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Search neutrality keeps the internet dynamic
Source: Financial Times
Source Date: Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Created: Jul 21, 2010

From Mr Adil Allawi.

Sir, Google's Marissa Mayer (" Do not neutralise the web's endless search ", July 15) is right to say that government regulation will stifle innovation in a still rapidly developing market. Regulation seems to be the knee-jerk reaction of the state when the free market fails to counter monopolies. But in the modern world of fast technological development it will simply not work. It will protect more inefficient businesses and throttle competition to the disadvantage of the consumer and the wider economy.

However, Ms Mayer's suggestion that users be left to choose for themselves in no way addresses the huge imbalance of power that Google wields over large sections of the economy. Even competition from Microsoft's Bing may not create the neutrality desired, as Microsoft has its own competing services that it may prefer to promote.

A more viable response would be for governments to innovate themselves and invest in open source alternatives. Such investment is most effective not when it is given without condition but when it is targeted at making the software available to ordinary users. In 1999, the German government faced a situation where strong encryption technology was either tightly restricted or unavailable to non-technical users. Its response was to fund the development of an open source project called GPG. This opened the market for software using encryption in Germany and had wider benefits for the rest of the world. The same can be seen when a variety of investors and companies supported the Mozilla project to create a viable alternative to Microsoft's Internet Explorer. The web would not be the dynamic market it is today without it.

Search has become as important to the world economy as the internet itself and a viable open search engine will have the benefit of ensuring market neutrality. One could argue that the market will invest in this alternative, but, as can be seen by Yahoo's exit from the search technology business, the size of this investment may be more than private capital can manage.

Adil Allawi,

Technical Director,

Diwan Software,

London SE5, UK

 

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