Consumer Watchdog April 21 asked the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a broad antitrust action against Google and suggested the government agency could break up Google into several companies as a remedy to alleged monopolistic practices. The problem with the monopoly argument is that Google doesn't force what is roughly 65 percent of the U.S. search market to use its search service. If a court could not see fit to break up Microsoft a decade ago, how can a court break up Google, which has not been formally accused of anticompetitive practices?
News Analysis: In its most aggressive position against
Google yet, Consumer Watchdog April 21 asked the U.S. Department of Justice to sue the search engine and suggested the
government agency could break up Google into several companies.
Consumer Watchdog advocate John M. Simpson argued that the
government must go beyond opposing Google's attempts to grow its search and
advertising businesses with services such as Google Book Search and by subjecting Google's $750 million bid for mobile ad provider AdMob to intense
"Google exerts monopoly power over Internet
searches, controlling 70 percent of the U.S. market," Simpson wrote in a
letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his team at the DOJ. "For
most Americans - indeed, for most people in the world - Google is the gateway
to the Internet. How it tweaks its proprietary search algorithms can ensure a
business's success or doom it to failure."
The problem with Simpson's monopoly argument, as Google and
legal experts have noted in the past, is that Google doesn't
force what is roughly 65 percent of the people in the United States to use its search. Users come and go as they please and may
take their data with them.
It is fair to point out that Google does make it hard for users to want to leave its
service because it offers several Web services on top of search, including
Gmail and YouTube.
Users who create e-mail and videos with these apps store them in
Google's cloud computing infrastructure. Users who opt to use these
services are (or should be) aware of this when they sign up and can
leave at any time.
The advocate also argues Google tweaks its search algorithms in a
deliberate effort to keep down other businesses while serving its own
interests. Google search results are based on a number of
signals, but the main arbiter is the PageRank algorithm.
Companies in Europe, such as Foundem, are arguing that this approach hurts their business. These arguments that have yet to be fully tested in court.
More interesting is that the advocate for the first time
suggested the DOJ break the company up into several separate companies or at
least regulate it as a public utility. Simpson suggested search could be separated from
He added: "Gmail and its new social
networking service, Buzz, could be spun off as a separate entity as could
YouTube, a Google acquisition that we believe should have been denied at the
time of merger. Enterprise applications could be another separate business."