In 1984 Microsoft was considered one of the most successful software companies in the world. Ten years later that success led the FTC to consider some of Microsoft’s tactics as monopolistic, such as them bundling in their office productivity suite. In 1994 the company settled to a decent decree to decouple certain Microsoft products from the sale of their operating system, Windows.
But barely even four years passed before the company found themselves in hot water again, this time with the Department of Justice. The DOJ was taking Microsoft to task for what they considered more monopolistic behavior. They said that Microsoft was violating their earlier agreement from 1994 when the company started demanding that OEMs include their Internet Explorer browser during the install of the operating system. Some Engineers will recall at this time that Netscape Navigator was the dominant browser of the time.
In 1999 it was ruled that Microsoft would be split into two parts: one half would make the operating system for which the company was famous and the other half would create all of the accompanying software. Microsoft immediately repealed the decision. Two years later an agreement was reached: Microsoft was to release public APIs, which would be validated by three independent auditors for five years.
Many people said this was a weak agreement and did not tackle the issue on which the charges were originally made. But, that is in the past and most people have either forgotten about it or are too young to know.
But, for those too young to recall the Microsoft case, there is a new monopoly for a new generation. PCWorld reports that this time the DOJ and 11 state Attorney Generals–including Louisiana–have their sights set on Google. This new lawsuit alleges that Google has unlawfully maintained a monopoly in search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising for years, all in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act. The action also raises the tyranny of default and the impact it has made on the industry. It is also alleged that Google has copied Microsoft’s tactics by communicating within the company to not use words like, “tie,” “crush,” “kill,” “bundle,” or even “market power” in any public or private communications. Through all of these different tactics, the DOJ states that Google controls 90% of all general-search-engine queries in the United States and 95% on mobile devices. There are many other charges raised and it is well worth reading the official document.
Google replied with an initial statement from Kent Walker, SVP of Global Affairs, writing, “This case is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
This case will likely take years, but it is one to watch!
This has been a long time coming, it’s been hinted at for years. Google is also currently facing similar antitrust laws in the European Union which have much harsher financial penalties.
The final straw was when Googling started censoring search results that other browsers didn’t. The topic was brought up during the 2016 election cycle and again in the 2020 election cycle. The censoring was brought up again in the much lauded Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma and Google employees have been caught saying they filter their results on Project Veritas. Google tried to change the narrative and blame Russian disinformation but that was debunked multiple times.
My opinions of Google have changed dramatically over the past 20 years. I no longer trust the results that I get from Google are always accurate and that is a scary thought. I certainly don’t trust what Google is doing with my data. I know for a fact it is being sold to data mining brokers all over the world to create dossiers which get sold to the advertisers for ads that aren’t relevant. And there have been countless times where I get ads for things I have never searched on. Those mics on your phones, smart speakers, and smart TVs really always are listening.
Censorship aside, I want real competition in all marketplaces. Most people have happily tried other search engines, but keep coming back to Google for their results. I challenge everyone to use DuckDuckGo or Bing just for a month and report their results.
I support regulation and accountability for Google. The sad thing about this whole affair is that if Google were to be divested, that would put Firefox in a shaky situation. Firefox gets most of its revenue from Google and this is the exact play Microsoft used when it saved Apple from extinction with its $150 million cash infusion.
Firefox needs to get adults in the room and teach them to become profitable. Being a parasite on Google’s back is not a real sustainable business model. This might have the added chain reaction of making their browser the market leader with Apple’s Safari as a distant second especially on the desktop front. Google’s break up could also put search competitors like Duck Duck Go and Bing gain marketshare.
That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.