Google Can't Break Anti-Trust Laws Because It Doesn't Have A Monopoly

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 11 2012 8:53 AM

Google Can't Break Anti-Trust Laws Because It Doesn't Have A Monopoly

MG Siegler and John Gruber are rightly aggrevied by Google's hot new idea of integrating Google+ with regular search. Google's game here is clear enough. Possessed of a portfolio of great widely used products, plus a social networking product that's not good enough to persuade people to switch over from Facebook or Twitter, they want to leverage the products they have into promoting Google+. As someone who loves Chrome, Google search, Google Maps, etc. but doesn't like Google + that's annoying for me. But raising the spectre of antitrust law in this regard is bound to founder on the fact that there's no monopoly power for Google to be abusing. A 65 percent market share in web search is big, but by no means a monopoly. And there are basically zero barriers to switching from Google Search to Bing. I did it a couple of months ago on my Mobile Safari browsers because Google was annoying me, and there's no discernable quality difference (I use Chrome on my MacBook Air). Meanwhile Microsoft, which owns Google's biggest search rival, still has the dominant position in the desktop OS market and the leading web browswer and everyone seems to love their new mobile phone OS.

Beyond Bing-Google competition, it's also not clear to me that there are any huge barriers to entry here that would prevent Apple or Facebook or Amazon or any other large tech company from entering the web search business if Google started churning out an inferior product. Right now nobody wants to get into the market because nobody has a very credible story to tell about why you should stop using Google. Microsoft got in anyway and has—at great financial cost to itself—strong armed its way into a hefty chunk of market share. But if Google starts really degrading the quality of its search product in a way that erodes its market share, other firms can sweep into the business. A lot of this tech industry vertigal integration is extremely annoying—Apple TV can't play widely used video formats, Google won't upgrade its Maps ap for iPhone, etc.—but there's too much competition for any of it to be illegal.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.