Google is again featuring in its own search results: owing to the revelation that the corporation narrowly avoided prosecution by the US government back in 2012.
It was the opinion of the giant’s rivals that Google Search was monopolising the market. The Federal Trade Commission subsequently investigated the claims, and whilst there was appetite to prosecute, ultimately the case was dropped.
It brings to mind Amazon’s current dominance of the market in the UK, with rival businesses unhappy at the way Amazon undercuts their prices. The burning issue in both cases is a question of “playing fair”. Google’s rivals argued that the search engine removes content from certain web pages in order to improve its own search ranking system. However the agency concluded that “Google did not abuse its market position to hurt rivals” and Google itself added “speculation about potential consumer and competitor harm turned out to be entirely wrong”.
One could suggest that the case of the Google furore demonstrates very different conditions to those featuring in other recent news scandals: tax evasion/avoidance, price fixing – ie actions that are morally or legally wrong. This is arguably just a case of Google providing a better product than its rivals, with the public the ultimate judge of character. Microsoft installs Bing on every new computer; with said search engine also powering Yahoo! – so the consumer has to make a conscious choice to opt out of this, and into Google. The majority do. Ultimately each case has to be judged individually, but if a Digital property is able to slash its overheads to make its product the cheapest on the market, then why shouldn’t a consumer choose to use it? Should a Digital corporation be punished for its success? We are entering a much wider debate.
Of course, success equals revenue – and in the Digital space this mantra is king. In the US, Google has the largest market share by a search engine (75%), but in the UK, the dominance is even more pronounced. Few markets are monopolised more than our own – Google controls a staggering 88% of search share as of February 2015. This compares to 7.2% for Bing and 3.8% for Yahoo. Bear in mind that this translates into ad sales share: a lot of ad sales. It is estimated that Google controls just under one third of all Digital advertising worldwide, and around half of all mobile advertising. Can we put a figure on that? It’s tricky, but in 2015 that could equate to £2.5bn in revenue. Little wonder that Google’s rivals are up in arms and looking to arrest their dominance.