Posted on October 24, 2023 in Technology

Google Monopoly: What Does It Mean?

Proving something or someone has a monopoly in today’s era of technology is difficult – but not impossible. The Department of Justice alleges that Google is hogging advertising space and overcharging for it as a result, as well as illegally (allegedly) incentivizing popular phone brands to use Google products as their default.

On Devices

Most mobile smart devices come with a built-in browser. Even when that browser isn’t Google Chrome, the browser itself uses Google for searches until a different default search engine is set. Opening Firefox or Safari and just typing a query directly into the URL bar will almost always (unless a different default is set by the user beforehand) search that query using Google. Many android devices come pre-installed with Google products like Google Maps. Users can ultimately change their defaults, but it would be difficult with the sheer number of apps that are pre-installed. Sometimes, uninstalling an app isn’t actually an option, either, as many frustrated Android users discovered when trying to uninstall apps like Google TV or YT Music. You can download other apps that do these things, but you can never be rid of the Google version without jailbreaking the phone, which takes a bit of technical know-how and often voids warranties or violates carrier contracts. This could just be because Google is huge and its big web of services are convenient… or, as the suit alleges, it could be that Google is illegally paying phone manufacturers to never try the competition, like Bing or DuckDuckGo.

On Ads

The Department of Justice alleges that since Google has shut out rivals in the search engine game, it’s also shut out any rivals that could compete with it in advertising spaces. Since most people use Google, Google ads cost consumers more to buy them. It’s (alleged) excessive control of search prevents users from using or seeing ad serving competitors, creating a self-sustaining cycle where they are always the more valuable search engine.

Google denies this – they say that Google’s chokehold on internet searching is because Google is the superior product, not because it has shut other products out.

Stifling Competition

Google has a lot of money. It uses this money to further its own existence, a result of a shareholder system that insists the shareholders must see some new growth, or else the CEO gets kicked. It’s the natural gravitational pull of such a system in a world where money can buy or smooth over nearly anything. When a business loses control of its motives, it loses control of itself. Did Google behave unethically? Probably – it doesn’t take a trial to suggest such a system encourages unethical behavior, whether legal or not. Did Google behave illegally? That is to be determined in the DoJ’s trial.