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This week in Google news

Google remains the favorite of search consumers, but Yahoo and Microsoft are closing the gap.

Google remains the favorite of search consumers, but Yahoo and Microsoft are closing the gap.

A survey of 2,000 consumers conducted ranked Ask Jeeves in fourth place and Lycos in the fifth spot. The survey ranked search engines based on consumer opinion and brand affinity, as well as on qualitative and behavioral data monitored as people performed tasks on these Web sites.

However, the survey found that actual search results returned by the five search engines do not differ significantly. Actual consumer success in doing complex searches showed that the performance of Lycos, Ask Jeeves and Microsoft's MSN was as good as Google and Yahoo.

Google has settled with federal and state regulators over allegations that the company violated securities laws in the handling of its stock options. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also confirmed that it will not proceed with any enforcement action against Google over a high-profile interview with company co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin published in Playboy magazine before Google filed for its initial public offering. Companies are prohibited from promoting their companies before going public.

However, Google's clubby campus has been hit with an embarrassment of riches--literally--thanks to a rarely invoked securities law requiring the company to report stock sales of hundreds of employees rather than just of top executives and shareholders. Since its August IPO, Google has filed documents with the SEC detailing the multimillion-dollar stock sales of founders Brin and Page, all the way down to the rank and file.

Employee complaints aren't exactly piling up about Google's generous stock grant policies, which have helped create an estimated 1,000 new millionaires--at least on paper. But the SEC filings have struck something of a nerve inside the company by offering an unusually candid look into the wealth of co-workers. That's creating unaccustomed tensions inside a workplace that has long projected an image of collegial egalitarianism to the outside world, some people said.