A recent article in Wired called The Plot to Kill Google details some of the major legal and political battles that Google finds itself in with corporations that have a shared interest in the evolution of the web. The authors describe Microsoft as being a major enemy of Google, and responsible for spearheading an advocacy effort to thwart the now botched Google/Yahoo ad deal.
Apparently, Microsoft was successful at convincing Tom Barnett, assistant attorney general for antitrust, that an ad partnership between Google and Yahoo constitutes a monopoly.
Traditional advocacy efforts entail organizing consumers/voters around a specific issue, and leveraging their voice to push through a specific set of policies. However, Microsoft took a different approach by rallying up corporate entities, to lobby on behalf of Microsoft’s cause.
This tactic of leveraging corporate voices can work well on politicians and political appointees that are finishing up their last term. This is because their future is vested in a world outside public opinion, and in the private sector.
However, for politicians that plan on future re-election campaigns there are only two things that sway their opinion: voters and donations. Fortunately for Google, they have already shown that they can deliver both to the incoming Obama administration.
So, if Barnett was Microsoft’s target, who should Google be setting its sights on? Recent reports indicate the Obama administration has an eye on three potential candidates to fill the spot of assistant attorney general for antitrust: Jan McDavid of law firm Hogan and Hartson; Justice Department antitrust division veteran Douglas Melamed, now of law firm WilmerHale; and former FTC official William Baer.
All are being considered for the spot. Whoever gets nominated, there’s one thing for certain; they will have the potential for a long tenure with a historic administration. Thus they could be more receptive of the kind of “people’s advocacy” that Google is trying to build on.
But more importantly I think Google has something that none of its competitors has, something that will always help in the way of public opinion. Innovation is Google’s secret weapon. As long as they can continue to innovate and communicate the value of their innovations to the public, they have a very real chance at staying around for a long time. In the very recent words of the 44th President, “know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.”