Edited by Joseph E. Harrington Jr and Yannis Katsoulacos
Chapter 8: A Note on Vertical Search Engines’ Foreclosure
Emanuele Tarantino1 8.1 INTRODUCTION Vertical search engines are websites that address users’ queries related to a particular subject matter. For example, Expedia is a vertical search engine that provides users with information on flights, Yahoo! Finance specializes in financial information and services, Weather.com on weather news and forecasts. In Ciao v. Google and Foundem v. Google, the European Commission is investigating whether Google has acted to favor its own products and services by distorting search results. At the same time, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently announced its intention to investigate the impact of Google’s dominance on the Web.2 Allegedly, Google would manipulate its search algorithms to push integrated vertical websites to the top of Google search results, possibly at the expense of superior competing products. In this way, Google would limit competing websites’ chances of being clicked by Internet users and threaten Internet plurality and ‘neutrality.’ In Figure 8.1, I report the organic search results returned by Google after a query with keyword ‘finance’ conducted in June 2011. Google Finance links are at the first and at the second position, whilst Yahoo! Finance links rank third and fourth.3 In a survey published in April 2010, comScore documents that Yahoo! Finance is the most popular finance vertical website and Google Finance ranked 60th. The question arises whether the one in Figure 8.1 is an instance of a vertical search engine’s foreclosure: although users seem to prefer Yahoo! Finance, Google puts its own pages at the top of its organic...
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