FairSearch Might be The Biggest Threat to Open Source in a Generation

fair search

FairSearch is a conglomeration of 17 tech companies who have banded together to try to stop Google. That is the simplest way to describe this organization. FairSearch consists of Microsoft, Oracle, Kayak and several other companies that all have one thing in common: they are all getting their tails kicked right across the interwebs by Google. Of course we have all seen Microsoft’s laughably ineffective and transparent “Scroogled” campaign. But Microsoft isn’t content to battle Google in the marketplace, and since there aren’t any legal grounds for a fight in the courtroom, Microsoft and its cohorts are attempting to  subvert Google by filing complaints against Google’s search and mobile services with regulatory agencies in Europe and the United States.

What does this have to do with the open source community? Recently FairSearch filed a complaint with the EU against what it describes as Google’s “predatory distribution of Android below cost”. FairSearch claims that because Google requires any certified device to come with Google’s suite of apps pre-loaded this limits consumer choice. Ironically this is identical to the anti-trust charges that were brought against Microsoft just a few years ago over Internet Explorer being the default browser on Windows.  But we are way past simple hypocrisy on the part of FairSearch at this point.  Back in September 2012, Kayak’s CEO told CNBC that Google’s hotel and flight search is “an inferior product.” Yet Kayak still feels the need to use underhanded tactics in an attempt to undermine Google’s hotel and flight search services. Superior products don’t lose out to inferior products. That isn’t how the marketplace works.

The larger issue here is that FairSearch would love to live in a world where software cannot be distributed below the cost of creating it. That is not a world any of us want to live in. It is in no way an overstatement to say that the internet as we know it would not exist without the open source community. Period. Of course I’m not just talking about incredible open source projects like Linux, Open Office, Java, Firefox, MySQL and far more vital pieces of our current software ecosystem than I could possibly list here. But lets not forget that OSX, Android and Chrome are all derivations of Linux. Not to mention that just the act of setting up a server to host websites would be cost-prohibitive if the only option left to webmasters was a Windows based server. 80% of the internet is hosted on Linux based server.

FairSearch claims that having Youtube, Gmail and Google’s other services pre-loaded on an Android phone is killing competition. But without Android the Nook and the Kindle Fire wouldn’t exist, and neither of those companies include any Google services. Because Android is open source Google can’t go to court and stop companies like Amazon from forking Android and creating something based on Android that doesn’t drive traffic to Google services. All Google can do is continue to innovate at break-neck speed to make sure that no one can bring superior features to Android faster than the company that created it. Does that sounds like something that is bad for consumers or something that is bad for competitors?

Choice is what is at stake in this battle. FairSearch would dismantle Google and the open source community if it meant eliminating competition without being forced to invest the capital and effort required to out-innovate their competitors. If you use the internet FairSearch is trying to stop you from having the ability to use anything without opening your wallet. FairSearch doesn’t advocate for consumers, it advocates for second-tier tech companies  that are running out of ideas.

We are just beginning to see the effect of the unprecedented creativity and unbridled innovation that the internet revolution is bringing to humanity. The internet is young, and mostly unexplored. When settlers from newly formed United States started to trek westward they had no idea what was out there. But they knew there was opportunity, freedom and danger. That didn’t stop them. They stood at the top of a hill and instead of seeing a deadly wilderness they saw unlimited possibility. If the people behind Fairsearch were standing next to those settlers they would have recommended carpet-bombing the Louisiana Purchase to protect real-estate prices in New Jersey.