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Google is coming under increasing scrutiny thanks to its market dominance

When it comes to antitrust concerns, one name typically springs to mind -- Microsoft. The massive software company has faced allegations of blocking competition repeatedly over the years. Microsoft isn’t alone in fighting antitrust issues in America and some view Google as the next possible monopoly.

Reuters reports that Google is more than a successful technology company; it's a cultural icon as well. With the size and dominance of the search and advertising giant, the government is increasingly looking at Google to be sure that none of its practices are stifling competition in the market.

Evan Stewart of Zuckerman Spaeder said, "The point is that if we're going to maintain that competitive position, it can't be because we allow one entity to become a complete monopolist."

One example of the increasing scrutiny Google is under, despite the fact that Google CEO Eric Schmidt is an outspoken Obama supporter, is the alleged investigation into Google and Apple board members. The government is looking closely at the deal Google has brokered with the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers that would allow it to create a huge online library as well.

Google so far has been reluctant to raise the ire of regulators and has chosen to walk away from deals with potential antitrust issues. One example is Google walking away from the Yahoo search partnership when regulators said that investigation and opposition to the deal might be warranted.

No one is saying that Google has done wrong at this point, merely that the company could become a monopoly with its aggressive plans and market dominance.

Google's Adam Kovacevich said, "We understand that any time a company is successful, there's a certain degree of scrutiny that comes with the territory."

Bert Foer, head of the American Antitrust Institute told Reuters, "It's not that Google has necessarily done anything wrong. It's not that it's bad or poorly intentioned. It's playing such a large role in the flow of information and has so much free cash to play with and so many creative and aggressive ideas that it presents potential problems regarding... privacy and competition."



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Time to break them up
By borowki2 on 5/8/2009 10:34:06 AM , Rating: 1
I don't see any qualitative difference between what Google does today and Microsoft's practice in the 90's. If anything, their bundling is more persuasive. Let see, they have e-mail service, mapping service, word processor, translation service, books, news, videos--all bundled in one web site and everything for free. Clearly, their market dominence is presenting an insurmountable barrier to entry by competitor.




RE: Time to break them up
By Alexstarfire on 5/8/2009 10:45:16 AM , Rating: 2
The difference is that it's free. If you want to argue about the ads that support it then that's fine, but you can't say they are as bad as Microsoft when you don't even have to part with money to use their services.


RE: Time to break them up
By borowki2 on 5/8/2009 10:59:18 AM , Rating: 2
Then one can argue that Windows is free too , since most people don't pay for the operation system out of their own pocket. Just like licensing fee paid by computer-makers, the cost of advertising is passed to consumers.


RE: Time to break them up
By Motoman on 5/8/2009 11:30:53 AM , Rating: 5
Google's services are totally interchangeable with other similar services without penalty.

Don't want to use Google's search engine? Use Ask.com or something else. Same thing.

Don't want to use Google Office? Use Open Office, StarOffice, whatever. Same thing.

Don't want to use Google Maps? Use Mapquest.

Don't want to use Google Chrome? Use Opera, or FireFox.

Whatever. Microsoft is/was/probably always will be a monopoly because in order to really functionally participate in the computing world, you really have little choice other than to use Windows. Google is not in the same position, and unless they just buy-out or crush all other options into dust (which they might), they will not ever be in the same position.


RE: Time to break them up
By Smilin on 5/8/2009 1:13:51 PM , Rating: 2
What if I want to advertise in searchresults?


RE: Time to break them up
By Motoman on 5/8/2009 1:27:18 PM , Rating: 3
Call me crazy, but I reckon other search engines offer paid advertising too.


RE: Time to break them up
By Xavier434 on 5/8/2009 1:38:07 PM , Rating: 5
The main flaw here is that you are not considering businesses that rely a lot on the web which is becoming more and more common. Every business that relies on the web is primarily concerned with one thing and they always ask the same question:

"How do I show up at the top of Google's search results?"

They never ask how to get to the top of Ask.com. They rarely ask how to get to the top of Yahoo either. It is always Google because they know that if they are to become successful then they must get up there on the search results for the most common words and phrases related to their business. If more users opted to use other search engines more often then that wouldn't be an issue, but I just don't see that happening. People don't want to switch because they are very comfortable. I am not sure whether or not I consider this a problem or not yet, but this is how it is.

It is the same with MS except MS makes the end user pay for their OS.


RE: Time to break them up
By Motoman on 5/8/2009 1:46:01 PM , Rating: 1
Getting to the top of any search engine, Google or otherwise, is the same process. You don't do anything different.


RE: Time to break them up
By Xavier434 on 5/8/2009 1:56:17 PM , Rating: 3
Yes and no. Some of the methods to get to the top are generally universal while others are engine specific. For example, creating a standard site map is something pretty much all search engines will pick up with their spiders which helps you get higher in the result lists. On the other hand, you can also pay individual search engines money for priority when it comes to certain key words and phrases for a certain period of time to try and "get to the top" so to speak. The majority of businesses choose to pay Google over other search engines regardless of actual quality because Google is what the majority of users use.

But again, that is not as a result of anything foul that Google has done. They are a great engine and a great business in general. They got really popular and people got very comfortable with them just like they got comfortable with Windows and IE. They will not switch for the same reasons they won't switch their OS or web browser.


RE: Time to break them up
By Motoman on 5/8/2009 1:58:47 PM , Rating: 2
In that regard though, it's not really any different than charting the popularity of, say, CBS vs. NBC. When CBS does better stuff, more people watch them than NBC. If CBS screws up, NBC's viewership goes up.

Pre-Google, Yahoo and others were exceedingly popular. Google became more popular because people liked it better. In the future, if Google screws up, or of someone else comes out with something better, the flock will move along.


RE: Time to break them up
By Xavier434 on 5/8/2009 2:31:29 PM , Rating: 5
You might be right. I am not certain which is why I mentioned in my original post that I really don't now if this is a bad thing or not yet. Here is the potential problem with your theory:

Unlike the rules of competition between a lot of other comparable products and services, Google and search engines in general rely a lot more on people's comfort. The features and quality of service is very important too, but comfort is where it is all at. What happens when you are dealing with this kind of industry is that making a "better" product is often not enough to be competitive even if the existence of your product becomes common knowledge. The reason is that even though your product/service might technically be better than the "other guy" it is the users that ultimately decide and they more often than not choose to stick with what makes them comfortable. For most users, that choice "feels" like higher quality regardless of the reality. The same cannot be said about many other types of products and services out there. None have as much power that Google does over the economy and people's lives in general either...except for maybe Windows.

However, you are spot on when you talk about the possibilities of Google "screwing up". Google could change things suddenly or even little by little which results in people comfort with their search engine and other products to decline. After enough time, people will be more willing and flexible to try something else and before you know it all of these people are now comfortable with another product.

The issue here is that all of the power lies in the hands of Google. They have to "screw up" in order for another company/product to have enough room to compete. Making a "better" product, while necessary, just isn't enough. Does that make Google a monopoly? I don't know. I do know that it is not standard competition in a free market though. The rules are different. Similar rules apply with Windows and IE.


RE: Time to break them up
By Motoman on 5/8/2009 2:48:33 PM , Rating: 3
Points taken, but I don't think Google "has" to screw up in order to let someone else take the limelight.

I don't think Yahoo necessarily screwed up when Google zoomed past them.

All it might take is one teenaged ZOMG u totly hv 2 chk this out is rox! for the next big thing to take off.


RE: Time to break them up
By borowki2 on 5/8/2009 2:56:59 PM , Rating: 3
Well, the same thing can be said for Internet Explorer or Windows Media Player. One can always choose to install Netscape or Real Player. The government's argument has always been that by merely making things easy for the user, it reduces the incentive for him to seek out alternatives and that constitutes an abuse of market dominance. Is MapQuest competing on an equal footing with Google Map? No. The link on Google's search page, which many users employ as their start page, clearly give them an advantage.


RE: Time to break them up
By Legolias24 on 5/8/2009 5:05:35 PM , Rating: 2
However, in the case of IE & WMP, they came bundled with with Windows (which you paid for). When you get an internet connection, Google is not automagically bundled with it.

I could be wrong, though, in my recollection of the IE and WMP issue, but I'm pretty sure it had to do with being bundled with the OS at a very fundamental level.


RE: Time to break them up
By DASQ on 5/8/2009 1:43:57 PM , Rating: 2
This is utterly retarded, I cannot believe you are even making this argument.

Their services for the vast majority are FREE, people have to CHOOSE to use them. The reason Microsoft comes under so much scrutiny is because they INCLUDED the apps with the operating system by default. "Google" isn't included in jack all. Unless you consider "The Internet" as a bundled service with a computer.

Google isn't being anti-competitive.


RE: Time to break them up
By Xavier434 on 5/8/2009 1:47:02 PM , Rating: 2
It's not Google's fault that they are so popular. That I agree with. However, their popularity has reached a point where something at least like a monopoly is present. Like I said in my first post above, if you plan to run a web based business or a regular business that still relies a lot on the web then you MUST find a way to get high up their on Google's search results. If you are on of these businesses then you are "forced" to work with Google even though no one is literally forcing you to do anything. That is why this is such a weird debate.


RE: Time to break them up
By Alexstarfire on 5/8/2009 2:11:43 PM , Rating: 2
Except you'd be wrong. You pay for it when you pay for the computer. It's just a reduced cost but it's still integrated with the price of the computer. And as the other guy said, you aren't forced to use their products/services in any way.

Granted you aren't with Windows either, but it's a big disadvantage for most business/enterprises/users that aren't. For documents, spreadsheets, and such it's not that big of a problem. But there are many programs in which the files aren't compatible with other similar programs. And in those enterprises you pretty much stick with one OS, whatever that may be.


RE: Time to break them up
By omnicronx on 5/8/2009 3:47:55 PM , Rating: 2
You are bringing personal opinion into this. When it comes down to it, how you or anyone else for that matter feels about a company is beyond the scope of whether or not a company is a monopoly.

Furthermore, MS is not a true monopoly, the antitrust cases against them were for being a coercive monopoly. Go look at the definition, one could easily argue that Google either already fits this criteria, or they are very close.

Do I agree with it? Not really, why should Google be penalized for continued innovation? On the other hand, these rules are in place to protect us, and we cannot bend the rules for one company, regardless of our opinions.


RE: Time to break them up
By Alexstarfire on 5/8/2009 10:15:35 PM , Rating: 2
Something being free is not an opinion... it's a fact. And the products they offer, save for the Google Search Engine possibly, are not being forced on anyone. The search engine is widely popular and as such it is important for businesses to be near the top, but you can't fault Google for what people do naturally. Google isn't make it hard for other search engines to work properly.

People seem to have this belief that if a company has most of the market share that it's a monopoly, but that's just not the way it works. Having market share doesn't mean jack crap by itself. It's when they use this market share to influence the market. I hardly think that Google is using their "market share" like that. However, I don't know all of their secrets. Perhaps they are and I just don't know it.


RE: Time to break them up
By nycromes on 5/11/2009 12:20:31 PM , Rating: 2
People are way too focused on the cost of the product, but that doesn't mean that a company is or isn't monopolistic in it's policies and actions. Having a monopoly in and of itself is not illegal either, but acting on that position to influence the market and to subvert competitors is illegal. I don't have the slightest idea if Google is doing this, but it certainly is possible. This is why they are being watched as indicated in the above article.


RE: Time to break them up
By KCjoker on 5/9/2009 1:52:44 AM , Rating: 2
IE browser is free too.


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