This afternoon the Senate Judiciary Committee held a series of hearings investigating whether Google may be violating Antitrust law. During the first panel of the day, Google Chairman (and former longtime CEO) Eric Schmidt took the hot seat to answer questions focusing largely on the fairness of Google search results, and whether they unfairly favor Google products (you can find our full post on that hearing right here).
During the second hearing, which just ended, a handful of Google critics and competitors made their cases as to how Google has been anticompetitive. One of these critics was Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, who released a statement last night (embedded below) outlining why he believes Google has abused its market dominance in search. And he provided additional details about Yelp’s relationship with Google during a series of questions from the participating Senators.
One of the themes throughout Stoppelman’s testimony was Google’s mandate that if Yelp wanted its review snippets removed from Google’s Place pages, then Google would remove it entirely from its search results as well. This, Stoppelman says, is a false choice, because nobody can afford not to appear in Google search.
Asked how much of an impact being removed from Google would have on Yelp, Stoppelman replied, “about 75% of Yelp’s traffic, overall, is sourced through Google one way or another. About 50% is traffic coming from people who start their search on Google and eventually find their way to Yelp; the other 25% is people qualifying ‘Yelp’ as one of the keywords in their search… If we were not in Google it would be completely devastating.”
(note that this quote was transcribed live, so may be slightly off)
Stoppelman also pointed out the timing of Google’s integration of Yelp reviews into its Place pages, which he says were added immediately after Google’s reported offer to acquire Yelp fell through — and that they were only removed once government inquiries were looming.
Susan A. Creighton, an attorney at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati who was defending Google, briefly challenged Stoppelman’s assertions while responding to a question regarding whether Google scrapes data from other sites. Creighton described search text snippets, explaining that consumers like having a line or two of text associated with search results. She says that Stoppelman is complaining about these, and that he’s “talking about micro-managing whether or not Google shows those results”.
Also included on this panel were Nextag CEO Jeff Katz and Thomas O. Barnett (partner at Covington & Burling, and former Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust). It’s worth nothing that Creighton was formerly the Competition Director of the FTC. We’ll post video of both panels shortly.