But does Google’s dominance in search and its growing database of information and content warrant the same kind of treatment Microsoft received in the 1990s? As Bloomberg News contributor Paul Kedrosky recently pointed out, Google’s search business does not lock in customers the same way that a desktop operating system from Microsoft does. If you choose to install Windows, you can only use products designed for that system. Microsoft was able to use its massive market power to pressure competitors like RealNetworks and IBM’s OS/2 operating system.
Google, on the other hand, can’t lock in users, since search engines like Bing, Blekko, and DuckDuckGo are available to anyone with just a few mouse clicks. But for whatever reason, most users are sticking with Google for search rather than trying something else. Nevertheless, Google’s massive search user base, critics say, gives it the ability to affect a site’s popularity by moving the site off Google’s first page of search results. This is part of the reason some European sites filed antitrust arguments against the search giant.
It’s not yet clear if Google would face a massive antitrust investigation, but the search giant is no stranger to casting accusations of monopolistic behavior either. In March 2009, Google joined with other Web browser makers in a complaint to the European Commission that Microsoft was shielding Internet Explorer from competition by bundling the browser with every copy of Windows. Microsoft responded by giving European users the option to dump IE from Windows.