Feature

New Google boss faces keyword battle

LONDON - Occupying Google this month is a top-level reshuffle in the UK, and a court battle with Louis Vuitton. Not to mention the bloke who used Google Earth to nick £100,000 worth of lead roofing.

It would appear the evilometer is almost off the scale
It would appear the evilometer is almost off the scale

By choosing Matt Brittin and not Mark Howe to take over from Dennis Woodside as Google's number one UK employee, the search giant has made a clear choice of the corporate businessman over the charismatic media man. This is in line with frequent Google rhetoric that it is not a media company, despite industry clamour for it to take responsibility for content on its network, most obviously on YouTube. On the other hand, Brittin's appointment as director of UK operations signals Google's commitment to advertisers; Brittin previously oversaw relations with brand-owners while Howe handled the agency side of the business.

When Google proclaimed a year ago that anyone could bid on trademarked keywords longer than one word, UK brands including Domino's, O2, and Diageo spoke out in anger. But none of them actually did anything about it. Meanwhile, LVMH, the umbrella company of Louis Vuitton, has been on at Google for six years, accusing it of pushing people to sites that sell counterfeit goods. The Paris Central Court ruled in favour of Louis Vuitton in 2006, ordering Google to pay EUR300,000 (£281,000) compensation. Google then appealed to the EU's highest court. Unsurprisingly, given the snail's pace at which the European Court of Justice tends to move, this one is going to drag on. But, with Louis Vuitton having succeeded in the French court, the outcome, unlike anti-competitive suits filed against Google, is no sure thing.

Meanwhile, Tom Berge, a tradesman from south London, has allegedly been using Google Earth to zoom in on roofs - but not to see where he can get new work. He has been sent down for taking lead from dozens of buildings in the capital. Of course, pointing to Google Earth is like blaming Ordnance Survey for providing thieves with the maps to target isolated homes. But Google, much like social media sites that get blamed for harbouring paedophiles, has been taking the flak for it.

World dominance update

More than 23 million videos were viewed on Google-owned YouTube in January, a year-on-year rise of 17 per cent. Rivals Microsoft and Yahoo! both saw the number of videos viewed on their sites fall by 12 per cent year on year.