Archive for March, 2010

Foundem is Nobody’s Puppet

March 8th, 2010 No comments

The questions journalists have been asking Foundem over the last week or so suggest that Google is working behind the scenes to portray Foundem as some kind of Microsoft puppet.

Here we set the record straight by outlining how Foundem came to file a formal complaint against Google with the European Commission.

About Foundem

Foundem is a small, innovative UK technology company founded in 2005. Its husband and wife co-founders, Adam and Shivaun Raff, had an idea that they hoped could transform vertical search from a bespoke, niche-by-niche, task into a broad, scalable, niche-independent one. After graduating from Edinburgh University with a degree in computer science, Adam had 15 years experience at the leading edge of High-Performance Computing—first with Supercomputer pioneers Cray Research and later with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. After graduating from King’s College London with a degree in computer science with physics, Shivaun had 15 years experience managing complex software development projects for a number of blue-chip companies. Their combined training and experience allowed Foundem to progress rapidly from a patented idea, to a fully developed technology, and finally to a competition-beating service—all with just one additional developer.

Foundem’s unique technology allows it to compete across a broad spectrum of verticals, including product price comparison and travel search, with just a tiny fraction of the resources of its competitors. In December 2008, for example, The Gadget Show, the UK’s leading technology television program, tested the UK’s twelve leading price comparison sites and named Foundem the best. In September 2009, the UK’s leading consumer body, Which?, tested the UK’s leading flight search engines and placed Foundem third (the American travel search specialist Kayak placed eighth).

Now that Foundem has emerged from its three-and-a-half-year Google search penalty, it can once again focus on ensuring that its technology fulfils its potential to deliver far more comprehensive vertical search to a far broader array of verticals than is currently possible using traditional methods.

The Chronology

Much has been made of Foundem’s membership of ICOMP (the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace—a trade association sponsored by Microsoft).

Foundem’s Google penalties, and its ensuing campaign to have them overturned, started two-and-a-half-years before Foundem had even heard about ICOMP:

June 2006

Foundem’s Google search penalty begins. Foundem starts an arduous campaign to have the penalty lifted.

August 2006

Foundem’s AdWord penalty begins. Foundem starts an arduous campaign to have the penalty lifted.

August 2007

Teleconference with Google AdWords Quality Team representative.

September 2007

Foundem is “whitelisted” for AdWords (i.e. Google manually grants Foundem immunity from its AdWords penalty).

January 2009

Foundem starts “public” campaign to raise awareness of this new breed of penalty and manual whitelisting.

April 2009

First meeting with ICOMP.

October 2009

Teleconference with Google Search Quality Team representative, beginning a detailed dialogue between Foundem and Google.

December 2009

Foundem is “whitelisted” for Google natural search (i.e. Google manually grants Foundem immunity from its search penalty).

Foundem has never received any money from Microsoft, and Microsoft does not own any of Foundem’s shares.

Throughout Foundem’s protracted campaign to have its Google AdWord and Search penalties lifted, it acted entirely independently and on its own. In addition, Foundem’s initiative, its op-ed in the New York Times, and the research and arguments comprising Foundem’s Universal Search FCC filing were all entirely conceived and implemented by Foundem alone.

Since Foundem’s first meeting with ICOMP in April 2009, ICOMP has been of invaluable assistance to Foundem in three areas. First, it provided opportunities to meet others with similar experiences, as well as with European regulators and policymakers. Second, it provided insight and assistance in the production and framing of the legal components of Foundem’s European complaint. Third, it provided emergency PR support during the recent Google-induced media maelstrom. Without ICOMP’s superb support team, calmly fielding dozens of requests for comment and queuing up seemingly endless press interviews, we would very probably have drowned.

In summary, it is highly misleading to suggest that Microsoft (or ICOMP) initiated or in any way controlled Foundem’s European complaint or any of Foundem’s other initiatives.

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