The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and a coalition of state attorneys general launched their landmark antitrust lawsuit against Google on Tuesday (12 September), as lawmakers accuse the tech giant of abusing its power by monopolizing the search engine business.
The 10-week trial marks the US government’s first monopoly case in the modern Internet age to go to trial — and could change how the Internet currently works.
On the first day of the trial, DOJ attorney Kenneth Dintzer told the court, “This case is about the future of the Internet and whether Google’s search engine will ever face meaningful competition.”
According to the DOJ, Google has unfairly foreclosed competition by illegally orchestrating its business dealings so that it is always the first search engine people see when they open their browsers.
The DOJ’s case against the search engine giant focuses on the deals the company has made with phone makers and browser companies. Apple and Samsung, for example, allegedly get billions of dollars paid to them by Google to keep it as the default browser.
The DOJ claims that Google has maintained its market share through a feedback loop that makes it too difficult for rivals to enter.
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The feedback loop is this: Google pays for default settings on devices and software, which gives them more search queries. This provides more data, which improves search quality. This gives the company more money – which they can then use to buy standards.
Google claims it is superior to other search engines
On Tuesday, Google argued that the DOJ was wrong in claiming that the company had broken the law with its dealings.
Google currently controls an estimated 90% of the US search engine market. The American tech giant has consistently claimed that the reason for this is that it is simply superior to others on the market.
John Schmidtlein, one of Google’s trial lawyers, argued that the billion payments to browsers and phone companies would compensate for security updates and maintenance.
Schmidtlein added that users only need to make “a few simple clicks” if they want to switch browsers. The lead attorney also argued that “the vast majority of Windows PC users search on Google, not (Microsoft’s) Bing.”
Schmidtlein also said that browsers and phone manufacturers like to have a default search engine and will actively choose the best one for them and their customers.
“Apple repeatedly chose Google as the default because Apple believed it was the best experience for its users,” Schmidtlein said.
Google’s lawyers also argued on Tuesday that advertisers were motivated by a return on their investment and are prepared to go elsewhere if they believe they would get a better deal.
The lawsuit could change the internet forever
Google’s mass reach can be felt on almost every device and every corner of the internet. Any outcome that favors the DOJ’s argument is sure to be felt by most users in some way.
The last antitrust technology case of this magnitude to go to trial was in 1998, when the DOJ sued Microsoft. Twenty-five years ago, the DOJ won that case.
The DOJ accused Microsoft of illegally bundling products that harm competition and forcing people to use its products.
“If the DOJ wins, it will be a big chance for the US regulator to show that it can enforce existing antitrust laws and bring successful antitrust cases in the digital age,” said Laura Petrone, analyst at research firm GlobalData. Judgment.
Petrone notes that it will be interesting to see the solutions the DOJ will seek from Google, which is expected to be “tough.”
Jeff Watkins, CPTO at xDesign, believes that if the DOJ wins, it will scare other tech giants like Meta and lead to “more scrutiny in the industry.”
“It could encourage different business models, driven more through federation than acquisition, which could also be good for fair competition,” Watkins said.
Petrone explained that one of the possible outcomes could be for the business to break up to end the monopoly.
“The break-up of the company or the dissolution of some of its operations is a possibility, but breaking up Big Tech companies is easier said than done, and in general the case for it has lost momentum in recent years,” explains Petone.
Adds: “There are serious doubts as to whether separating companies would increase competition.”
If Google were no longer the default search engine for Apple, the platform’s power would diminish in the short to medium term, Petrone said.
But according to Petrone, underlying market dynamics and economies of scale would continue to favor concentration.
However, not all experts agree with this. says Watkins the “potential results for Google could be quite disruptive and lead to the company breaking up into independent entities.”
Watkins also believes the lawsuit could force Google “to change its behavior around how it brokers deals — forcing it to be more transparent in both its negotiation and operation of them.”
“It will likely end up with increased oversight for them, with regular reviews and audits to force them into ongoing compliance,” Watkins added.
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