Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Ganging up on Google

Ben Woodhead (MIS Australia) | May 20, 2009
The search engine's phenomenal growth is matched by a growing chorus of criticism.

"There's a constant struggle going on between owners of content who believe they have a right to monetise their content - which they should have if it's material they've generated - and forces on the internet that sort of want to make it free," Austin says.

But there's more to fear from Google than just content "theft". American Antitrust Institute president Bert Foer identifies the threat posed by Google's ever-widening array of information technology products.

In recent years Google has moved into myriad new markets, including software (through its Android mobile phone operating system), Chrome internet browser, Gmail and web-based word processing and office productivity applications.

The company launched its first television advertising campaign in the US this week to promote Chrome. It also owns a Skype-style internet telephony business, Google Talk, and a competitor to PayPal known as Checkout, and it is active in the media and content market through YouTube and Google Books.

According to Foer, this broadening reach is dangerous even if Google does not engage in the sort of market-suppressing tactics Microsoft was found guilty of last decade.

"You need to watch these things quite carefully," he says. "If they become too ubiquitous and too powerful, they may have to be brought under sectoral regulation almost as a natural monopoly."

Flash back to 1998, and the story of Google is little different to many of Silicon Valley's past and present kings. A couple of university buddies, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, concocted the idea of an internet search engine that could rank websites based on how much traffic they received.

It was an idea which, when implemented, swept aside major players AltaVista, Yahoo! and Microsoft and has given Google between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of the world search advertising market. Search advertising is worth about $US12 billion ($15.7 billion) a year in the US alone. In Australia, Google's share of the search advertising market tops 85 per cent.

Advertisers around the globe harbour deep concerns about the company's stranglehold on search. More worrying for those who are wary of any company controlling such a large portion of a market is Google's estimated 97 per cent share of search on high-end mobile phones.

Much of the animosity towards Google comes from the business community, and it's likely the intensity of the ill-will about the one-time internet darling would surprise casual observers.

The company is already the subject of legal action on a number of fronts, the most famous of which is Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton's long running suit over Google's practice of selling internet search keywords that are also trademarked brand names. Known as bait and click, rival firms buy search terms such as Louis Vuitton and direct web surfers to their own page instead of the brand holder's page.


Previous Page  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.