Nick Carr on IE7, Google, and the DOJ

According to a report in the New York Times, Microsoft has been vindicated in its decision to make its MSN/Live Search the default in Internet Explorer by the Department of Justice. The DOJ and states monitoring Microsoft's practices following the monopoly decree have stated that the default setting is appropriate and easy enough to change.

According to a report in the New York Times,  Microsoft has been vindicated in its decision to make its MSN/Live Search the default in Internet Explorer by the Department of Justice. The DOJ and states monitoring Microsoft's practices following the monopoly decree have stated that the default setting is appropriate and easy enough to change.

In an earlier post, "Just what was Google thinking?", I stated (and quoted opinions from others) that this was an ill-advised attempt on Google's part to play the monopoly card. Today, Nick Carr sums up this tawdry situation nicely. Carr writes

But Google continues to complain about its rival's tactics. In a statement released after the government's decision, the company said: "Changing the search engine may be simple by Microsoft's standards. But if it were truly simple, users would be able to change the default with one click. Microsoft could have easily designed it that way. Instead, they've built it so users have to go through multiple steps to choose a search engine."

This seems more like corporate whining than anything else. The power of the default lies in the fact that most people are not geeks. They have better things to do than to fiddle with their computer's settings, whether the fiddling involves "one click" or "multiple steps." They'll stick with the default as long as it serves their needs - and as long as, in their perception, no clearly superior alternative exists. If Google wants to override the default instinct, in other words, it's going to have to rely on its ability to produce what customers see as a clearly superior search engine. The Feds aren't going to step in to protect its semi-monopoly on internet searches.

Hear, hear. Based on the numbers I see on this blog, on my company's web site, and in traffic reports posted in too many places to count, Google has accomplished exactly what Carr describes as a "semi-monopoly" on search. They should take a page from Mad Magazine's icon Alfred E. Neumann and take a "What? Me Worry?" attitude. And keep innovating. 

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