When Competition Fails to Optimize Quality: A Look at Search Engines

42 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2015 Last revised: 5 Oct 2016

See all articles by Maurice E. Stucke

Maurice E. Stucke

University of Tennessee College of Law; The Konkurrenz Group

Ariel Ezrachi

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 23, 2015


The European Commission’s Statement of Objections forms the latest addition to the ongoing debate on the possible misuse of Google’s position in the search engine market. The scholarly debate, however, has largely been over the exclusionary effects of search degradation. Less attention has been attributed to the dimension of quality – whether and how a search engine, faced with rivals, could degrade quality on the free side.

We set out to address this fundamental issue: With the proliferation of numerous web search engines and their free usage and availability, could any search engine degrade quality?

We begin our analysis with a review of the network effects that may impact the relative power of a search engine. We next identify three necessary, but not sufficient, variables for quality degradation to occur in search results. With these three variables in mind, we consider instances when a search engine could degrade quality despite competition from rival engines.

Keywords: Competition, Antitrust, Search Engines, Quality Competition, Status Quo Bias, Network Effects

JEL Classification: K21, L40, L41, L15

Suggested Citation

Stucke, Maurice E. and Ezrachi, Ariel, When Competition Fails to Optimize Quality: A Look at Search Engines (April 23, 2015). 18 Yale Journal of Law & Technology 70 (2016); University of Tennessee Legal Studies Research Paper No. 268. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2598128 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2598128

Maurice E. Stucke (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )

1505 W. Cumberland Ave.
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States
865-974-9816 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.utk.edu/directory/maurice-stucke/

The Konkurrenz Group ( email )

5335 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Suite 440
Washington, DC 20015
United States

Ariel Ezrachi

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

United Kingdom

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