WASHINGTON Nov 21 Upstart Internet search
engine DuckDuckGo, which promotes itself as a Google Inc
rival which does not track users' personal information,
says it is being hurt by the search giant which is being
investigated by U.S. regulators.
The Federal Trade Commission has been examining allegations
by Google critics that the company breaks antitrust laws by
using its power in the market to smother competitors.
Many of the complaints are similar to assertions made by
Gabriel Weinberg, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology
graduate who started DuckDuckGo.com five years ago.
In an interview on Wednesday, Weinberg said it is difficult
to make his DuckDuckGo the default search site in Google's
Chrome web browser, and that Google disadvantages his company in
the Android mobile operating system as well.
Google denies any wrongdoing and says it allows its users to
choose alternative search engines across platforms.
Companies, including travel site operators and consumer
reviews website Yelp, have accused Google of
manipulating search results to steer traffic to Google products.
There have also been complaints about Google blocking access
by rivals to its Android wireless phone operating system and
about inappropriately asking for injunctions for infringing on
standard essential patents, which ensure interoperability.
FTC commissioners are wrestling with whether they have
enough evidence to file a complaint against Google on
manipulating search results. But the agency is more confident
that it could litigate the other issues, according to two people
familiar with the FTC's deliberations.
Weinberg, who met with the FTC recently but declined to
describe the talks, said that the Android wireless phone comes
with Google as the phone's standard search mechanism.
DuckDuckGo can be added as an app to a mobile device, which
is less convenient than being the default search engine, said
He also said his company had tried to buy the duck.com
domain from its previous owner, On2 Technologies, but was
rejected. Google eventually acquired the domain when it bought
the entire company, and redirects duck.com traffic to
"It only started redirecting after we inquired about (buying
the domain name)," said Weinberg. "It causes confusion."
A Google spokeswoman said the company acquired On2 in 2010
and then pointed duck.com to Google's homepage, "just as we have
for many domains we've gotten through acquisitions."
Weinberg told Reuters that Google's Chrome browser also made
it difficult to change the instant search feature at the top of
the browser to DuckDuckGo.
"It's one-click to get onto Firefox and it's five steps on
Chrome and people generally fail," he said.
The Google spokeswoman said popular search alternatives were
offered on its Chrome browser in a dropdown menu, such as Yahoo
and Microsoft's Bing, but any search engine
could be easily added.
A former antitrust enforcer, who asked not to be named, said
the actions that Weinberg complained about were unexciting taken
individually but, as a cluster, could be worrisome.
"It's relevant. It's what antitrust enforcers call monopoly
soup," said the enforcer.