Search stays the same: feds and Google settle antitrust issues

In a long-awaited announcement, the Federal Trade Commission confirmed Thursday that it has reached a settlement with Google(s goog) after a nearly two year investigation into how the search giant treats competitors. The deal will force Google to change some of its patent practices but will have relatively little effect on how the company displays its search results.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday afternoon, FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz said the agency, in a 4-1 vote, would force Google to stop using standards essential patents in order to to ban rivals’ gadgets from the market place.

On the question of so-called “search bias” — whether Google unfairly demoted rival companies’ sites in its search listings — Leibowitz said the FTC had “exhaustively” examined the issue but concluded that there was no evidence had broken any antitrust laws. He said the FTC had found a “plausible connection” between Google’s listings and efforts to improve user experience, and pointed to efforts by other companies to “game” Google’s algorithms.

In response to criticism from Microsoft(s msft) and others that the FTC was being soft on Google, Leibowitz cited the late Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren to say that the country’s antitrust laws exist to protect competition not competitors.

Under the deal, Google is also making commitments to let competitors like Yelp exclude snippets from its search results and to share certain data that helps marketers buy ads on different platforms.

You can read details here. We will have a good rundown of the winners and losers of the deal soon.