Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Feb 2018 23:06 UTC
In the News

In other words, it's very likely you love Google, or are at least fond of Google, or hardly think about Google, the same way you hardly think about water systems or traffic lights or any of the other things you rely on every day. Therefore you might have been surprised when headlines began appearing last year suggesting that Google and its fellow tech giants were threatening everything from our economy to democracy itself. Lawmakers have accused Google of creating an automated advertising system so vast and subtle that hardly anyone noticed when Russian saboteurs co-opted it in the last election. Critics say Facebook exploits our addictive impulses and silos us in ideological echo chambers. Amazon’s reach is blamed for spurring a retail meltdown; Apple's economic impact is so profound it can cause market-wide gyrations. These controversies point to the growing anxiety that a small number of technology companies are now such powerful entities that they can destroy entire industries or social norms with just a few lines of computer code. Those four companies, plus Microsoft, make up America's largest sources of aggregated news, advertising, online shopping, digital entertainment and the tools of business and communication. They're also among the world's most valuable firms, with combined annual revenues of more than half a trillion dollars.

The recent focus on technology companies when it comes to corporate power is definitely warranted, but I do find it a little peculiar that it, at the same time, draws attention away from other sectors where giant corporations are possibly doing even more damage to society, like large oil companies and the environment, or the concentration of media companies.

One has to wonder if the recent aggressive focus on tech companies isn't entirely natural.

Order by: Score:
Google is not a monpoly
by jonsmirl on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 01:12 UTC
jonsmirl
Member since:
2005-07-06

Microsoft was a monopoly when it used its Windows licensing power to prevent every OEM in the world from installing any OS besides Microsoft Windows. That was 100% restraint of trade and they deserved to be broken up for doing it.

I just can't see how Google is a monopoly. There is nothing stopping anyone from setting up a competitor to Google. Of course it may be hard to get people to pay attention to you, but that is a marketing problem not a legal one. There are no 'licenses' in place stopping people from using a competing search engine. There were licenses restricting Microsoft's OEMs.

Another point for the people complaining about what Google does with the info on their websites. You are 100% in control of what Google indexes on your site. If you don't like what Google is indexing, set a robots.txt to stop them. I get annoyed when Getty thinks it has a 'right' to piles of free traffic from Google and then they go even further and try and to dictate how Google should collect that free traffic for them. You are a fool if you build a business around Google giving you free traffic.

You can try arguing monopoly extension against Google when it enters the verticals, but again I don't see it. Monopoly extension is where the ownership of one monopoly is used to force people into another one. But no one is forced into using a Google vertical, Google may make it very easy for you but that is not the same as forcing you to do it.

I also believe the huge EU fine against Google over this is ridiculous. The owners of Foundem seem to think that they have a 'right' to pile of free referral traffic from Google and no such right exists. I suspect the EU's actions will simply destroy all third party shopping engines and basically guarantee that Amazon will own the EU shopping market. It is pretty much already that way in the USA.

So what do the anti-trust lovers want to do to Google? Prevent them from building any kind of vertical search engines? What would be the legal grounds for making a ruling like that?

BTW, I think the technology that will displace Google in search is already under development. It is AI processing of the web to extract the concepts contained in a web page instead of just keywords. Once something like that works well, the whole category of vertical search will likely disappear. Maybe Google will win two generations in a row (like Microsoft did - command line, GUI) but that is a rare occurrence. More likely some new startup will figure it out, then we'll see if they sell out or stay independent.

Reply Score: 0

RE: Google is not a monpoly
by Alfman on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 02:32 UTC in reply to "Google is not a monpoly"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

jonsmirl,

Microsoft was a monopoly when it used its Windows licensing power to prevent every OEM in the world from installing any OS besides Microsoft Windows. That was 100% restraint of trade and they deserved to be broken up for doing it.

I just can't see how Google is a monopoly. There is nothing stopping anyone from setting up a competitor to Google. Of course it may be hard to get people to pay attention to you, but that is a marketing problem not a legal one. There are no 'licenses' in place stopping people from using a competing search engine. There were licenses restricting Microsoft's OEMs.


I do agree with you that things could be many times worse if google were to use microsoft's old tactics, but this doesn't have any bearing on whether or not it is a monopoly. You focus on what I'll sum up as "benevolence", but it should be pointed out that technically it is not mutually exclusive with being a monopoly. In other words, one can legally be a monopoly regardless of whether one engages in anti-trust practices.

Another point would be that end users whose perspective you highlight are just a single facet of the google monopoly; they do not reflect the full scope of google's monopoly power.

Edited 2018-02-22 02:44 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Google is not a monpoly
by jonsmirl on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 02:51 UTC in reply to "RE: Google is not a monpoly"
jonsmirl Member since:
2005-07-06

That is the difference between EU monopolies and USA monopolies. The EU will categorize someone as a monopoly even if they aren't erecting barriers to protect the monopoly. USA monopolies have to engage in the construction of barriers before they get punished.

I don't subscribe to the EU view. I don't believe simply having a high market share should be a crime. The crime is in erecting the barriers to keep competitors out.

In general I view the complaints toward Google as competitors trying to force Google to help them. For example if Google was going to all of the stores and making them sign contracts saying that they would exclusively offer their goods on Google and not on Foundem, that is monopolistic and should be punished. But if Foundem is arguing that Google has a high share and it should send Foundem free traffic to help them compete, in the USA that would considered ridiculous. Apparently the EU views otherwise.

From my perspective the EU really screwed up on this one. Google was actually helping EU retailers stay visible and make sales. Google was not charging them an affiliate kickback. Foundem on the other hand makes all of their profit from affiliate kickbacks.

The EU's actions have ensured Google is not going to put much effort into vertical shopping engines going forward. I believe the main effect of that is that Amazon will end up dominating EU shopping. I think the EU was very flawed when they ruled that Amazon was not a competitor to Google shopping.

I suspect in five years the EU will look like the USA. Here Google shopping is a joke and Amazon rules retail. And all of the local stores are dying. Check out the total collapse of shopping malls in the USA.

Edited 2018-02-22 02:59 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Google is not a monpoly
by Alfman on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 05:22 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Google is not a monpoly"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

jonsmirl,

That is the difference between EU monopolies and USA monopolies. The EU will categorize someone as a monopoly even if they aren't erecting barriers to protect the monopoly. USA monopolies have to engage in the construction of barriers before they get punished.

I don't subscribe to the EU view. I don't believe simply having a high market share should be a crime. The crime is in erecting the barriers to keep competitors out.


In the US, there's no law against being a monopoly, only abusing it. Are there laws in the EU that punish corporations just for being a monopoly? If so, I wasn't aware of that, would you cite some examples of companies being punished for their market share alone?



In general I view the complaints toward Google as competitors trying to force Google to help them. For example if Google was going to all of the stores and making them sign contracts saying that they would exclusively offer their goods on Google and not on Foundem, that is monopolistic and should be punished. But if Foundem is arguing that Google has a high share and it should send Foundem free traffic to help them compete, in the USA that would considered ridiculous.


Not necessarily. The thing is capitalism relies on two, sometimes conflicting, foundations. A free market, and competition. They can conflict because a totally free market will often result in monopolies/oligopolies at the top controlling the majority of the market, which is to the detriment of healthy & viable competition.

Therefor, unless we want to end up in an end game where a few individuals/companies control everything, then we need to shift our attention to the other tenant of capitalism, namely competition. We should strive to achieve a balance, ideally with more than just one or two companies controlling the top 90%. It turns out though that this is extremely difficult to achieve not only because of free market concerns, but also because the less competition there is, the stronger the consolidation of power becomes, which means that if there isn't adequate protection for competition over time, then even more interference will eventually be required to correct it in the future.


In any case, US leaders are not willing to tackle market consolation. So for better or worse, I predict things overall to get less competitive over time. This means that for future generations, capitalism isn't going to be as rewarding as it's been for past generations.

Reply Score: 3

v RE[4]: Google is not a monpoly
by jonsmirl on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 12:32 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Google is not a monpoly"
RE[5]: Google is not a monpoly
by avgalen on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 14:37 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Google is not a monpoly"
avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

That is the difference between EU monopolies and USA monopolies. The EU will categorize someone as a monopoly even if they aren't erecting barriers to protect the monopoly.

This is the same in the USA. Being a monopoly is perfectly fine both in the EU and in the USA
USA monopolies have to engage in the construction of barriers before they get punished.

This is the same in the EU. You can only get punished if you do something wrong

In the EU a company with a 'dominant share' is not allowed to 'distort' the market.

And again, this is the same in the USA.

The differences between the USA and the EU are in the details. The USA is mainly concerned with monopolies (1 company > 50%) while the EU is mainly concerned with "considerable marketpower" (3 companies, all 30%)
Another detail is that the USA is mostly concerned with protecting companies from other companies while the EU is more concered with protecting consumers from companies.

These topics are extremely difficult to summarize and there are many exceptions so please consider the above just the outlines.

The most important difference that I see in reality is that it is very rare for the USA to do something against big corporations while the EU seems to have less hesitation to do so.

Reply Score: 5

RE[6]: Google is not a monpoly
by jonsmirl on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 16:38 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Google is not a monpoly"
jonsmirl Member since:
2005-07-06


Another detail is that the USA is mostly concerned with protecting companies from other companies while the EU is more concerned with protecting consumers from companies.


I believe it is the opposite of this. That was a main point in the original article -- it is difficult to accuse Google of anti-trust in the US if you can't demonstrate consumers are being harmed.

Note -- in the Microsoft case it was utterly obvious that consumers were being harmed. At one point I had 32 unwanted copies of Windows that I had been forced to buy with PCs that were used for other operating systems. I refused to agree to the EULA on all of them but of course Microsoft would not give a refund. At that point in time the only way to get a refund was to take Microsoft to small claims court.

The EU action against Google was the opposite of this. There was no evidence of consumer harm, consumer prices were actually lower on Google shopping. This was 100% about Google's impact on other companies.

And as to that impact, I think the EU's first made the decision to extract a few billion out of Google and then made up some flimsy arguments to support that preordained decision. It it total manure that they defined the market to exclude Ebay and Amazon from the competitive analysis.

Edited 2018-02-22 16:44 UTC

Reply Score: 0

RE[7]: Google is not a monpoly
by avgalen on Fri 23rd Feb 2018 00:14 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Google is not a monpoly"
avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

"
Another detail is that the USA is mostly concerned with protecting companies from other companies while the EU is more concerned with protecting consumers from companies.


I believe it is the opposite of this. That was a main point in the original article -- it is difficult to accuse Google of anti-trust in the US if you can't demonstrate consumers are being harmed.

Note -- in the Microsoft case it was utterly obvious that consumers were being harmed. At one point I had 32 unwanted copies of Windows that I had been forced to buy with PCs that were used for other operating systems. I refused to agree to the EULA on all of them but of course Microsoft would not give a refund. At that point in time the only way to get a refund was to take Microsoft to small claims court.
"
Doesn't your Microsoft example prove exactly that USA doesn't do anything when consumers are being harmed while the EU did? In the EU consumers could just refuse the EULA and get their money back and Microsoft was forced to include Browser-choice screens and have "N" versions while the USA just let Microsoft do whatever they wanted because no other OS-company was getting hurt (there were none).

When Google included the "All or nothing" Android clauses* the EU stepped in again while the USA didn't do anything

(* from memory about those all or nothing Android clauses)
* If an OEM puts Android on some of their phones they have to put it on all of their phones
* If an OEM wants to include 1 Google PlayStore App they have to include all PlayStore Apps

Of course the EU and the USA also have protectionist measures to protect the market in its entirety and that is why Google got punished by the EU in the shopping example.

Now that I look at all these examples, it just looks like it is just the EU fining USA-companies but that isn't the case. The EU also fines EU-companies and sometimes the USA actually fines a USA-company (or bans a Chinese company)

Reply Score: 4

RE: Google is not a monpoly
by avgalen on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 15:04 UTC in reply to "Google is not a monpoly"
avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

In economics, a monopoly is a single seller. In law, a monopoly is a business entity that has significant market power. (source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly)

Now if I use google and start typing "other search" it autocompletes to:
* other search engines
* other search engines besides google
* other search engine than google
* other search engines better than google
* other search engines not google

(If I use bing.com and start typing "other search" it just autocompletes to "other search engines" and the first result that shows up is duckduckgo)

Reply Score: 3

RE: Google is not a monpoly
by coherence on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 19:47 UTC in reply to "Google is not a monpoly"
coherence Member since:
2018-02-04

I just can't see how Google is a monopoly. There is nothing stopping anyone from setting up a competitor to Google.


Are you kidding me? The two largest search engines in the world are Google and Youtube (yes youtube can be considered a search engine as it has the world's largest library of videos).

Vid.me such down late last year because it pretty much impossible to turn a profit with video site due to the storage cost of video. The other video sites basically aren't anywhere near as decent

To start a search engine these days again is a mammoth task because it isn't like the 1990s where you can have a couple of SQL Databases and half decent search box to find sites. I've build a web crawler with elastic search, but anything past that requires some serious engineering which will require probably at least a few million to get anything that is half as good as duck duck go which while decent isn't half as good as google.

Then you have Google Maps, they basically have a monopoly on mapping (I work for a company that does a lot of work with Geo).

Almost every phone coming out is Android with their services.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Google is not a monpoly
by Alfman on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 20:52 UTC in reply to "RE: Google is not a monpoly"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

coherence,

To start a search engine these days again is a mammoth task because it isn't like the 1990s where you can have a couple of SQL Databases and half decent search box to find sites. I've build a web crawler with elastic search, but anything past that requires some serious engineering which will require probably at least a few million to get anything that is half as good as duck duck go which while decent isn't half as good as google.



I agree. It's extremely difficult. Even if you do build something better in some way, it may not matter at all since you don't have the users to go along with it and don't have the benefit of bundling your search engine within products like google and microsoft do.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Google is not a monpoly
by zima on Wed 28th Feb 2018 03:42 UTC in reply to "RE: Google is not a monpoly"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Vid.me such down late last year because it pretty much impossible to turn a profit with video site due to the storage cost of video. The other video sites basically aren't anywhere near as decent

Vimeo is quite good at what it is, and at least it seems to be doing fine...

Reply Score: 2

RE: Google is not a monpoly
by walid on Mon 26th Feb 2018 22:53 UTC in reply to "Google is not a monpoly"
walid Member since:
2012-11-24

A monopoly doesn't mean that they are forcing companies not to install an OS or use a search engine, it simply means that the large size of said organization makes it a very powerful defacto that can damage a market with very little effort. This applied to Microsoft and now applies to Google.

That said I don't think that breaking Google up is the answer here since the benefit of Google is actually its size. Still mandating that Google follow a different approach to showing search suggestions than choke traffic to a website when the website is negatively affected is necessary. The options that Google gives of either Google showing whatever it wants on a search page or obliterate said website from its search seems like abuse of power to me. You're either with Google or Google is against you.

Reply Score: 1

Outlier
by Alfman on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 01:44 UTC
Alfman
Member since:
2011-01-28

In other words, it's very likely you love Google, or are at least fond of Google, or hardly think about Google, the same way you hardly think about water systems or traffic lights or any of the other things you rely on every day. Therefore you might have been surprised when headlines began appearing last year suggesting that Google and its fellow tech giants were threatening everything from our economy to democracy itself.


This quote out of the article made me chuckle, in that I cannot relate to it at all. I've long been critical of the power that the tech companies wield over us. Also, I actually do think about the technology behind everyday mundane items. I get the impression this author hasn't socialized with many in the tech community, "nerds" as he calls us, otherwise he should have known that none of this is news within the industry...but maybe I/we are outliers?

Reply Score: 2

Yup
by Poseidon on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 05:07 UTC
Poseidon
Member since:
2009-10-31

Yeah, I'm pretty much done with Google. I moved away from all of their services and I am encouraging everyone I know (and mostly successful) to do so.

It's a bit hard for some services (translate for example) that some people might need, just because there's no alternative with the feature set, but even then, I'd still encourage people to use a dictionary instead, if possible (Some dictionary apps are pretty dang good).

Reply Score: 2

RE: Yup
by shotsman on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 19:38 UTC in reply to "Yup"
shotsman Member since:
2005-07-22

I've blocked as much of google as I can on my firewall but increasing numbers of sites just won't work anymore without your life being sucked away to the Chocoloate Factories mega AI.
As I hate ALL Advertising especially those so called targetted ads I refuse to use them for searches without an anonymiser in the way.
As for Amazon... I avoid them as much as possible as well.

Reply Score: 2

v Fake
by judgen on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 07:21 UTC
agreed.
by CaptainN- on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 07:24 UTC
CaptainN-
Member since:
2005-07-07

I completely agree with Thom's conclusion here. That is all.

Reply Score: 0

Comment by sj87
by sj87 on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 09:34 UTC
sj87
Member since:
2007-12-16

Everybody knows Google, Apple, Amazon and so on. They are multinational, global super corporations.

'Big pharma' and 'big oil' et al. operate mostly on US soil and the media outside the USA doesn't even recognize the names of these companies even if some of them affect the whole world (like oil does).

Also, their products are tangible and much more dependent on state-level regulation and therefore the issues, I guess, are more often than not limited to a couple states and do not garner all that much attention from the media nationwide.

Edited 2018-02-22 09:35 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by sj87
by avgalen on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 13:56 UTC in reply to "Comment by sj87"
avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

'Big pharma' and 'big oil' et al. operate mostly on US soil...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Oil, first line, "Big Oil is a name used to describe the world's...". You realize that one of them is Royal Dutch Shell, with the word Dutch in it quite literally. Another one is BP with the word British quite literally in there. Thinking that these companies operate mostly on US soil and that the rest of the world doesn't know about Exxon Mobile or BP is ridiculous. "Exxon Valdez" and "the BP oil spill" anybody?

Reply Score: 4

The end
by cjcox on Thu 22nd Feb 2018 22:24 UTC
cjcox
Member since:
2006-12-21

But you know, if you look at Amazon vs. Google, it doesn't look all that good for Google.

My guess is that the letters G-O-O-G-L-E will drop out of the Alphabet.. well at least as far as Amazon sees it.

Reply Score: 2

Out in front vs behind the scenes
by CodeMonkey on Fri 23rd Feb 2018 16:16 UTC
CodeMonkey
Member since:
2005-09-22

I do find it a little peculiar that it, at the same time, draws attention away from other sectors where giant corporations are possibly doing even more damage to society, like large oil companies and the environment


I suspect this is, in large part, because Google and Facebook are more directly a part of peoples everyday life now. Most people can't get through a single day without directly interacting with Facebook or Google in some way, so the societal influence is more visible and apparent to everyone. Oil, pharma, and agriculture (Monsanto, etc.) companies, on the other hand, have been manipulating economies and governments behind the scenes for decades now but it happens on a much "grander" scale where the effects are broader and more prolonged so it's harder to see their impact until way after the fact. While the massive data mining and AI capabilities of Google and Facebook are operating behind the scenes in a similar way, people aren't reacting tho that in an immediate way, only after it's been happening for a while and the damage is well under way. Because of the public facing visibility of them though, I suspect it makes it easier for users / consumers (or which are really Google and Facebook's products) to focus on the companies at all, and then make to trasition to focusing on thier behind the scenes activities.

For instance, Facebook rolls out a new feature, and within days everybody is using it and is talking about how it affects the way they interact with and use Facebook. That primes the mental conversation to also talk about Facebook's larger impact. Now say Monsanto changes a gene in their soybean seed. They don't promote it or publicize; they just start using it. Then 2y go by, and independent farmers all across the country now learn their fields are fallow unless they use Monsanto seeds because of some "invasive" side effect introduced by Monsanto 2y ago. There's no "priming the pump" for a conversation about Monsanto though since people don't think about Monsanto and thier products affecting thier every day lives.

Reply Score: 1

@ Thom Holwerda
by walid on Mon 26th Feb 2018 23:02 UTC
walid
Member since:
2012-11-24

I can't deny that the conclusion you make at the bottom of the excerpt makes sense, but it so happens that Google has been the target of the EU for a long time as well. It may be either a distraction from the fossil fuel industry or that something is happening in the USA. The Trump administration may have an axe to grid with Google, maybe.

Reply Score: 1