EU Concludes Google Antitrust Action With a Whimper, Not a Bang

| Wed Feb. 5, 2014 2:11 PM EST

The European Union has announced an agreement with Google that resolves a longstanding antitrust action. If you search for, say, gas grills, you'll no longer see a results page with a bunch of Google ads for gas grills. You'll see ads from both Google and others. Tim Lee explains:

Instead of showing six Google-selected ads for gas grills, the results would show three gas grills from Google's product search engine and another three ads from competitors. Google will be allowed to charge these competitors for including these ads at regulated rates comparable to those Google charges for inclusion in its own product search engine. Similar changes will be required in other cases where Google includes results from a specialized search engine in its general search results.

Let me get this straight. There will now be two categories of ads. One will be "Google shopping results," which you pay Google to be included in. The other will be "Alternatives," which you pay comparable rates to Google to be included in. Both will be displayed next to each other.

That's not nothing, I guess, especially since advertisers will have more control over the presentation of their products in the "Alternatives" section. And there are some other tidbits in the agreement that also represent improvement, though they're mostly things Google had previously agreed to implement. Unless I'm missing something, this seems like fairly small potatoes. School me in comments if I'm wrong about this.