Google: Anti-trust case waiting to happen?

Depending on whom you talk to about Google’s share of the Web-search market, you are likely to get estimates of anywhere from 30 per cent to the upper 40-per-cent range. Rich Skrenta of Topix, however, says that the true number is closer to about 70 per cent, and that anyone who is currently running a Web business and is familiar with the search business already knows that.

In regular releases from the major traffic-measurement firms such as comScore and Nielsen NetRatings — including this one — Google is given a market share of 44 per cent and 49 per cent respectively. But Skrenta says that “Everybody involved in the search industry and everyone who actually runs a website knows these numbers are completely wrong.”


He describes how he “picked a basket of medium-to-large websites and looked at the inbound search traffic percentages using Hitwise,” and that Google came out with an average of 70-per-cent market share. Don Dodge notes that this could be a result of looking at search referrals versus raw searches, but I think that’s a bit of a red herring. The fact is that Google owns about 70 per cent of search that drives people to websites. And that is money.

Google has already been sued by someone who claimed that their business was being adversely affected by the company’s policies, and that this was illegal because Google had what amounts to monopoly power. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Microsoft was accused of pretty much the same thing in a federal anti-trust case that was launched in 1998 and dragged on for years.

Is Google a potential anti-trust target? Nick Carr has said he thinks so, and Mike Masnick at Techdirt has also said it’s in the realm of possibility. I don’t think that kind of claim has a hope of succeeding (and didn’t think that it made much sense in the Microsoft case either), but stats like Rich Skrenta is throwing around are likely to raise some red flags with the policy wonks in Washington.

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