Is Google running a search engine monopoly or are they just good at what they do?
When the European Union launched the first major antitrust probe against Google, claiming that the search engine giant was tampering with rivals’ search results, the Department of Justice was already investigating Google’s $700 million acquisition of ITA Software. Now it looks like the Federal Trade Commission will get involved as soon as the Justice Department makes its decision.
Why is this happening? The short answer is because Google's ginormous! The question is, “Are they too big?” Are they running a search engine monopoly or are they just really good at what they do?
The friction between Google and Microsoft has been mounting steadily, so it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that Microsoft has joined forces with the European action. Microsoft’s Bing attracts less than half of the search engine market—much less, about 14%, actually. And that stings.
Google has a solid grip on almost 66% of the market, but is that unfair? Maybe it’s dominating because it’s just better, or maybe they’re playing the system to their advantage. But if they are playing the system—like giving their own services priority positions in search results—and it’s their system anyway, is it really illegal? Do those practices really warrant legal action, or is Microsoft throwing a loser’s tantrum?
It’s tougher to say for those smaller services that aren’t direct competitors to Google, but just wants fair exposure in the search results. Google’s practices could use some ethical tweaking in those areas, in my opinion, but does Microsoft even have a case?
You could consider the point that is made in this article, which compares Google to Coca Cola and KFC, saying that Google has a right to protect its “secret ingredient,” in this case: its search engine algorithms. The company has repeatedly defended the impartiality of their algorithms, but what will happen if the FTC wants a closer look? An antitrust law professor at Boston University is quoted predicting that if it comes to that, Google will most likely cut a deal, or try to, before divulging what they reasonably have a right to withhold.