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The FTC’s implicit endorsement of Google’s approach to Internet search is a blow for Microsoft and other rivals who had lodged complaints with regulators in hopes of goading the government into taking legal action that would split up or at least hobble the Internet’s most powerful company.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, a technology trade group, applauded the FTC for its restraint.

“This was a prudent decision by the FTC that shows that antitrust enforcement, in the hands of responsible regulators, is sufficiently adaptable to the realities of the Internet age,” said Ed Black, the group’s president.

Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. But FairSearch, a group whose membership includes Microsoft, call the FTC’s settlement “disappointing and premature,” given that European regulators might be able to force Google to make more extensive changes. “The FTC’s settlement is by no means the last word in this case,” FairSearch asserted.

Yelp also criticized the FTC’s handling of the case, calling “it a missed opportunity to protect innovation in the Internet economy, and the consumers and businesses that rely upon it.”

Microsoft and its allies could still try to persuade the U.S. Justice Department to pick up the antitrust probe where the FTC left off. That’s what happened in the 1990s the Justice Department took over wide-ranging investigation into Microsoft’s dominant position in personal computer software after the FTC backed off.

The attorneys general in at least six states _ California, Texas, New York, Ohio, Mississippi and Oklahoma _ also have been examining whether Google’s business practices throttled online competition. The status of those state inquiries is unclear.

Investors had already been anticipating Google would emerge from the inquiry relatively unscathed.

Google’s stock rose 64 cents to $723.89 in afternoon trading Thursday. Microsoft shed 35 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $27.27.


AP Technology Writer Barbara Ortutay in New York contributed to this story.