google Maps frame.

I think it’s amazing that Google is implementing something like Search Choices at all (they’re being forced to, obviously), especially so close to the top of the page. It sounds unreasonable to me that they should be expected to show third-party search tools before their own search tool.

I found one of the Ars comments enlightening:

What bothers me about this entire discussion is that users are barely mentioned at all, let alone as stakeholders whose interests should be considered. Sure, they’re measuring whether people are clicking through to Yelp, but is anyone measuring whether these changes are going to help get users the information they want or need? Those are two different things.

Google’s results page has already gotten so bloated with widgets and boxes and myriad “helpful” things that I can’t help but think these changes will only make things worse. For example, Yelp mentions how their testing looks at whether the Google Maps widget is shown above or below some other boxes affects click-through rates; but 9 times out of 10 when I Google a restaurant name, the two things I’m looking for are (1) the restaurant’s own website, or (2) the maps widget so I can quickly get directions. Seems like these changes are only going to add features that interfere with getting me where I want to go.

I tend to focus on the competition argument.

There are two problems that the European Commission are trying to address. One, Google search results don’t give the lowest prices. Two, Google scrapes content from other websites and puts it on

That’s exactly like taking other people’s answers and putting it on your homework.

That makes sense because Google is not a search engine. Google scrapes information off of other websites or acquires uncompetitive businesses and then uses their legacy business–Google Search–to keep people within their walled garden. If Google was a search engine, they’d be sending traffic to other websites.

When you hear phrases like “73 percent” or “44 percent” of people never leave after searching, that’s not a search engine: that’s self-preferencing.

And the problem is that people who are doing good work and can beat Google on the merits never get seen. Someone will do a search for airline tickets and assume what they’re looking at is the best when it’s not.

To get a good idea of this, I recommend reading The Markup’s investigation of Google Search.

I appreciate that people are vaguely aware of these issues. But, they are the main course. Saying that Google has the right to promote itself or that I’ll be even more annoyed at are distractions.

I don’t think either of these problems apply very well to the Maps or Businesses widgets, which seem to be what the Ars article is talking about.

Every business I know is more than happy to be included in the Google Knowledge panel when users search for something.

I’ve also found that many searchers like instant answers of the type Google provides so much that they view Mojeek as backwards because it doesn’t include any of these answer widgets aside from a Wikipedia excerpt; a website which gives explicit permission with its license to use their content.

And, sometimes, I’m also part of that group. Sometimes I would like to know the year Broken Flowers came out right at the top of the Mojeek SERP. These snippets are quite small and certainly fall under fair use. I do recognize that it’s a balancing act between being useful to searchers and respectful of the websites you link to and take excerpts from.

Often, there’s a lot of garbage at the top of a Google search page I need to scroll past to get to the actual results. They go way too far with the widgets. But a small amount helps a lot and is genuinely useful to users.

What really rubs me the wrong way is the idea Google should prioritize other websites before their own search widgets. Of course a business preferences their own products and services. Why would they preference a competitor’s?

“Google helped build the free internet. And now they’re helping dismantle what they built,” said Chris Cummings, CEO of Curiosity Media, which owns the translation website

The site provides free translations and dictionary entries, many written by linguists and translators, he said. It is ad-supported and needs web traffic to survive. For years, he said, it grew as Google grew. But then Google began giving the top spot in searches to Google Translate, which is automated and asks users for corrections.

“The big loss is for consumers,” he added, “because nobody thinks that Google Translate is the most accurate translator.”

The fact is, most people do not care about the most accurate translation. Google Translate is more useful to them because it is fast, convenient, and more relevant than pre-prepared translations that are similar to what you’re asking for. Google Translate serves users better. Google ought to provide alternate machine translation services like DeepL, as well.

Every student of a foreign language, of course, knows that machine translation tools are antithetical to properly learning the language and avoids them studiously. These searchers will go to dictionary sites like SpanishDict.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Google ultimately wants their SERP page to take the form of 99% widgets/answers and 1% citations where you can click a site to see more. That’s really not what I go to a search engine for, and I honestly can’t use Google anymore for that reason.

I think Google should be obligated to provide alternatives because they are such a large monopoly, and I don’t think even putting the alternatives above its own tools will make that large a dent. Searchers who find the widgets useful will scroll right past the alternatives anyway.

I just don’t think Google is wrong when they say their answer widgets are useful to searchers. I do think they overstate their usefulness.


Making Google provide alternatives avoids the problem of monopoly. What we need are more big general search engines that are not using either Google’s or Bing’s index.

I don’t know how we retrain searchers to use several different search engines (other than marketing), but I do know that first we have to actually have alternative search engines available. Users can’t move to something that does not exist. I know I’m restating the obvious, but Google’s serps are just one part of the problem, the deeper problem is they have no viable competition.


I think the problem lies in search engines being similar to a library: you can’t charge people for every book they read. Google’s strategy is then to slap posters or cram flyers (ad placements on a website) on every nook and cranny, and even accepting payments from publishers to rearrange the books in the shelves (ad placements on search). The library then becomes cluttered and disorganized, where the increasing difficulty for searching for the books people need enraged them, with some deciding to leave.

But Google wants more profits, not less (take note “profits”, meaning they’re excess of what they need to sustain the business), so removing those money-making distractions is out of the option. Enter Google the publisher, where instead of needing to search the chaotic bookshelves, they do it for you and hand you a piece of paper containing what you want (features snippets and Bard). They also started publishing books that are exclusive to their library, like a map that other people create but they own, including the information and reviews in there (Google Maps).

These are not just terribly convenient, but also resulted in huge time savings for most people. And these features are exclusive to Google, unlike those books by other publishers that can exist in other libraries. With that, I agree with @gnome regarding the snippets, and that the requirement to put the alternatives above their own alone wouldn’t make a dent.

However, on a practical perspective, they do make a good starting point. Regular folks do not necessarily trust Google more, most only prefer it for speed. Make those alternatives as convenient as Google’s break a barrier for exit (on Google), and some people may start reading or clicking on them. Also, as those alternatives aren’t exclusive to Google, a competitor could get Google Maps, or get a map as good as Google Maps, and replicate that functionality (of their search features), breaking another barrier for exit. Every barrier of exit broken improves the environment for competitors and users, as Google slowly loses the power to dictate how things should be.


I’m starting to believe this more and more: Where’d my results go? Google Search’s chatbot is no longer opt-in | Ars Technica