Google Inc. has gained approval from the U.S. Department of Justice for the $700 million takeover of ITA Software, whose software is employed by online travel sites such as Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Kayak, as well as several major airlines. This acquisition highlights the new era of CEO Larry Page’s management in diversifying the world’s largest Internet search company into strategic key growth areas like social networking, mobile, and travel.
The move will enable Google to tap into ITA's competitive Web-based travel purchasing platform, and with the existing functionality of ITA’s tools, Google plans to "develop exciting new flight search tools," according to the company’s senior vice president of commerce and local, Jeff Huber in an official blog post.
"How cool would it be if you could type 'flights to somewhere sunny for under $500 in May' into Google and get not just a set of links but also flight times, fares, and a link to sites where you can actually buy tickets quickly and easily?" said Huber.
Although third parties like Expedia will continue to use the software, Google has agreed to install firewalls that protect the integrity of client information as well as a process to evaluate any questions about fees.
"The proposed settlement assures that airfare comparison and booking websites will be able to compete effectively, providing benefits for consumers," Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joseph Wayland said on Friday April 8, according to Bloomberg.
There was vocal opposition to the merger, with companies such as Microsoft, Kayak.com, Expedia, and other third parties arguing that Google’s acquisition of ITA compromised competition. They previously formed FairSearch.org in opposition to the merger.
Google’s dominant position will likely result in more stringent guidelines and vigilance in the monitoring of its activities. "We continue to scrutinize broader questions about the fairness of Google's search engine, and whether it preferences its own products and services to the detriment of competitors," said Sen. Herb Kohl, chairman of the Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee, reported Reuters.