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Free Minds & Free Markets

Why the Government Shouldn't Break Up Google

There's little evidence Google is ill-serving its customers. So what's the problem?

NICOLAS NICOLAS MESSYASZ/SIPA/NewscomNICOLAS NICOLAS MESSYASZ/SIPA/NewscomHas Google's market dominance been a net negative for consumers and innovation—and should government antitrust regulators intervene?

Historically, Google's algorithymic innovation fueled the profitable development of ad-based internet monetization and enabled Google to invest in breakthroughs in mapping, messaging, email, smartphone, and artificial intelligence technology. If something was hot in Silicon Valley, Google probably had something to do with it, or they soon acquired the firm that did.

What was once revolutionary eventually became common technology. Now, every day, hundreds of millions of satisfied internet users enjoy a handful of free Google services that improve their lives without even really thinking about them.

Yet a growing chorus of critics argues that Google is more of an innovation-killer than an innovation-fueler, and suggests it might be time for government antitrust authorities to step in. A new New York Times Magazine article by Charles Duhigg, titled "The Case Against Google," provides a prime example.

Traditionally, arguments about antitrust and government intervention have focused on the potential costs imposed on consumers. The standard monopoly critique, as formulated in the age of Theodore Roosevelt trust-busting, was that firms could grow big enough to squelch competition and raise prices on consumers.

Competition was not necessarily valued in and of itself, but as a check on the power of firms to exploit their customers. Thus, much of the empirical debate on this issue has centered around whether powerful firms have indeed made life worse for their customers.

This "consumer welfare standard," as articulated by Robert Bork's classic work, The Antitrust Paradox, has guided American antitrust policy for decades.

But Duhigg's article notably dispenses with this line of attack altogether. Rather than simply being about "costs and benefits and fairness," Duhigg argues, antitrust policy should be primarily about "progress." And what is progress, in this new conception of antitrust? Why, it's little more than a new flavor of industrial policy, where the government is empowered to intervene and bend markets in the direction that federal lawyers believe is the way of the future. "Antitrust prosecutions," states Duhigg, "are part of how technology grows."

Duhigg concedes that there's little evidence Google is ill-serving its customers. So what's the problem?

According to the new antitrust criticism, Google's market dominance creates opportunities for the tech giant to suppress competing innovations that go unnoticed by consumers. Consumer welfare isn't "harmed," because consumers aren't cognizant about what they are missing out on. But society is made worse off overall, because we lose out on new products and services that could be even better than the market leader's current offerings.

"If you love Google," as Duhigg puts it, "you should hope the government sues it for antitrust offenses—and you should hope it happens soon, because who knows what wondrous new creations are waiting patiently in the wings."

This is an odd inversion of economist Frédéric Bastiat's point about needing to appreciate both what is seen and what is unseen in political economy. But rather than addressing the unseen effects of government intervention, this argument presses us to consider the unseen effects of a lack of government intervention. In other words: Antitrust action today ensures a new generation of antitrust actions in the future. Government meddling is just the spark that sets off a blaze of new innovations in the future.

But could such a strategy actually have the opposite of the intended effect? The curious case of vertical search service Foundem suggests this could be so.

In Duhigg's telling, this scrappy search service aimed to provide internet users with the lowest prices on specific items for sale online. Foundem's search algorithm was supposedly structured in a vastly superior way to Google's services, consistently offering a wider range of lower prices than Google's tool was able to locate. But while Foundem always ranked near the top of MSN Search and Yahoo results, it started slipping from Google search results over time.

Foundem believes that Google purposefully demoted its service from search results as an anti-competitive move to squash a more innovative competitor. Google, of course, denies that it engaged in such anti-competitive behavior. And the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which regulates anti-competitive behavior, sided with Google, finding no clear evidence of wrongdoing.

Without more specific insider knowledge of the particulars of this case, it is difficult to pertain precisely who is at fault. What's more interesting to me, however, is how the case of Foundem seems to contradict the "antitrust as a catalyst for innovation" narrative that Duhigg crafts. A visit to the Foundem website does not leave one with the impression that the company is an impressive leader in innovation: The user interface looks like it could have been on the cutting-edge over a decade ago, and navigating through the various categories and subcategories is not exactly an exercise in ease of access.

On Twitter, the company argued that Google's 2011 Panda update prevented them from investing in design and usability updates. Perhaps this is so. But if true, can Duhigg really argue that Foundem's pivot to specialize in antitrust activities against their mammoth competitor is a catalyst for innovation? On the contrary, by Foundem's own admission on its website, the company has suspended all operation and development on its technology until they have achieved some threshold of a "level playing field" against Google through the courts, regulation, or legislation.

If Foundem's search algorithm is as revolutionary as Duhigg and the company maintain, it would be a real shame that it be hidden for lack of a full-scale regulatory push. If it isn't as good as its founders maintain, then these machinations merely amount to a costly waste and a threat to other large-scale innovators in this space.

Once viewed in this light, Duhigg's broadside against Google regarding the Foundem debacle is less clever than it initially seems. It is novel and counterintuitive to argue that government antitrust regulations actually stimulate innovation, but the case study presented to prove this point appears to suggest the opposite. The government may be very good at breaking up companies, but it is pretty hard to argue that this is a great source of dynamism.

Photo Credit: NICOLAS NICOLAS MESSYASZ/SIPA/Newscom

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  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    We can't have a single, powerful group monopolizing how we see the internet.

    Please: sign my citizens' petition for the government to dictate search results!

  • Ken Shultz||

    Because Google rapes its customers the same way as Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook doesn't mean it isn't "ill-serving its customers". The question to ask is whether customers have alternatives, and it seems like we still do.

    I've gone out of my way to avoid using any of Google's products, and while I'm still not 100%, I've come pretty close.

    I still have a legacy gmail address that I need to check occasionally.

    I use DuckDuck Go for 95% of my searches.

    I ripped the ChromeOS out of my ChromeBook and installed GalliumOS, which a flavor of Xubuntu that's coupled with ChromeBook drivers specific to my model.

    The two real hangups I have are:

    1) YouTube

    Love me some YouTube. That's nobody's fault but mine.

    2) What to do for a smart phone.

    There is a new phone coming out by the guy that started Mandrake Linux called "eelo" that's (oversimplified) making a version of Android that's stripped of all Google's web services as well as their software. It isn't out yet. Apple rapes their customers with iPhones the same way as Google.

  • Ken Shultz||

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    That's a lot of trouble to go into just to throw a tantrum.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Actually, no . . .

    1) I like my computers better now than I did when I was using Microsoft and Google products. It wasn't much "trouble". I like it better now.

    2) I don't like my personal information shared with the world, and it isn't just a temper tantrum thing.

    Yeah, if my girlfriend went through my personal files, shared them with the government, and sold my personal information to advertisers, I'd kick her to the curb. Why wouldn't I do the same with Google execs?

    More than that, I genuinely care about my privacy from a libertarian perspective. How can you complain about government surveillance and your Fourth Amendment rights, out of one side of your mouth, and then give all your private information to Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Facebook?

    To some extent, it's like a libertarian complaining about how the government steals money out of your paycheck for social security--money that you would have used to fund your own retirement. Only then, you turn around and squander your life savings on gambling trips to Vegas. If you're going to complain about the government treating you like a child on your own retirement, you'll have more credibility if you don't act like a child and invest for your own retirement.

    Likewise, how can we complain about mass surveillance when we won't even avail myself of free software that will protect my own privacy?

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    How can you complain about government surveillance and your Fourth Amendment rights, out of one side of your mouth, and then give all your private information to Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Facebook?

    So what you're saying is, there's no difference between free choice and government coercion.

    If you're going to complain about the government treating you like a child on your own retirement, you'll have more credibility if you don't act like a child and invest for your own retirement.

    Yep, that's what you're saying alright. If you're not going to make the correct choices on your own then you have no right to complain about being made to make the correct choices.

    Good call, Ken.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The argument that the American people are more than responsible enough to take care of themselves without parental supervision from the government is more credible when it's coming from people who behave responsibly--that really isn't hard to understand.

    I notice you completely ignored the last third of my comment, too.

    "Trying to persuade other people to care about their own rights may be the single most fundamental libertarian thing a person can do."

    ----Ken Shultz

    It was about persuading non-libertarians. Yes, I think average people find arguments about why we should care about privacy more persuasive when they don't come from people who are throwing their own privacy to the wind.

    P.S. You often need very simple concepts explained to you in detail. It makes you come across as a really dumb fuck.

  • Ken Shultz||

    3) Last but not least:

    Are you aware that Cortana scans all your files?

    Are you aware that gmail and Apple scan all your messages and sell the information to advertisers?

    We can't depend on people who don't care about their own privacy to stand up for the rights of others who do. If you don't care about your own privacy, I'm here to tell you that you should.
    Trying to persuade other people to care about their own rights may be the single most fundamental libertarian thing a person can do.

  • Rhywun||

    Are you aware that gmail and Apple scan all your messages and sell the information to advertisers?

    What part of "Apple"? Which devices? Do you have a link for this? Because I have a hard time believing that companies such as mine would give their employees iPhones to use for company business if this is true.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'd start by looking at Apple's own documentation here:

    https://developer.apple.com/ documentation/ adsupport/asidentifiermanager

    Apple's unique advertising identifier is passed between devices. I believe it works on information collected from iPods, iPhones, their laptops, and their desktops.

    Apple actually limits the kinds of information that people can sell to advertisers--like personal healthcare information. Everything that isn't on their do not sell list presumably can be and is sold.

    As far as your company email, I suspect they either use a service and an app (like protonmail as a host) for encryption, or they're running their own email server to avoid using apple's service. I know there are other companies that use gmail as a host for line employees, and they just don't care that much about users who don't have any critical information to share, I guess! Gmail is a targeted advertising platform.

    If you have a hard time thinking that Apple does this with email, how hard is it for you to believe that Microsoft's Cortana scans all the files on your computer and sends the information to Microsoft? You can't even opt out of Cortana collecting information entirely--even after you go through all the umpty-ump steps to disable it.

    https://arstechnica.com/information-technology /2015/08/even-when-told-not-to- windows-10-just-cant-stop- talking-to-microsoft/

    Companies still install Windows 10 anyway.

    And it's going to keep getting worse.

  • Rhywun||

    So you're talking about something like icloud.com, where they control the mail server. Of course I and my company don't use that, both of us use our own mail servers.

    The link just points to the API that any developer can use to target app users with ads. That is not the same as "Apple sells your info to advertisers". What that is, is "Apple provides a platform that allows you to purchase software which may sell your information to advertisers".

    Finally, let's assume for the sake of argument that Apple is indeed selling my info to advertisers. What a waste of money on their part since Apple also supplies a junk filter with their email program.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Not just spam--targeted advertising.

    On the right hand side of the screen, right now, I see the stuff I considered buying the last time I was on this computer.

    I've read things that suggest Apple knows when your next meetings are scheduled.

    And your iPhone sends your anonymized location and calendar information, so it can predict when you'll have to leave to make your next appointment. Apple Music also links your preferences to an anonymous ID, and the News app uses your reading preferences to supply ads within the app.

    https://www.pcworld.com/article/2986988/privacy/ the-price-of-free-how-apple-facebook-microsoft- and-google-sell-you-to-advertisers.html

    They know where I am. They know where I'm going. They know what I read. They just associate it with an ID number instead of a name. And they're selling it all to advertisers? The controversy among other apps companies is that they don't get the same access to your data that Apple gets--and sells to advertisers.

    I can see where this is going--if we aren't already there. Better get of the Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook data colonoscopy bus right now. This isn't going anywhere near my privacy stop.

    It's just that the choices for privacy aren't between Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook. The choices are between using any of them--or choosing none of the above. There are choices out there. I suggest you get ahead of the curve. That's pretty much all I'm saying.

  • Greg F||

    If you have a hard time thinking that Apple does this with email, how hard is it for you to believe that Microsoft's Cortana scans all the files on your computer and sends the information to Microsoft?

    The article leaves a lot to be desired. He never identifies what edition he is using Home, Pro, Enterprise, IoT, or Educational. There are other editions but they are subsets of the listed ones.

    He states he disabled telemetry in group policy. A rather inaccurate statement as you can set different levels (4) none of which are "disable".

    There is no group policy in the Home version so it isn't that edition. In the Pro version the lowest level is 1 even if you set it at 0. He says the Microsoft told him "As part of delivering Windows 10 as a service ...". That means the version he tested is yearly subscription so it isn't Pro (perpetual license). It was likely Enterprise which is only available through volume licensing.

    Bottom line, he didn't test the version you are using at home. Ironically none of the traffic he captured were contacting servers used for telemetry. I wouldn't hang my hat on this guys analysis.

  • Ken Shultz||

    One of the pieces I linked to here somewhere made the point that Apple appears to be a little better than Google on this because Apple makes more money selling hardware rather than acting as an advertising platform like Google (or Facebook) does.

    To me, that might just as well be an indication of Apple's likely path to future growth.

    My ultimate point here is that I can take charge of this myself by not using their products. Unless I'm sending email to a gmail address or interacting with an iPhone customer in some way, I don't have to worry about Google or Apple's policies at all if I refuse to use their products.

    And I'm very happy with the open source, non-proprietary software I'm using.

    I expect the lack of privacy trend to continue growing. These confounded kids with their shiny new phones . . . don't seem to give a crap about their privacy--and why wouldn't that suggest which way companies are likely to go in the future?

    But I don't need to worry about Apple's (or Google's or Microsoft's or Facebook's) security policies if I refuse to use their products. If I refuse to use their products, that problem is solved.

  • Greg F||

    Google and Facebook are advertising agencies masquerading as software companies. Apple is a consumer electronics company and Microsoft core business is the enterprise. There is of course a bit of crossover here and there but the primary business is the primary business.

    Open source, non-proprietary software is fine for personal use. With the exception of web servers it is far to expensive to manage in the enterprise environment. The guy that wrote the article is a guy with a tool that doesn't seem to know what the stuff he is capturing means.

    Telemetry data, which the author clearly doesn't understand, is not some nefarious plot by Microsoft to collect personal data. No one would be suspicious of an anti-virus program submitting suspect code for further analysis to the anti-virus vendor. Windows Defender does exactly that which is just one aspect of the telemetry data.

    As far as security goes I don't worry to much about Apple or Microsoft. Although Apples windows applications have been anything but stellar. Quicktime was a security nightmare which thankfully Apple finally ditched. If you want to know what the real problems are think Java and Adobe.

    PC World and ARS Technica are basically click bait. PC World was at one time pretty good, that was a long time ago. Microsoft has certainly had its share of dumb ass moves (ask me about Server 2016). Lumping Apple and Microsoft with Google and Facebook is an egregious comparison.

  • DiegoF||

    It's too bad no one has tried making a free phone since Ubuntu finally pulled the plug a year ago. Hopefully someone will try again. I think it's good for the industry, and I like the idea of having one.

    I think for non tracking engines StartPage is better than DuckDuckGo. They use the pure Google results, which I think frankly still are better for everything other than...the things for which Bing is better. DDG uses a combination of search engines. Plus I remember people mistrusting DDG a bit, maybe because of their founder's background or something. I don't know.

  • Ken Shultz||

    That's what eelo is!

    https://www.eelo.io/

    Check it out.

    It'll be available for download soon.

  • hello.||

    There's a crowdfunding campaign for a phone called the Librem that will run any linux operating system.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Again, my argument is that because there are still alternatives to using Google, the government doesn't need to get involved.

    My disgust with Google means that I don't want to use their products. Yeah, I'd like to use a smart phone, and there are people working on that--with privacy in mind--using the same Android software Google is using.

    Or I could not use a smartphone--for sure.

  • Ken Shultz||

    This was meant as a response to your comment below.

    Oops!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    1) YouTube

    Love me some YouTube. That's nobody's fault but mine.

    Youtube is awesome, because youtube isn't "google", it's the content people upload. Youtube (google) is going to have a have an increasingly hard time if they ignore this. However, I don't fully trust its filtering and promotion algorithms.

  • BYODB||

    Now that YouTube is inserting commercials into other people's content hosted on their platform, I question how 'great' YouTube really is but the content creators certainly don't seem to give a shit. Probably because they earn some on the side too. So it seems to be serving their community well enough for people to continue using it almost exclusively.

  • Ken Shultz||

    You have to log in with a gmail address to get to your favorite channels, etc!

  • mtrueman||

    One of my biggest disappoints was Google's Android system on my smartphone. I look forward to seeing if this Mandrake version can do for the smartphone what Linux does for the desktop.

  • hello.||

    You could always get a 'dumb' phone that doesn't use Android or iOS.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Government meddling in private businesses vs. y'all's hatred of Google.

    This should be interesting.

  • Sevo||

    "Government meddling in private businesses vs. y'all's hatred of Google."
    Trying to beat Tony in the "False Dichotomy" event?

  • EscherEnigma||

    It's not a dichotomy, just two competing interests.

  • DiegoF||

    Well Ken Schulz, for example, seems to be having no problem with it here. He thinks a libertarian not only can worry about private-party snooping but should; but he says that much of the means to avoid it have already been made available, without the supposedly market-preserving hand of antitrust.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Yes. His remarks, along with others, are interesting.

  • Ken Shultz||

    If government has any legitimate purpose it is to protect our rights.

    Our rights are choices. A right is the right to make a choice.

    The government may have a legitimate purpose in protecting our rights to make a choice.

    If a private individual sticks a gun in your face and rapes you, he has violated your right to make a choice. Certainly, we don't say that the government has no business in interfering with private individuals just because those individuals are out raping people.

    Is monopolistic kinds of behavior exactly like a rape? No, but it's still a question of rights--the right to make a choice.

    So long as I can still choose not to use Google's services, everything is gonna be okay.

    If it gets to the point where I can't communicate (or use transportation) without using Google's services, then the government may have a legitimate libertarian duty to step in and protect my rights.

    As evidenced by ability to choose not to use Google's services, as I detailed above, we aren't there yet.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Should have been . . .

    "Certainly, we don't say that the government has no business interfering with rapists just because [they are private individuals].

    . . . but you probably knew what I meant.

  • hello.||

    Without the force of government it is not possible prevent people from making a choice even if that choice is non-participation. There is no such thing as an actual monopoly unless it is enforced by government.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "There is no such thing as an actual monopoly unless it is enforced by government."

    If Alphabet's Waymo unit becomes the only option for self-driving cars, say through legitimate patented innovation, cost, etc.--and people are no longer allowed to drive their own cars the old-fashioned way because of safety concerns, etc., then whether Google's monopoly is a result of government interference might not be the relevant question.

    It's possible that my ability to make choices in that situation by way of anti-trust remedies shouldn't have to wait for the government to stop interfering in the economy. Telling me that my right to choose an alternative transportation option will just have to wait until either the government disappears or Jesus comes back (whichever happens first) might not be the most libertarian outcome.

    In fact, refusing to protect people's right to make such choices with that reasoning in that situation might be hard to differentiate from authoritarianism.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I see that Glenn Reynolds is on the antitrust bandwagon. Tsk, tsk. Don't like Google, Apple, Amazon, don't use them.

  • John||

    Their purchase of Youtube is problematic. Moreover, their enormous political influence is even more problematic. I understand the economic arguments about monopolies and why they generally don't last and are not as harmful as proclaimed even when they do. What the people who reject all anti trust seem to have forgotten is the concerns regarding regulatory capture. The threat of giant monopolies like Google is not economic but rather the political damage they can inflict thanks to their wealth and power.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Uh oh, John is using SJW language.

  • Ken Shultz||

    You mean "problematic".

    SJWs don't use "problematic". "Problematic" suggests that doing what you want to do has some drawbacks, and SJWs have no such notion.

    SJWs live in Manichean world. Everything is either evil or good. They see no shades of gray.

    If violating people's constitutional rights is necessary in order to achieve SJW goals, that is not "problematic" to them. In their minds, that makes violating people's constitutional rights an unmitigated good.

  • DiegoF||

    They do use the term, a lot. They certainly don't use it with the subtlety you associate with it, though. It is a gambit. They call something "problematic" knowing that the mainstream will not balk too hard at it if they keep things vague and nominally suggestive of only measured condemnation, but of course it really means "verboten." So whitey playing black music is "problematic," so that the completely uninitiated might say, "oh they're just saying there was a history way back in the past of not giving credit where it was due, and we must be aware of that danger and more careful this time." By the time the dumbass mark is acculturated enough to realize it actually means whitey is a Nazi in their woke-collegiate jargon, he is acculturated to an entirely new Overton window and it is too late.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I don't like their politics or their evil ways, either, but I don't trust the government.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    That presumes that they're separate entities. Weren't ypu paying attention to the revolving door between google and the barry admin?

  • Pro Libertate||

    If the company is truly in bed to that extent with the government, antitrust isn't much of an option, anyway.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Google is a poster child for crapitalism. That used to be a libertarian concern, but maybe not a libertine concern.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I don't like any of this statist crap, but if Leviathan has a hope of being shackled, go for it, not for one of its minions. Which are legion.

  • BYODB||

    ^ This. Google doesn't have much to worry about from the Government unless they stop playing ball which seems...unlikely. We also literally already know that the government compels tech companies to provide them data while simultaneously telling them that if they mention that fact to anyone that it would be a real shame because something might happen to their business.

    'Anti-trust' assumes that the government doesn't want a tech firm providing them with all sorts of foreign and domestic intelligence that they can use with just a wave of their magic NSA/CIA wand. Why would the government ever want to go against such a useful firm to their 'anti-terror' agenda?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Check my comment above.

    I'm saying more or less the same thing--for now--about if you don't like them, don't use them.

    That's still possible--for now.

    That being said, I'm not absolutely certain there's no place for trust-busting between where we are now and where we are when you can't communicate or use transportation without using Google.

    I have to admit I have privacy concerns about Google's competitors, as well. It's not like they're competing on privacy. Microsoft recently announced that Skype would start offering end to end encryption, which made me wonder--who will watch the watchers? Microsoft is scanning our email, the contents of our hard drives, mapping our contacts, divulging the information to the government, and selling it to advertisers--and I'm supposed to feel better about knowing that my neighbor isn't snooping on me?

  • Ken Shultz||

    I started asking my Skype contacts to download and use Jitsi for video conferencing, and some of them came back and told me that it was fine for me to go with Jitsi 'cause Jitsi can connect for video conferencing with Google hangouts!

    https://jitsi.org/

    There's something to the suggestion that being able to choose between getting raped by Apple, getting raped by Google, getting raped by Microsoft isn't really a choice at all. So long as their are other options that aren't associated with them, we're okay, but those options seem to be dwindling.

    WhatsApp was the primary goto application for secure messaging for a long time. It was bought out by Facebook. Privacy brought to you by Facebook is like a henhouse brought to you by the fox. Why the fuck would anybody use that for privacy?

  • Jerryskids||

    The whole premise of this thing is that Google is a malevolent force only government can strike down because your average consumer is too stupid to realize Google is bad for them and is powerless to do anything about it even when someone as wise as Charles Duhigg points it out to them. Which is no different than Democrats who keep lamenting the stupid hicks who vote Republican because they're too stupid to see how much better Democrats are as their lords and masters.

    Look, Google is just as omnipotent as any other previous omnipotent monopoly, when they start doing stuff their customers don't like their customers stop being their customers. You're not some super-genius for noticing Google is a monopoly that ill-serves society, you're a retard for not noticing that there's a much bigger monopoly that ill-serves society in the area and it's the one you're invoking to save us from Google.

  • Sevo||

    "Look, Google is just as omnipotent as any other previous omnipotent monopoly, when they start doing stuff their customers don't like their customers stop being their customers. You're not some super-genius for noticing Google is a monopoly that ill-serves society, you're a retard for not noticing that there's a much bigger monopoly that ill-serves society in the area and it's the one you're invoking to save us from Google."

    Yahoo is going to take over the universe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jerryskids||

    How the hell is Yahoo going to wrest control of the universe from AOL? Have you seen the stockpile of tactical CD's they have?

  • Number 2||

    And how is AOL going to wrest control of the universe from the Bell System and U.S. Steel? Huh? Answer me that!

  • Microaggressor||

    In the next century, we will all be asking Jeeves.

  • mtrueman||

    "Look, Google is just as omnipotent as any other previous omnipotent monopoly, when they start doing stuff their customers don't like their customers stop being their customers."

    Google's customers are not the people typing words into search bars. We can call these people 'users' and they are what is being sold to the customers, much like television selling an audience of viewers to advertisers. The customers are those buying ads that accompany Google's search results. They have little or no incentive to see Google's market penetration diminished.

  • Number 2||

    Isn't Google one of the big content providers that was all in favor of Net Nootrality in order to keep the Evil Local ISPs from exploiting their supposed monopoly power to decide what we could and could not see on the Internet?

    Hey Google, when you invite the Vampire into your home, don't be surprised when it starts sucking your blood.

  • Sevo||

    ^+

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    ^ Exactly this.

  • Microaggressor||

    No, Google supports net neutrality because it has significant implications to their bottom line. Thus began the astroturf campaign.

  • hello.||

    No, Google supports net neutrality because it has significant implications to their bottom line.

    Yep. Same with Netflix. And the same people who hate corporations and big business think Google and Netflix are sticking up for the little guy out of the goodness of their hearts. It's not because their content makes up 70% of the traffic congesting every network operator's infrastructure and they don't want to have to pay extra or anything like that.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    No kidding. Every time I see Netflix or YouTube advertising 4K content I want to scream. They absolutely should be paying for their use, though the formula for cost of bandwidth consumption isn't linear.

    If the bandwidth price was high enough, Netflix could adopt a local caching system that would free up a lot of bandwidth for the supposed startups that Net Neutrality is supposed to protect.

    Net Neutrality is the biggest incumbent protection racket I've seen in a lot of years.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    If Google were a monopoly, I probably wouldn't have found any reference to the opinion it should be broken up.

  • Microaggressor||

    Google's habit of ideological censorship will only end up harming their market share.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    They're increasingly filtering your searches for wokeness. I'm beginning to pivot to duckduckgo.com

  • DiegoF||

    Do they filter your results or just the autocomplete? Because I think it's been about a decade now since they quietly started doing the latter.

    Also they do it on shopping. America learned after Dylann Roof that, for some baffling reason, Google had placed content restrictions on what you could find through there--even though it's highly unlikely they could have faced any kind of legal liability; they're a search engine not a marketplace. Nazi flags--sorry reenactors--had always been banned; now Confederate ones would be too. (Not Rhodesian, though, despite Mr. Roof's personal tastes.) There was little reason to think it would stop there, as we now see it has not.

  • hello.||

    They have removed shopping results for guns after the Parkland shooting too. They have been busted manipulating results for political candidates and campaigns as well.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Last March, Google learned that the Wall Street Journal was about to publish details of how the Federal Trade Commission shut down an investigation into Google – contradicting some of the recommendations of its own investigators. The information had arrived by accident: a confidential report had been mistakenly included in a huge bundle of documents passed to the Journal, with every other page redacted.

    The half-readable report nevertheless showed that staff had conducted an investigation of Google's behaviour, similar to the one conducted by the EU*, which began in 2010. The report concluded Google was anti-competitive and recommended the FTC press charges.

    Is the the FTC authority you're appealing to?

  • BYODB||

    Google is trying to kill JAVA last I checked by using the weight of their platform, but it seems even in that they've been somewhat of a failure.

  • Mark22||

    I'm hoping they succeed. Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    I think Oracle probably is more to blame for making Java toxic (though as a language it has more than enough warts to make it toxic all by itself).

  • juris imprudent||

    Note that the protagonists in this story had invented a "better" search engine 7 years after a prime competitor (not Google). That competitor still seems to be kicking. Hmmm, wonder why the author didn't explore that?

  • ||

    The real problem with concentration of market power in on-line firms is political. If google wants to suppress certain information or put certain political points of view to the bottom of the search, it can do so. This problem is even worse, of course, with Twitter and Facebook, which can engage in both censorship and propaganda.

  • Mark22||

    Google is the accidental beneficiary of massive market distortions by the government: the government sponsored internet, net neutrality, telecom mandates, etc. This ended up socializing the cost of pushing advertising on consumers and video streaming.

    The solution is to stop the government interference, not to break up Google. Google is busy self destructing anyway, given their discriminatory and racist hiring practices.

  • StackOfCoins||

    I'll just say that I support any government action to end the fucking scourge of reCaptcha. I am FUCKING SICK AND TIRED OF PICKING OUT STREET SIGNS. There.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    You are improving image recognition which is critical for autonomous machines and the ultimate enslavement of humanity. Since that coincides with the primary goal of government, I'm guessing they have no interest in helping you.

  • zerofoo||

    "Duhigg concedes that there's little evidence Google is ill-serving its customers"

    This is a common mistake. If you aren't paying anything for Google's services you aren't the customer.

  • hello.||

    In that sense Google is doing even less to ill-serve its customers. The more cancerous Google becomes with invading your privacy the better it is serving its actual customers.

  • SimonD||

    Exactly. We're not the customers, we're the product.

    We should remember that, and act accordingly. I think Ken has the right idea, although I'm not a valuable enough product for them to take interest in.

  • jelabarre||

    Google "ill-serving their customers" has nothing to do with any perceived monopoly status. It's more like they can't code or develop for shit. And if the government is going to start breaking up companies simply because they have their heads up their asses, I could think of plenty they could start with first. But government has no business splitting up incompetent companies merely because they're incompetent, no matter *how* dick-witted they are.

  • JeremyR||

    I dunno about completely broken up, but Youtube has really gotten crappy since Google took over

    For instance, the group Messiah had an underground version of their music video for Thunderdome. It was up on youtube for years, but then when google took it over, it got removed

  • damikesc||

    Not sure when the concept of too big became verboten.

  • tombstone||

    Probably the Standard Oil break-up of around 1908.

  • JFree||

    I think there's a valid point here. But it is less about Google and more about how the Internet has become purely an advertising-based delivery system. I could see the change during the old dotcom boom. From the second Netscape went public, the previous VC environment of determining funding by asking one question (Is Microsoft anywhere near this space? If so, no seed round for you) died. And for about two years or so, there was a slew of different business models that really captured the value of the new capabilities of the Internet. But that then died when 'how many eyeballs can you get' became the new VC one-question environment.

    That 'eyeballs' environment killed off actual innovation - even as the sector gave the appearance of being innovative with even sock puppets able to advertise during the Super Bowl in order to get users to use their site. No surprise that 'innovation' turned out to be a pure bubble but anyone inside the space knew that that was inevitable.

    Once the expectation of 'this has to be free so we can sell more eyeballs to a third party' itself becomes a monopoly mindset, then that mindset will kill off innovation. And any small online business that now has to depend on paying keyword rent to Google is paying the price for that.

    But it ain't specifically about Google.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    The premise that google is an innovation killer is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. They make thousands of software products and datastores available with reasonably usable API's for free that enable anybody with minor coding skills to create spinoff projects that would be impossible to create in any other way.

    I'm a firm believer in keeping everyone on their toes by incessant criticism, but it has to be at least slightly accurate.

    Google is a left leaning company because it's on the coast, employs primarily recent college graduates, and has extreme academic roots. None of that will last, though cronyism may keep them wedded to government. They are nowhere near a monopoly, and they aren't much of a threat to anything either. If you are stupid enough to think google is telling you the whole story, you are stupid enough to find something else to prop up your inane beliefs - it isn't google that's the problem.

  • Lenise Williams||

    OMG!!!!!!!!! I can't believe ___dr_mack@ yahoo. com could bring my boyfriend back!!! I am so impressed with the result, everything happened so fast!______."

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