Google blames search “monopoly” on bug

The Googleplex Google HQ by Trey Ratcliff on Flickr

Google denied that it intentionally buried the search results of rivals Yelp and TripAdvisor and claimed the problem was the result of a coding "glitch", it has emerged.

The denial comes after executives from Yelp and TripAdvisor noticed that Google searches for the businesses had suddenly sunk below that of Google's, leading to claims that Google was using it as a move to edge out competitors.

A Google spokeswoman told Re/code that far from being a nefarious plan to silence rivals, the whole debacle was down to a hiccup.

"The issues cited were caused by a recent code push, which we're working quickly to fix," she said.

However, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman told the same publication that this was "far from a glitch" and more a "pattern of behaviour".

In a Tweet, Stoppelman demonstrated how a search on Google for "Yelp Ozumo" saw Google's own results pushed to the fore and not Yelp's. He alleged that there was "no limit to how far @google will go, tricking consumers when they ask for Yelp or Trip. Everybody loses."

A Tweet by TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer said that a search for "TripAdvisor Hilton" puts the TripAdvisor link "so far down you can't see it".

Complaints such as these have been the backbone of an investigation by the European Commission's competition watchdogs for around a year. Both TripAdvisor and Yelp are complainants. Google has denied that it has boosted its own results over that of rivals and said that search results are driven by user needs.

Stoppelman made a further Tweet doubting the problem was down to a bug. "Google sounding about as truthful as Trump, web search becoming a dirty business of burying your competition," he alleged.

Travis Katz, CEO of travel website Gogobot piled in with support for Stoppelman's misgivings.

"Google not burying Gogobot or 4sq [FourSquare] for same queries, making it unlikely this is a bug," he alleged in a Tweet.

Documents leaked to the Wall Street Journal have drawn attention to the fact that "co-occurrence signals were used in many vertical areas" to generate search results for Google's own products.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.