This week saw Google make more moves to extend beyond its core search business. The big thing was the much-discussed acquisition of YouTube, a move that automatically vaults the company to the top of the online video heap. Getting less attention was its launch of Google Docs & Spreadsheets, essentially bringing its online word processor and spreadsheets under one roof, in a bid to sharpen its online applications strategy. So as it clearly wants to parlay its dominance in search into other areas, Nick Carr takes a moment to ponder the possibility of an eventual DOJ vs. Google antitrust case a la the case against Microsoft. It's a two-part issue, really. The first is whether such a case is likely; the second is whether such a case is warranted. As for the former, it's difficult to guess, but dominant companies that start spreading their footprint in this way do tend to attract regulatory attention over time. As for whether or not it's warranted, here Carr seems to hint that it might be, noting the company's powerful network effects and scale. But, just a few short years ago, most people still thought Microsoft's network effects gave it an unassailable monopoly; now people wonder to what extent the company can hang on to its most profitable lines. And if Google is already at the stage where it needs to spend billions to buy out a rival, it obviously isn't as strong as Carr believes. Recent history has shown how quickly dominant companies can fall purely by market forces. To already be talking about the need for government intervention seems quite premature.
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