I just read a great article by Greg Sterling over at Search Engine Land that got me thinking. The article talked about EU regulators and their eying of Google for antitrust activity. The latest of these looks spawns from the Google/ITA deal, which would put Google firmly into the travel business overnight.
What truly struck me about the article, however, is Sterling’s mention of a number of other areas in which Google is coming under scrutiny in the EU. While I’m clearly no expert at European law, a lot of these simply seem…to be honest…petty.
Google has earned a reputation as a “search juggernaut”. It’s no small feat, to be sure. The market could have gone a hundred different directions, but because of Google’s dedication to the craft of search, it won the race. Regulators in the EU and in the US seem to have a problem with this position, however.
The fact is, Google is simply doing what anyone in its position would do: using supremacy to an advantage. When you already have a massive percentage of the search market coming through your doors, why wouldn’t you try to capitalize on that? Sure, Google Ads bring in money, but why not do travel? And speaking of ads, why is it wrong to have an ethical code for what you’ll allow to be displayed? It simply doesn’t make sense.
Back in the days when Microsoft got such a strong hand slap for antitrust, the game was completely different. The software maker partnered with OEM’s and didn’t really give you much of a chance to buy a computer that didn’t include Windows. Google isn’t doing this.
Sure, it’s the default search provider on a few devices. But you know what? If it sucked, it likely wouldn’t be there. Honestly, look at Apple. The company is all over “user experience”. So when the decision came to include other search providers into the iPhone, it took a couple of years for Bing to even come into the logical picture.
What Google is doing is branding and placing itself into top of mind awareness. If you ask anyone in advertising, that ToMA is the most important thing that you can build for any business. When someone says search, you likely think “Google”. It’s nearly a Pavlovian response, and Google knows this.
So is Google using its leverage in the search market to push its way into other forms of profitability? You bet. But I challenge you to find any business that wouldn’t do the same, given similar circumstance. Any shop owner that wouldn’t capitalize on what he or she does well is a fool.
This, above all, is why antitrust talks about Google are just plain trash. If you begin those charges, you’re sending a red flag to anyone who ever has a dream of getting big. The message you’re throwing out there, intentional or not, is this:
Do what you do best, and we’ll be ready to strike you down if you’re successful at it.