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UK competition watchdog launches investigation into Facebook’s $400M acquisition of Giphy

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Facebook wants to be the go-to platform for all of your social needs, but a big move it made last month to take ownership in the world of GIFs — the short, looping videos that people use to convey sentiments in online conversations — may not go as it hopes. The UK Competition and Markets Authority — the country’s antitrust watchdog — today announced that it has launched an investigation into Facebook’s acquisition of Giphy, the popular GIF repository and search engine that it announced last month it would be acquiring, reportedly for $400 million, to integrate into its Instagram team. Specifically, it’s looking to see how and if the deal will lessen competition in the two companies’ respective markets.

“The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is considering whether it is or may be the case that this transaction has resulted in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and, if so, whether the creation of that situation may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services,” it notes in the announcement.

The CMA is now opening up the case for comments from third parties, to be submitted by July 3, 2020.

The CMA further noted that while its investigation is ongoing, Facebook can’t continue with activities related to the acquisition, unless it has prior written approval from the CMA. This includes integrating the products, integrating the teams, working on business deals or contracts together. Facebook and Giphy both have confirmed to the CMA that they are complying with the order.

GIFs are so ubiquitous on the web, and so easy (and free) to import and use, that the business model behind them is not that immediately obvious, and so it might seem odd to hear about an antitrust complaint related to the acquisition of a GIF platform. However, this is Facebook — a company that’s long been in the crosshairs of competition regulators both in the US and in Europe — and for what it’s worth, even without big money involved (yet), Giphy is huge when it comes to searching for and using GIFs.

And GIFs stand to occupy a big role in the business of the internet, both in general and more direct ways.

On the direct side, while Giphy up to now has not made any money, there is an obvious opportunity to move into the area of sponsored GIFs, and more services to create and disseminate GIF-based content. For a company like Facebook ever looking for more innovative and varied advertising formats that work in a social media context, the allure of a popular platform to fill out that commercial vision is obvious.

On the more general side, they are a key way to create more engagement in social media, another major goal of Facebook — again, as a route to fuelling more audience and eyeballs to drive more ad business. The two already had an integration before Facebook ever made a move to buy it: a full 50% of Giphy’s traffic came from its integrations with Facebook properties Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, as well as Facebook itself, speaking to just how linked the use cases already are for the two.

Facebook has had mergers investigated by the CMA before, although it’s never really been given a hard ride through any of them. Perhaps most notably was the company’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp, the hugely popular messaging platform: given how both platforms, and others at Facebook, have continued to grow, you could argue that there was some antitrust regret over the no-strings-attached nod that the deal got when it closed — which has led to fines after the fact. So it will be interesting to see if the CMA exercises more foresight, or at least better hindsight, with this deal rather than just going through the motions.

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Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

Searchenginejournal.com

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