With so much of the news being dominated by the impending EU referendum, it’s clear that it means something different to everyone. With the country split down the middle and a lot of people still unsure which direction they want to go in, issues such as immigration and the economy take centre stage as politicians battle it out. However, the global search engine industry is one such area that should be considered.

Despite everyone having their own opinion, it is clear that the EU does have some say in a lot of issues that can affect specific industries. The global search engine industry in particular has seen some interesting twists and turns over the years with its run-ins with the EU. But does the Union actually have any influence over the inner workings of such search engines?

New EU legislation

New legislation recently adopted by the EU under the Network & Information Security Directive has revealed the EU’s stance on what makes a search engine. Both the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union came to an agreement after 2 years of negotiation, stating that Google is ‘not a search engine’. Under the same definition, which states that a search engine must search all pages of the web, Bing, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo are also not classified as search engines.

Google does not search every single website; it doesn’t include the dark web and it also doesn’t search or index pages that it’s not directed to by a site’s robots.txt file. According to the EU’s new definition, there is not one global search engine that matches the criteria.

Furthermore, the EU’s own Right to Be Forgotten ruling states that users can request to have outdated or irrelevant content removed, which Google complies with. This is a further argument as to why Google is not a search engine, which seems slightly ironic.

What does this mean for Google?

In all honesty, the way the EU defines search engines is probably not going to make a whole lot of difference. Current global search engines, not just Google, have spent years refining their methods and the way they operate. This means they are unlikely to change it all due to one piece of legislation.

The only way it may have an influence is in regards to legally using the term ‘search engine’ to describe their business within the EU; however, if this became a problem it would probably cause a backlash of some kind.

On-going problems

The EU have had issues with search engines such as Google for some time now. 2014 saw a resolution passed by the EU to split up the different aspects of Google’s business. Based on complaints from Microsoft and other competitors, the EU have been investigating Google on and off for the last 3 years. Whether this will all amount to something, no one is sure yet, but if the EU take action it could mean restrictions and fines for the search engine powerhouse.

Only last year, the EU challenged Google for the first time with antitrust charges. Accusing Google of abusing its dominance, the EU brought in charges that could impede Google’s moneymaking.

This is the first time any sort of antitrust law issue has arisen against Google despite all past issues. The EU could certainly have an influence here in putting pressure on the company to address complaints that it favours its own products in search results over its rivals’ services. This is something that is still on-going today.

Global search engine market share

It may be clear by now that Google clearly holds the biggest share in the global search market. While Microsoft and Yahoo put up a decent fight in the United States with 30% of the market share between them, Europe shows a different picture. Back in 2014, Google had more than 90% of the market share.

Google’s clear dominance in the global search engine industry, while not illegal, is certainly something that has caught the eye of EU regulators. Their influence has put some pressure on the search giant over the past few years.

If you need help in deciding how the EU referendum is going to affect you, check out our guide to voting if you’re a UK business!