Microsoft this morning became one of the newest members of the FairSearch.org Coalition, a group of companies and technology partners seeking to "support competition, transparency, and innovation in online search." In the short term, the group's big target is Google and its intended $700 million acquisition of online travel firm ITA Software.
The topic is especially relevant for Microsoft due to its use of ITA's technology in its Bing travel site (formerly Farecast). It makes use of ITA's algorithms as part of its recommendation system, which tells users when it's the right time to buy tickets. Microsoft acquired the site back in 2008, before later rolling the technology into MSN Travel, then Bing.com.
Microsoft is joined by U.K.-based search engine Foundem, and online travel agencies Zuji and Level...com out of Singapore and France, respectively. Others already a part of FairSearch.org include Sabre Holdings, Expedia, Kayak, and Farelogix.
As part of the ITA acquisition, Google has promised to honor existing agreements, which would include any with Microsoft and many of the other companies. However, FairSearch.org is arguing that the buy will still stifle innovation and push ticket prices up across the board.
"Acquiring ITA Software would give Google control over the software that powers most of its closest rivals in travel search and could enable Google to manipulate and dominate the online air travel marketplace," the group said in a statement (PDF). "The end result could be higher travel prices, fewer travel choices for consumers and businesses, and less innovation in online travel search."
Google has refuted such claims on a special site that breaks down the company's intentions. However, the acquisition remains the focus of a Department of Justice review, which is looking into how the deal will affect Google's already-powerful place in the search market.