Google will soon have nearly as much of a monopoly over the search business as Microsoft ever had in operating systems.
Its move into display ads, meanwhile, will soon give it an even greater share of the overall online ad market.
Given the vast profits and power that go with this market position, it’s no surprise that governments are beginning to take a closer look at Google’s operations.
Now comes word that the EU has opened an investigation into the company.
Google Inc. is set to announce later Tuesday that European antitrust authorities have opened a preliminary probe into complaints made against it by three European Internet companies, according to people familiar with the matter.
The inquiry into allegations of anticompetitive behaviour is at an early, fact-finding stage and may not result in any action. But it appeared to be the first time that European antitrust authorities have examined Google’s conduct outside of a merger review.
It also comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of Google in Europe, where the company has an even more dominant position in search advertising than it does in the U.S.
This will start slow, but it could eventually get serious. It could also be a sign of things to come. John Battelle wonders whether this is Google’s “Microsoft moment.”
In past writings I’ve intoned that Google was following the path of Microsoft in many ways, and suggested that at some point it may face the same kind of scrutiny – and potential enervation – as Gates&Co did back in the late 1990s with the DOJ. Now comes news from the WSJ that the European Union has decided to open an investigation into the company, though the allegations seem less serious than those which ultimately forced Microsoft to permanently alter its practices. Not surprisingly, one of the complainants is a subsidiary of Microsoft in Europe.