Googles Web Purview is Broadening

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-12-08 Print this article Print

Siva Vaidhyanathan, an associate professor of media studies and law at the University of Virginia, recognized this when he told CNBC's Maria Bartiromo in a segment aired on television Dec. 3:

"There's no reason to think that in five years Google won't be the equivalent of the Web itself because it's active in so many different areas of the Web, including hosted Web video and Web publishing."

This brazen unwillingness to leave any Web niche alone to others is bound to foster fear and mistrust among startups in the space. This mass mistrust sets it up to be targeted by the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission. Even now, the FTC is said to be reviewingGoogle's $750 million bid to acquire AdMob, which IDC said would give Google 24 percent of the mobile display ad market.

That doesn't come close to the company's paid text ad market share of some 90 percent, but the FTC is scrutinizing it just the same. This would not have happened three or four years ago.

Google arguably put itself in the crosshairs when it tried to partner with Yahoo in search to thwart Microsoft. That gaffe has been eclipsed by the negative attention Google is being paid over the Google Book Search deal, whose opponents claim the company's offer to digitize the world's out-of-print books affords it too much control.

Even if government groups don't take action on Google at every step, they are collecting evidence of Google's greed and use it as ammunition for any future transgressions the company may make.

Who is to say what those will be? Google plays in some many Web circles that opposition and trust issues can crop up on any front. However, experts agree that Google's worst enemy is itself, or at least its Bigness, with the feds coming in to burst Google's bubble.

In a New York Times interview face-off, Steve Lohr asked journalist Ken Auletta, who wrote "Googled: The End of the World as We Know It" and Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist at Union Square Ventures, if Google is headed for an "antitrust collision."

Auletta replied:

"Americans have long been fearful of corporate power, and companies with clout in Washington have assembled to urge elected officials to circumscribe Google's power. The mountain of data Google collects is a source of worry, particularly in Europe where privacy laws are more stringent. And every powerful media industry - from newspapers and magazines to books to television to movies to music - has rung the alarm bell to protect their copyrights.

Although Google has become more aware of these threats and has better armed itself to deal with governments, its executives also believe they have powerful Democratic friends in Washington. They would forget, at their peril, that Democrats traditionally warn of Bigness (except big government) and believe in government regulation."

Though it irked him to agree because he dislikes government regulation (find us a VC that does like it!), Wilson added:

"Google may well be headed for its own antitrust collision. It is very dominant in search and even more so in search monetization. There are other markets like mapping and related technologies where it appears to be developing a dominant position."

As it stand now, Google's real-time search offering should keep users from going to Bing or any of the startups hawking real time.

If Bing or any other search player is to make headway versus Google, it will have to keep innovating and hope that Google stumbles and finds itself in a antitrust nightmare worthy of, well, Microsoftian proportions.

That is Bing's only hope of challenging the Do No Evil Empire.   


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