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.