New Antitrust Boss Has Already Expressed Concerns About Google

from the so-much-for-eric-schmidt's-relationship... dept

There have been some folks in the press who have repeatedly pointed out Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s close relationship with President Obama to suggest that Google should be “protected” from government regulation. However, there’s little to suggest that’s necessarily the case. Plenty of folks who feel strongly anti-Google have close relationships with the administration as well. And, as Bloomberg notes, Obama’s nominee for antitrust chief, Christine Varney, has recently described Google as a likely antitrust problem, noting the company “has acquired a monopoly in Internet online advertising.” Of course, that’s wrong on many levels (it doesn’t have anything close to a monopoly in online ads), but this should at least serve as evidence that reports of Google’s “control” over the administration isn’t nearly as strong as some have been suggesting.

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Comments on “New Antitrust Boss Has Already Expressed Concerns About Google”

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bob says:


Google is the least of our worries. If they go, what would really happen? Some other search engine or app provider would jump at the chance. What he should be concentrating on is rewriting antitrust law to cover businesses who are “too big to fail”. Honestly, if you are too big to fail and require federal aid, you are too big to exist as is.

Jasen says:


Google bases its philosophy on innovation and has been successful. Their business model is unique. The company uses team management where the employees vote on new ideas, instead of the typical corporate dictatorship. A successful corporation in corporate America that is “different” scares people. So it figures that people would attack Google.

Google’s advertisements are less intrusive on websites because they are text based. Cruise the internet and you will find tons of websites that still use flash advertising. If other advertisers want some of Google’s market, then perhaps they should go back to basics and follow Google’s example. Since other advertisers aren’t attempting to take Google’s market, this leads me to believe there is no concern.

The idea that Google is monopolizing is a ridiculous claim. I’m certain Google’s legal team can dispute such accusations. I wish corporate America would adopt Google’s philosophies. Perhaps we wouldn’t have to bail them out then.

Dave says:

Do you use Google?

I agree that if Google failed someone else would jump in their spot. That very thing happened to AltaVista, Excite, even WebCrawler.

But Google is such a dominant force that EVERYBODY uses Google. There are very few people on the internet that use anything else to do searches. That makes Google more or less a monopoly.

Now the difference is whether they have an unfair monopoly, or if they have done anything dirty in the business world to push other people out. The closest thing they had was the Google-Yahoo deal, which would have been a big strike against Microsoft’s Live search, but I still don’t see that as an unfair business practice. More like Yahoo opting to go with the best search engine out there.

An unfair business practice would be something like excluding or lowering Microsoft’s site from search results, or forcing you to use Google Search when using Chrome.

Daniel Pino (profile) says:

Re: Do you use Google?

The following is an excerpt from my website, it might address some personal concerns about Google, and what each person who uses Google might (or) should be focused upon when looking at a Mega-Corporation . . . .

. . . “I have been told that Google is more than just a brand name, that it is actually a word now. And if people use it as such in everyday conversation then it must be. If you google something, you are engaged in a particular act. I suppose that makes Google a verb of sorts. If many years from now a child is asked to spell the word “Google” in some formal setting, before he or she blurts out the correct spelling he or she might first ask “Could I have the language or country of origin please?” An administrator sitting upon a panel might look down upon his notes, pause for awhile, then say something like “Google is an American word that comes from the early 21st century.”

Information has changed dramatically in my lifetime. In order for younger people to get an idea what I mean then let me give you a setting. When I was young I remember going over to a friends house and standing in front of the bookshelf within his family’s living room. They had an elegant bookcase above a fireplace with a built in hi-fidelity stereo, a Harman Kardon receiver, a nice turntable, big speakers, the whole works. Above it and running the length of a top shelf was a full version of The Encyclopedia Britannica. I can’t recall how many volumes there were neatly set within deep shelving, I do know that more than once I would slide out one of the big heavy hardbound books that were labeled alphabetically and ordered so within the bookcase. I could research just about anything I chose to even though that whole massive set of books was slightly dated. It was a valuable and handsome resource. Within my bedroom I also had my own set of reference books, a full volume set of World Book Encyclopedias arranged neatly atop the bottom shelf of a corner desk and drawer bookcase unit. I think they were a 1972 version, perhaps earlier. I used them frequently. They were an invaluable resource when researching items such as countries, famous people, animals, inventions, and many other items that were fixed in time and easy to list and describe. And there they were, listed A to Z, always at my fingertips, something new each time I pulled one out. Not lost on me though was the fact that the whole set of books was dated. Even as a youngster I knew full well that events change. Populations, tongues, and inventions change. Loads of fixed items that are listed and indexed can change while progress, evolution, disaster, war, and competition move along. Sometimes they accelerate. So all those books therein compromising a full set of encyclopedias soon became time pieces however they were written and however their page contributors interpreted events. Their bulk would soon become obsolete as well.

Libraries were designed around the ease of finding a particular book. School and public libraries usually had a centrally located small reference cabinet packed with small drawers that pulled out, each little drawer holding long stacks of type written index cards on smooth white or beige card stock paper. Books were listed thus. A book had its own corresponding reference card. Library goers could go to the cabinet or ask a librarian to see if the book they sought was available. Some libraries also contained microfilm and microfiche files where you could sit and scroll through a viewing system at past newspaper, magazine, and print articles. But much of that has changed. That massive system of paper, all of those crafted cabinets, all of those typewriters that pressed down their ink, all of those print and film files, all of them in coordination, designed to list and obtain information, now just stale parts of the near past.

When I first began browsing the web I didn’t think much about its potential value or impact. It was a nice resource but it could also be time consuming no different than vegetating in front of a television or spending hours on end fondling a hand held Playstation remote. I remember hearing about the World Wide Web, the internet, what it offers, what direction it may go, how it’s changing information, and how it’s breaking down some barriers. I remember hearing rave reviews about something called America Online, and of search engines available to people like Alta Vista and Yahoo. And they were interesting. I looked at them but wasn’t drawn in to their use by any means, I could do without them or the internet entirely. But years pass. Companies come and go, some get absorbed, some get passed by, some have an eminent failure for their business plan, and some can’t see around the next corner. A few grow to immense proportions. And size often causes alarm with some people whether it be Google, Microsoft, General Electric, AT&T, US Steel, The East India Trading Company, Wal Mart, or Nike. Some of that alarm comes with a solid foundation based upon ugly facts especially if a large corporation leaves behind a ghost town in its business wake. But size shouldn’t necessarily draw too much alarm if that corporation doesn’t produce anything tangible even if it has in fact become a Mega-Corporation. Similar to Facebook, you can’t touch what Google primarily does in function. So size isn’t a big issue with me knowing that first, Google might be the clear cut favorite for search engine use right now, but there are still some players out there such as Bing and Yahoo; and second, Google provides a service not a product, and many of the services it does provide are still free. And so long as those services remain free I find it difficult to go off onto any super critical tangent especially when I’m drawing value out of what it provides.

Exxon/Mobil and British Petroleum are easy to criticize given their history and what it is that they do. And not lost to many people is their advertising machinery, especially evident when they blanket television screens with the soft look of fresh and sometimes young innocent looking faces, endearing spokespersons who tell us about the future, about possibilities, and all the good works that these behemoths are currently tackling in order to help get us there. But in the real world of the here and now, they ravage the planet. Make no mistake, that’s what a propaganda network looks like and it’s very dangerous stuff. I could talk at length about what entities like those really do, about their real impact on earth, sky, and water, and about what their real contribution is to society. How they change the landscape, how they transform government and distort foreign policy. I might be able to talk about them indefinitely, maybe make a career out of it provided I had enough personal energy. That would be almost too easy. But back to point, unfortunately those are Mega-Corporations that provide products. If someone feels the need to get critical when discussing the implications of size and power then those might be more appropriate places to start, not with an internet giant that concerns itself with how information is gathered, collated, and disseminated. If Google had some weird political platform that it hoisted like a black flag, then it would be time to get worried. So pushing the problem of size aside, right now the water is calm enough for me. And right now they offer free services that I value. I use their search engine frequently. I pull information from it, I apply it to what I’m doing, and occasionally I find new things that I can use and integrate into my site. Sure, I could have used another engine and perhaps retrieved similar looking results, but I didn’t. In any case, Google deserves loads of credit. A positive write up is the only way I know how to repay them.”

from The Western Arc, Daniel A. Pino, Author

Brett Glass says:

Google's market power is a real concern.

When Google marked the whole Web as malware a few weeks ago, many users literally didn’t know what to do; they didn’t know how to get to another search engine (or, in some cases, that other search engines even existed!). And now that it has merged with Doubleclick, Google is also the largest source of spyware tracking cookies on the Internet. Google also reads the e-mail of GMail subscribers and uses it to compile dossiers on users (which can then be linked to the cookie data). Google also has a ridiculous 70%+ share of the Web advertising market. This is far too much power for any one corporation to have. Is it any wonder that Google is lobbying in DC like crazy — in part for regulations that would keep ISPs from limiting its market power?

Anonymous Coward says:

Abuse of mkt. power is illegal -- "monopoly" is just shorthand

Ms. Varney is using antitrust shorthand when she talks about Google’s monopoly. Under antitrust law, she is almost certainly right in saying that GOOG can raise and lower prices at will, if only within a relatviely modest band. Under that definition, GOOG has market power and can be prosecuted under antimonopoly laws.

GOOG of course does not literally have all of the market, but its ubiquity and resultant precision targeting are such that new entrants who could give them a run for the money are — well, nowhere to be seen.

At some point, when barriers to entry get high enough and pricing power gets big enough, companies start abusing their power. We don’t know for sure if Google has reached that point but we should find out if the Tradecomet case goes to trial.

Most people thought there was no Microsoft monopoly, either, back in the day. If Google engages in tactics like those MSFT once used they will be brought to heel. The biggest problem is we won’t know for sure unless there is a prosecution and trial that brings out all the nasty stuff, just as it did in the Microsoft case. The media was for the most part shocked and shocked even more to find out things that had been whispered around the Valley for years.

Let’s remeber that Christine Varney was a major consultant for Netscape duruing the Microsoft trial and talked to reporters more than a few times during the case. She knows how these things play out from up close.

The parallels are striking. Just wait and see. My money is on Varney for the win.

Different Dave says:

Market dominance != monopoly

The other Dave is 100% correct – being dominant != being an illegal monopoly.

Google should be watched by the federal government to make sure they aren’t being sneaky and doing anything illegal. But they’re dominant because most of the time they’re the best.

Microsoft’s problem was that they were tying everything together and not giving users a choice. Google (so far) has done quite the opposite.

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