Did you know that the most searched word on Bing is Google?
Google has become the largest search engine in the world, used daily by many people. Google has created such a vast monopoly in the digital world that it prioritizes its services over competitors.
Is this domination by Google legitimate? Let’s find out in this article.
How are the various organizations fighting to reduce this dominance?
According to the latest numbers from Statista published in September 2021, online search engine Bing accounted for almost 7% of the global search market, Yahoo for 2.75%, while the market leader Google had a share of 86.64%.
Faced with these figures, the European Commission announced last June that it was opening an investigation against Google for anti-competitive practices in the online advertising sector. Google is accused of using its Android operating system to gain an unfair advantage over competing search engines.
The purpose of the investigation will be to determine whether the US giant has violated EU competition rules by favoring its online display advertising technology services over its competitors.
The battle already has a history: eight years ago, the Commission began asking questions about Google’s data holdings. Five years ago, it started questioning its dominance of the web. Indeed, Google controls more than 90% of the search market in Europe. Last year, the European Union ruled against Google in the so-called “Right to be Forgotten” case, claiming that the internet company was responsible for the information it indexes and presents.
How has Google been able to dominate the market?
Many years ago, search engines focused on developing business models to monetize search. Thus, until the last decade or so, Yahoo organized its paid search service, Overture, around who paid the most. That is, advertisers who spent the most were allowed to move to the top of the search results page, regardless of the quality of the user experience they provided. This is where Google did things differently: it focused on the user experience. In addition to the amount paid by advertisers, its algorithm took into account several factors such as the quality of the pages, the number of links, and the relevance to the user’s search, thus dethroning the original Yahoo model.
The impact of this type of monopoly
Dominance in itself is not a problem in competition law, but it becomes one when that position is abusive. According to the European Commission, Google would use its search monopoly to counter competitors and users’ data.
Google defends itself by saying that competition is “just a click away”. However, this claim doesn’t take into account the fact that its overwhelming strength comes from its ownership of vast data sets, and that this data has often been acquired under exclusive agreements or with ill-informed consent. Moreover, its data monopoly is unmatched by any other entity.
Regulators need to move beyond the caricature of agile American tech insurgents and ponderous European protectionists, and move away from the language of ownership, to consider more fundamentally what is in the public interest.
The broader problem is that Google has become the ultimate monopoly of the information. Information is a source of power, and there is nothing in the EU case that allows this power to be touched in any meaningful way.
Threats faced by Google
The biggest threats to Google are the following:
- Shopping and voice search: Amazon is far ahead. Developments in Echo voice search technology have simplified the consumer funnel into fewer steps, giving Amazon dominance in online shopping.
- Ad-blocking: According to a Reuters digital report, half of the online customers used ad-blocking technology in 2015. The nature of Apple’s ad-blocking software offers a competitive advantage.
- Traffic and market share generation: Facebook poses a large threat to Google, moving from a simple social platform to a news source, live streamer, shopping review, and referral platform. The ownership of Instagram is further expanding its market share, and many believe that it is only a matter of time before Facebook’s algorithms implement search-oriented features.
At a time when users are increasingly aware of the amount of information about them that is being tracked, used, and sold to advertisers and the government, the DuckDuckGo platform becomes more popular. It is a search engine that does not track or sell user browsing history or information while providing high-quality search results and a solid user experience.
Despite all the suspicions surrounding Google’s practices, its use does not seem to diminish. Its enormous popularity has allowed it to become an indispensable tool in our daily lives and the primary advertising ally used by advertisers.