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Google's antitrust win and the perfect monopoly on search

Google Opens New Berlin Office

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A visitor uses a cell phone in front of the Google logo. The search giant isn't operating a search monopoly, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

UPDATE: Google offers its own take at the Google blog.

The big news out of Washington on Thursday morning isn't yet another installment in the fiscal cliff melodrama — it's that Google isn't breaking antitrust laws, the Federal Trade Commission concludes.

The investigation zeroed in on the thrumming heart of Google's business, which has rewarded the California tech colossus with a whopping $239 billion market capitalization: search. This is from the New York Times:

Companies that rely on Google to drive traffic to their sites have complained that Google adjusts its search algorithm to favor its own growing number of commerce sites — including shopping, local listings and travel.

But the [FTC] faced an uphill battle in proving malicious intent — that Google changes its search algorithm to purposely harm competitors and favor itself. Antitrust lawyers say anticompetitive behavior cannot be proved simply by showing that a change in the algorithm affects other Web sites and causes sites to show up lower in results, even though studies have shown that users rarely look beyond the first page of search results.