From today, Google searches will start looking very different in America and Europe

Google and European Commission wrap up antitrust investigation.

Today, Google has come to an agreement with the European Commission over an antitrust investigation that started two years ago: for the first time it will make changes to the way searches are done.

The investigation had four concerns:

1. Google automatically put results from its own company - like Google News or Google Plus Local - ahead of those from rival firms.

2. Google had been scraping content from rivals.

3. Google had made deals with various websites that affected the order of links in a search.

4. Google had made it difficult for advertisers to transfer campaigns to other search engines.

..and has now addressed them in the following way:

1. Google will have to clearly label search results from its own company -  and to run them alongside links from rival companies.

2. Competitors will be able to opt out of Google’s specialist services, without being penalised via search priority.

3. These deals will go.

4. Transferring campaigns will be made easier.

The changes will come in gradually over the next month, leaving time for rivals to state any further problems they have, and will be legally binding for five years. Interestingly though, the changes are to be far more stringent than those made by US regulators, who closed an antitrust investigation back in January after finding Google had not violated any anti-trust statutes. One fall-out of the changes then will be that Google search will look different depending on which side of the Atlantic you are on. Soon, American searchers will be operating in a more Google-centric world than the rest of us.


Photograph: Getty Images
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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood