Posted June 29, 2009 1:55 pm by with 4 comments

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google angel halo“Competition is just a click away,” Google Senior Competition Counsel Dana Wagner reminds us. “We are in an industry that is subject to disruption and we can’t take anything for granted.”

I hear him loud and clear. I spend hours a day fretting about the future of Google. (Um, NOT.) But Wagner is doing something few companies have to worry about these days: campaigning to remind us how vulnerable they are.

Then again, as the New York Times points out, convincing people (or the government) you’re no big deal is kind of a big deal when you’re one deal away from anti-trust proceedings, and

[handle] roughly two-thirds of all Internet searches, . . . [own] the largest online video site, YouTube, which is more than 10 times more popular than its nearest competitor, [a]nd last year . . . sold nearly $22 billion in advertising, more than any media company in the world.

Oh yeah, and that “two-thirds of all Internet searches”? That’s only in the US. In some countries, it’s more like 90%. Yep, totally threatened by their competition.

The Times says Dana Wagner is just the guy to be doing the convincing, too. As a former DoJ antitrust prosecutor, Wagner is highly respectful of his former colleagues. This is a marked contrast, says the Times, to “Microsoft a decade ago, whose executives would rarely hide their disdain for regulators.”

But the “boyish” Wagner, with his “aw-shucks grin,” hasn’t been enough to defray government scrutiny of Google’s hiring practices, its agreement with book publishers or ties between its board and Apple’s.

While Google has been spared a government investigation of its core advertising business, no one is fooled by its pretending to be weak:

Eyes are rolling, especially in reaction to the idea that Google is a relatively small player in a giant market. “They describe where they are in a market under a kind of a fairy-tale spun gloss that doesn’t reflect their dominance of key sectors,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “Google search is an absolute must-have for every marketer in the world.”

In the end, Wagner makes no bones about this. “We know we have a lot of people doing searches and we are very proud of that,” he says. “We are not asking for sympathy.”

What do you think? Does this fall under Google “protesting too much,” or is Google truly vulnerable? Will the government ever investigate AdWords? Will they like what they find?

  • Internet has matured enough to see a couple corporations dominate and successfully vertically and horizontally integrate without government intervention. As seen from the massive trust funds of the 1890s and early 1900s, breaking up corporate behemoths is a sizable task.

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  • I wish that I was as vulnerable as Google. I’m sure GM, Chrysler, and lots of other companies wish they were as vulnerable as Google.

    However, there is certain sense of truth when they say that the competition is only one click away. That happens to be a true statement. If history is any indication (see GM) being dominent is not the same as being bullet proof.

    Harold @ PotatoPatchRecipes’s last blog post..Slow Cooker Recipes | Crock Pot Steak Salad

  • On the one hand, they’ve got to say what they can to ensure they’re not sued by investors for ignoring the antitrust possibilities altogether. And on the other, while it would take a massive paradigm shift to knock them off their high horse, it is possible. Look at how fast MySpace nose-dived. Sure, they still have their insanely vast user base. Yet ultimately it’s become a base that is now essentially useless when it comes to monetizing in a big enough way.

    AOL was a giant that some thought held impenetrable market share too, and thus investor value. So just because Google owns a number of markets today does not mean they won’t be supplanted eventually.

    Alan Bleiweiss’s last blog post..My Search Engine Journal Debut

  • Frankly, I’m a little scared of Google. Remember in the 90’s when Microsoft had a monopoly on browsers and murdered Netscape? Google is in position to gain that level of power. Granted, they have the best search engine and I would be stupid not to use it, but I don’t like their attempt to spread out. I’m not going to use Google Chrome, even though it sounds solid, just because I don’t want Google to eventually have complete control over how I view the Internet.

    That probably sounds dumb, but I personally think they need more competition before it gets to the point where nobody can compete. Yahoo is pretty much dead.