Googlemania = Future Breakup?

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Tom Keating
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Googlemania = Future Breakup?

Google has been on a buying spree, recently picking up DoubleClick, YouTube, and Trendalyzer. They've also acquired in the past Picasa, Keyhole, Tonic Systems (a new Powerpoint competitor), and a plethora of other companies. Google is just about the most loved Internet company, used by millions of Internet users, and is far and away the predominant search engine. In fact, simply saying "Just Google it" has become part of our vernacular. Indeed, "Googlemania" as I like to call it, is an affliction that many of us suffer from. The affliction being that  I can't not visit Google at least 10 times per day or I feel like my day is unfulfilled or that something is missing. Some have Internet porn addictions - I have a Google addiction.

So why hasn't Google suffered the same backlash that comes with prosperity that Microsoft has? Sure, there are your Google-haters out there, but for the most part Google has been immune from the backlash that Microsoft has suffered. One could argue that Microsoft used predatory practices to lock competitors out of the market, which resulted in Microsoft paying hefty anti-trust fines. But is Google getting too big for its britches? With the latest acquisition of Double Click, privacy and anti-trust advocates are displeased with this acquisition. In fact, Microsoft, AT&T., Time Warner Inc. and several other large Internet and media companies are encouraging antitrust regulators to closely scrutinize Google $3.1 billion planned purchase of DoubleClick.

I'm guessing that Google probably has about 70-80% of the search engine market sewn up and now they plan to acquire one of the largest Internet advertising companies. Between Internet search and advertising, Google could own a lot of "eye balls" on the Internet. Could or should this merit a future break-up of Google since it will have a virtual monopoly of "eyeballs" on the Internet? Ok, maybe not a monopoly of all eyeballs since the Internet is way too vast, but certainly a very dominant position on both Internet search & Internet advertising.

I'm not advocating a break-up of Google, since I think that overall they're a good company. I do wish they didn't have such a dominant position in Internet search, since I think competition helps drive more innovation. Of course, one could argue that MSN, Yahoo,, and a motley of other Internet search competitors exist. In fact, many of these search companies have just as good search technology as Google, if not better in some ways, yet people continue to use Google. Part of it is just sheer momentum and branding by Google. If you start drinking Pepsi as a kid, you're less likely to switch to Coke, even if Coke tastes better. Google was first to offer a search engine that displayed the most valid results (based on inbound links) and helped build a loyal following. Others soon followed Google's lead on this important algorithm method but by then it may have been too late - Google had branded itself as the best search engine. So why should Google be faulted for its superior branding or be faulted if their competitors can't catch up?

Users are free to choose whichever search engine they want to use. Google doesn't use predatory tactics to prevent you from using other search engines. If they for example tracked your web surfing habits (via Google Toolbar) and used that information to hurt your website rankings if you visit Yahoo, a competitor, then that would be an example of a predatory, anti-competitive tactic.

In the past, users chose Google for the best search results, but now the search engines are pretty much on par with each other for accurate search results, so Google's dominant market share today has much more to do with branding. In my opinion, the free market should reign and the government should keep their hands off of Google, even if I'm a little wary of the DoubleClick acquisition. What do you think?

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