An update already??

When I said stay tuned, I didn’t know I meant “stay tuned for ten minutes.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is on the verge of buying ITA, a travel search firm. Consistently, Google says the deal isn’t problematic because—wait for it—

it doesn’t currently compete against ITA, which licenses its technology to help power travel booking sites including Kayak.com and those owned by individual airlines.

Of course, the Journal’s not dumb:

Still, the acquisition could come under regulatory scrutiny because it would pair the largest search site on the Web with the dominant travel search software company.

Why, that sounds like Google buying DoubleClick! And Google knows it:

Mr. Schmidt said during the conference call that while he was comfortable with the company’s position, Google expected a “significant” regulatory review of the deal.

The one following on the heels of the other makes this an interesting morning for those of us who don’t really buy “don’t be evil.”

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Google’s a monopoly – in France

It finally happened. Granted, it happened in France, but it happened. Google is a monopoly.

I’m not sure the French authority’s position, though, would hold in the U.S. I’m particularly speaking of this bit:

“Discriminatory practices may harm competition,” the authority said, “when customers of a company holding a dominant position find themselves disadvantaged in the competition on their own market.”

In other words, it does not matter that Navx is not a competitor to Google. Because Google is dominant in its market — Internet search word advertising — it must act almost as a government agency, with clear rules that can be understood in advance and are fair to all.

This is sort of new ground, I think. At least part of that, though, is the nature of Google’s product—Google doesn’t sell computers or license APIs or provide telephone service. Google, instead, sells advertisers access to consumers. And if Google decides that certain advertisers don’t get access to those consumers, well, that’s certainly going to have an effect on competition. Not in the search advertising industry (or even in the online advertising industry—let’s remember that Google owns DoubleClick, so it’s basically got online advertising all sewn up), but it does affect competition.

I’m interested to see how this decision is received here in the U.S. And I’ll be following its progress through the French agency (this ruling was just an interim ruling). Stay tuned!