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Google agrees to modifications to its patent lawsuit strategy, how it handles online data

After nearly two years of investigation, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) probe into internet and mobile services giant Google Inc. (GOOG) is about to wrap up, and Bloomberg is reporting that a settlement has been reached which will protect Google against possible fines.

I. Google Says it Will Change Its Ways

Importantly Google agreed to undisclosed changes in how it uses patents for mobile standards, which are licensed under so-called "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory" (FRAND) rules.  Most of Google's FRAND patents came courtesy of subsidiary Motorola Mobility, which Google acquired for $12.5B USD in a denial finalized in Feb. 2012.  

Google had hoped to use Motorola patents to defend its Android partners against Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) and Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFTaggressive litigation tactics, but those efforts proved largely unsuccessful and came under fire when it became clear that much of Motorola's portfolio were FRAND patents, which come with obligatory licensing demands.

web scraping
Among its promises, Google promises to be be more respectful of others data when web scraping. [Image Source: Google Images/unknown]

The search giant also reportedly agreed to modify other undisclosed business practices; practices that may include making modifications to make Google's search engine less prone to favoring its own internal services.  Google had balked at the idea of letting federal regulators lay their hands on its core search engine code, and ultimately regulators at the FTC appeared to respect Google's concerns, in lieu of its promised concessions.

Reportedly, Google will also modify its so-called "scraping" tactics -- the process of sending scripts to automatically mine data from various internet sites and services, some of which compete with Google.  Another promised modification, according to Bloomberg, is to make it easier for companies to export advertising data from Google's industry-leading advertising platform for use on smaller competitors' platforms.

II. Rivals Complain Settlement is Too Weak

The changes may indeed significantly shift Google's approaches in the mobile and internet spaces, remedying much of the things competitors complained about (if Google follows through).  But competitors are reportedly not happy with the settlement.

Internet services firms like Microsoft, Yelp, Inc. (YELP), and Expedia, Inc. (EXPE) were hoping the FTC would fine Google.  They were also hoping that the watchdog agency would personally supervise Google's efforts to make the changes, rather than agree to a settlement which affords Google greater flexibility to perform the modifications on its own pace and terms.

Expedia Site
Expedia and others are upset at the FTC for letting Google off so easy.
[Image Source: Getty Images]

In a letter to the FTC posted in the coalition's blog yesterday, the group writes, "If the FTC fails to take decisive action to end Google’s anti-competitive practices, and locks itself out of any remedies to Google’s conduct that are offered in Europe later this month, the FTC will have acted prematurely and failed in its mission of protecting America’s consumers." represents Microsoft, Expedia, and other smaller service firms.

In a post on TechNet Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel Dave Heiner adds:

Google continues to prevent Microsoft from offering consumers a fully featured YouTube app for the Windows Phone. 
Google has refused to allow Microsoft’s new Windows Phones to access this YouTube metadata in the same way that Android phones and iPhones do. As a result, Microsoft’s YouTube “app” on Windows Phones is basically just a browser displaying YouTube’s mobile Web site, without the rich functionality offered on competing phones. Microsoft is ready to release a high quality YouTube app for Windows Phone. We just need permission to access YouTube in the way that other phones already do, permission Google has refused to provide.

In the European Union, a similar antitrust probe into allegations of elicit tactics is wrapping up.  The EU has reportedly given Google a final chance to settle.  If the search giant is lucky it may be able to wrap up that dispute in the same manner as it did the U.S. one -- without painful fines or strict government oversight.

Sources: TechNet,, Bloomberg

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Regarding the YouTube app
By futrtrubl on 1/3/2013 1:43:15 PM , Rating: -1
Google doesn't allow anyone access to its internal YouTube API. The apps for Android and iPhone are both made by Google. It's not going to allow another developer access to make their own apps.

RE: Regarding the YouTube app
By Iaiken on 1/3/2013 1:59:58 PM , Rating: 3
Google doesn't allow anyone access to its internal YouTube API. The apps for Android and iPhone are both made by Google. It's not going to allow another developer access to make their own apps.

Not sure if you did your research there...

There are two simple clients for web using both iFrames (html5) and javascript (flash) along with fully fleshed out API's for iOS and Android, in addition to client libraries for Java, .NET, PHP, and Python as well as a raw data API that you can access using XML instructions via HTTP request.

Better luck next time...

RE: Regarding the YouTube app
By Iaiken on 1/3/2013 2:02:14 PM , Rating: 2
Google even documented everything for you and provided examples. Since most Windows 8 apps are just glorified HTML5 plus a .Net back end, writing your own app is laughably easy.

RE: Regarding the YouTube app
By Labotomizer on 1/3/2013 2:36:40 PM , Rating: 2
That doesn't give access to the metadata and search APIs. Which is what the custom apps are built on.

RE: Regarding the YouTube app
By Iaiken on 1/4/2013 4:02:12 PM , Rating: 2
You really ought to learn how to search API's.

You already have access to both search and metadata as well as the ability to monitor things like subscriptions in 2.0. The 3.0 API is getting opened up even further and allow you to request snippets or check your monetization/analytics.

RE: Regarding the YouTube app
By Labotomizer on 1/3/2013 2:01:30 PM , Rating: 2
Defending that is like defending Microsoft keeping private APIs in Windows only it can use. If you think MS was wrong when they had undocumented APIs in the past, I'm not sure how you can get behind Google doing the same thing. Youtube is being leveraged for anti-competitive purposes currently.

By ChronoReverse on 1/3/2013 3:14:15 PM , Rating: 1
One is a core piece of software (Windows) that's entirely important for using the PC while the other is an entertainment software that's not exactly mission critical for a smartphone to function. It's not exactly the same here.

Still, I'm curious as to what is actually preventing MS from creating a Youtube app. All the client-facing functionality of Youtube should be readily available even if Google doesn't bother to make a specific API for you.

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