Google's Size Pertinent to Broad Antitrust Case

 
 
By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-04-06
 
 
 

As eWEEK noted via Bloomberg April 5, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is mulling a broad antitrust investigation of Google's search business.

However, the FTC could also compete with the Justice Department on a broader probe of Google. After all, the DOJ's case against Microsoft made or burnished many careers and the FTC and DOJ both have experts capable of analyzing the Internet market as Google has helped define it. Or so they believe.

If the FTC or DOJ are really going to fire an antitrust investigation broadside at Google, they wouldn't be able to argue that the search engine locks users in the way Microsoft did with its software bundling scheme a decade ago. Google correctly argues that search engines such Microsoft's Bing and Yahoo are just a click away.

Rather, it might be more prudent to look at Google's overall dominance on the Web.

Let's be clear here: the complaints of a handful of vertical search engines and advertisers that Google isn't playing fairly may be a nice conversation starter for an antitrust investigation by the European Commission and the state of Texas, but it might not be sustainable for a gross anti-competition claim by the FTC or DOJ.

So where might the FTC look? How about Google's massive purview online? New research from Royal Pingdom underscores just how massive Google's might has grown online, starting with search and extending its tendrils on the Web via dozens of Web services.

Let's summarize the key data points from Royal Pingdom's research.

Google has 21 of the Alexa top 100 Websites in overall traffic. Google.com is No. 1, possibly with 1 billion searchers, followed by YouTube.com at No. 3 (500 million users a month) and Blogger.com (400 million blog readers) at No. 5.

StatCounter says Google has 90 percent of the search engine market. The default search engine for Android smartphones and Apple's iPhone, Google has 97 percent mobile search share. Overall, Google is believed to have 1 billion searchers.

Speaking of Android, 33 percent of U.S. smartphone users own an Android handset, with 10 million new gadgets activated each month. As the veritable Microsoft Windows for Google's mobile ambitions, Android's reach can't be understated.  

Google Maps is the Web's most popular map service on the desktop and smartphones, where it is the default mapping app on the iPhone, (and iPad and iPod touch), as well as on most Android smartphones and tablets.

Google's Gmail reportedly has between 150 and 200 million users. Google Apps has more than 30 million users, including 3 million-plus businesses. Google's Chrome Web browser commands 11.5 percent market share, and reportedly has well over 120 million users.

"Google's entire user base should be somewhere between 1 and 1.5 billion, depending on how conservative you want to be," according to Royal Pingdom.

"Google.com alone would be impressive. Add to it all the other Web properties we've listed in this article and it quickly becomes obvious that Google is still very much the king of the Internet."

"King of the Internet" may read like so much hyperbole, but it's also the kind of language federal prosecutors at the FTC or DOJ could use to argue Google rules like a monarchy online, not unlike the way Microsoft rules the desktop today.

Except the FTC and DOJ will use a different "M" word to make their case: Monopoly. The question is, how do they prove their point when the argument against is that the competition is just a click away?    

 
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