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50 U.S. states and territories announce broad antitrust investigation of Google (washingtonpost.com)
492 points by ihuman 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 322 comments





While this is a far shorter list than Luther's 95 theses, I will post this here while I run to get popcorn to see just how Google gets out of this.

Sample arguably anti-competitive actions Google has taken:

1. Turning off XMPP federation in Google Talk, moving from an open standard to an archipelago of walled gardens (Hangouts, Allo, GChat, Hangouts again, Messages/RCS that the carriers are gonna give up to Google to host(!?))

2. Killing Windows Phone by not allowing any Google-based apps on the platform (https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/14/15970082/google-killed-wi...)

3. Posting map/weather/review content straight to SERPs starving MapQuest/WU/Yelp et al from getting clicks

4. Anyone not browsing on Chrome gets an upsell to install Chrome (MS got roasted for this with Windows Media & best used on IE)

5. Degrading services on competing browsers/platforms via things like U2F in Firefox, slow/wontfix polyfills (https://www.computerworld.com/article/3389882/former-mozilla...)

There are probably more entries to list, and these are complex issues being reduced to a sentence or two, but I've tried to not post things that are not immediately anti-competitive even if I don't like 'em (Google+ forced integration which resulted in me still not commenting on YouTube all these years later, RIP Google Reader)


There are probably more entries to list, and these are complex issues being reduced to a sentence or two

A recurring pattern with Google and YouTube: Someone achieves virality through controversy. They are promptly de-monetized, deleted, or frozen with no reason given. When the period of viral opportunity has passed, typically in about a day or two, the account/monetization is reinstated with no reason given.

This pattern is so insidiously subtle, so frequent, and so potentially powerful in manipulating the media of 2019, it probably deserves its own Wiki and its own investigation.

Those who can control virality can modulate most of the loudest voices on the Internet. That's basically the power to relegate the ideas you don't like to relative near silence. (Also, those who can control virality can pick the winners among startup companies.)

(EDIT: Basically, these sorts of shenanigans are like Michael Swaine's story from decades back about deleting his own parking tickets in South Carolina. He was supposed to have parking so he could work on the city's mainframe, but the bureaucracy dropped the ball. Way back then, this sort of thing amounts to a funny anecdote. In the world of 2019, it would be a firing offense and possibly get someone prosecuted for fraud. There are analogous things from the world of aviation, and stories of the wild west. With great power comes great responsibility. Make no mistake, as a technologist, you wield power.)


The dual pattern is a variant on what used to be called a "Joe Job"[0]: Falsely directing the platform's harsh automated bots against your competitor or enemy. This has become quite prevalent on Amazon [1] and I've seen several indirect instances of it on HN recently, where an Android developer tries to defend against shadowy competitors stealing their app by putting resources in nonstandard places, which then results in Google banning the original developer rather than the true guilty party. If Google (or Amazon or anybody else) is going to use zero-tolerance bots to police itself, they need to be designed such that people can't turn them into weapons. Designing such bots is not at all easy and it requires a very high level of skill.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_job [1] https://www.theverge.com/2018/12/19/18140799/amazon-marketpl...


Automated bureaucracy without a means for recourse is nightmare fuel.

You should read Philip K Dick.

Interesting, seems like a worthwhile read in this context. Any particular suggestions?

Sounds more Kafkaesque to me, but the GP's comment brought to mind Autofac, a short story about an automated manufacturing and distribution system that continues producing and delivering product to humam settlements long after the apocalypse, while monopolizing resources, effectively preventing the humans from rebuilding.

Dramatized in an episode of Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams.

I saw and didn't really care for the dramatization. Without giving too much away, they changed the ending significantly in a way that was particularly non-PKDian. The original has a strong theme of human struggle against a force that is vast, unstoppable, inhuman, and that gets lost in the adaptation.

Also Kafka.

I knew I was forgetting a big one but couldn't bring it to mind. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

It is rather chilling to see that even though the world-wide web started open, so much centralization can have quite the chilling effect on competition.

What can we do about it? If I were king of the world, it would be P2P decentralized content provided over mesh-network-powered-by-cognitive-frequency-hopping-radio but since I'm not, what are solutions prospective officials could leverage?

Split Alphabet from YouTube, then split YouTube in half between user-posted content and business-posted content?


The only way forward is p2p.

Inet in current form is too susceptible to governments and bad actors like Google who only work for their shareholders.

Has google released anything worthwhile the last several years?

What has happened to the culture of innovation at Google? We still know them for gmail, maps, and search but what have they done lately? They seem bland by comparison to the Google of the late 90s and 2000s.

Why has Google become the new Microsoft?


> Why has Google become the new Microsoft?

Google hasn't changed, their actions have acquired increased consequences and attention. You'd have to go back to their early days to find a truly different Google, nearly two decades into the past.

Gates for example was always ruthless in business, even in the early days, it's just that few people cared about Microsoft's behavior until they became powerful. The same is true of Google and most any corporation. Google is behaving pretty much as you would expect a company in their position to, it's entirely predictable.

Amusing Gary Reback quote (he was notorious in those days for opposing Microsoft in Silicon Valley) from the 1990s Microsoft era:

"The only thing J. D. Rockefeller did that Bill Gates hasn't done," Reback would wail, "is use dynamite against his competitors!"

Wired, Nov 1, 2000

The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth

https://outline.com/2DKmtw


Here's a pretty long article detailing some of Google's recent history and culture clashes:

https://www.wired.com/story/inside-google-three-years-misery...

Google the company shifted towards being purely profit oriented long ago, but google the employees didn't see it that way, and resisted quite a lot, until recently.


A centralized system may be susceptible to large bad actors such as Google but a p2p decentralized system is susceptible to large numbers of small bad actors. We simply haven't cracked the hard problem of trust and so we're stuck delegating to large authorities.

In some ways this is reminiscent of the history of civilization, where people band together for protection against marauders. In exchange for protection, we become vulnerable to tyranny.


> We simply haven't cracked the hard problem of trust and so we're stuck delegating to large authorities.

Just to clarify- what sort of trust are you referring to in the context of a service like YouTube?


Moderation. YouTube filters out all manner of content which we would prefer not to see (extreme violence, child abuse) and it presents both recommendations as well as search results we rely on to help us find the videos we're interested in.

These problems, moderation and search (and some would say curation), are just two examples manifested by the hard problem of trust in decentralized systems.


Both make sense, thanks. Curious if you've run across good writing or research that explores this problem in depth, definitely interested in reading more.

I wish I had, I would definitely share it with you. I've only been able to say what I said as a result of accumulated observations over the years. I've seen many decentralized systems wax and wane in that time.

I tried to find some pieces but it's honestly very difficult these days, due to the sheer quantity of garbage on the internet. My trust in centralized search engines is collapsing under the weight of so much spam. I'm legitimately worried there will be nothing to replace them.


> The only way forward is p2p.

Then we as the tech community need to figure out tooling so that grandma and grandpa can use p2p / mesh networks. We have several challenges in that way that I'd like to see solved, but don't know how to make that happen.

2 immediate challenges is that If you can't get today's iweather over ipfs or bittorrent (with a better UI clearly, not everything has to be file transfer), p2p can't fully replace HTTP. Email is arguably pretty federated if not quite p2p, but the spam problem is real.

The below example is an account of my grandma's attempt to get p2p chat going. Grandma doesn't even know what a p2p / mesh network is, but we will assume she read about it in the paper from the HK protests and being the enterprising unafraid-to-try-new-tech-things user most users aren't, she tries it out.

She is in a large concrete gym, no cell service unless she stepped out of the building for a moment. Remembering the paper article, she decided to try the Bridgefy app so she can text with someone else. How do you spell Bridgefy? Oh right, I have the paper here, let me painstakingly hunt and peck to find the name of the app in the Play Store, ah there it is. She stepped out of the gym, got signal, installed the app on both devices, then stepped back in and opened the app.

Her friend gave her her own phone so she could install both at once so they can be apart, yet chat.

Being forewarned by her techie grandson, she managed a feat denied to nearly all the cell-phone using public and skip the dark patterns of denying Bridgefy contacts, reluctantly giving it location access 'for Bluetooth', and attempting to stop it reading her phone number. Already, 95% of users would be long stopped by now. But she persisted.

The app would not move forward, giving error toast messages of error 7::0 cannot do that. She had to step back outside where she had signal for it to work for an unknown reason.

She got back in the gym, was not able to get either phone to talk to each other, either in 'public broadcast mode' or by trying to add a contact straight from the app. She uninstalled both copies and moved on without having p2p messaging, not because our devices' bluetooth radios couldn't handle ad hoc communication, but because the client doesn't exist that doesn't want to surveil or otherwise profile you.

PS -> that user was not an enterprising Grandma, but myself. If someone knows how to get Bridgefy / a p2p mesh chat app going without selling the privacy farm, I'd love to hear it.


Was astonished by your grandma's technical proficiency until the end

> Then we as the tech community need to figure out tooling so that grandma and grandpa can use p2p / mesh networks.

It seems that the grandma/grandpa use case always comes up in technical discussions. I've never really seen the need to cater to those who aren't willing to learn how to use the tools they have.

Could a person born after 2000 figure out how to use a VCR? Set the timer so that it records the correct program? What about a rotary dial phone? Do they know how to make a collect call? What about directory assistance? Could they figure out how to use an 8 track player?

They probably wouldn't, but the motivated ones would avail themselves of the resources at hand and figure it out.

The same thing applies to current technology.


> I've never really seen the need to cater to those who aren't willing to learn how to use the tools they have

For tools that depends on network effects to provide value (such as P2P), the on-boarding process and learning curve are quite important to reaching the required levels of adoption.

This is especially true when you are competing uphill against alternate tools with established networks that provide more network effect value.


> For tools that depends on network effects to provide value (such as P2P), the on-boarding process and learning curve are quite important to reaching the required levels of adoption.

Yet all the examples I gave (rotary dial phones, 8 track players, VCRs) had very high rates of adoption. But I'm sure that there were people from generations once or twice removed from the introduction of such technologies that never really learned how to use them.


> rotary dial phones, 8 track players, VCRs

None of those products are close to as dependent on network effects to provide value. Rotary telephone didn't depend on other rotary telephone users, just the existence of automatic exchanges. 8 track and VCR didn't depend on other users of the format, but on the availability of content in that format. While they all gain advantages in pricing / availability from networks effects, the core functionality of these products does not depend directly on the network.

The rotary dial phone had no real competition.

8 track player adoption was largely driven by large automakers offering 8 track players as factory and dealer installed options (and thus simplifying the on-boarding process). Once 8-track's portable niche was taken over by the easier to use cassette tapes, it declined fairly quickly.

VCRs did not face an 'uphill' competition against a competitor with an existing network effect advantage. It can even be argued that Betamax lost (despite having a product that was percieved to be better) because its higher cost relative to VCRs hampered its on-boarding process.

There will (almost) always be people willing to cope with a worse on-boarding process and/or steep learning curve. (This is far more true for a product that has functionality not otherwise available.)

However, if your product is dependent on network effects and you are competing uphill against a similar product with a well established network, then your on-boarding process and learning curve will be critical (but not the only factor to) your success.

It is hard to find a group of products that is more dependent on network effects than P2P software (besides centralized messaging platforms).


VCRs had high rates of adoption but how many homes did you go in and see the flashing 12:00? In the grand scheme of things, not many used it for setting a recording for shows they didn’t want to miss.

Google started down the evil path when they had their IPO. Before that their incentives were aligned with those of every citizen of the net. After that they were only incentivized to make money and grow, by whatever means necessary.

It may be possible for them to change, but I doubt they'll do it on their own. The real driver that changes a company's culture is competition. And that's why I applaud this antitrust investigation.


Rather, they are becoming the old Microsoft. Are you sure they aren't becoming the new Yahoo? Also, what new thing is the new Microsoft?

Nadella's Microsoft is the new Microsoft. Before Nadella, Microsoft looked doomed to a slow demise behind the increasing irrelevance of Windows, with revenue from (local-only) Microsoft Office as the only future source of income.

Nadella has changed the course of that staid ship by changing the underlying culture, no small feat! Some specific actions: Microsoft Office on iPad and Android, going all in on cloud (Azure has 22% of the market, ahead of GCP's 7%, at the start of 2019), being friendly with Linux (Windows Subsystem for Linux - WSL, exFAT specs were released a few days ago), given up Windows Mobile (he “did not get why the world needed the third ecosystem in phones”).

https://www.inc.com/scott-mautz/microsoft-ceo-satya-nadella-...

https://qz.com/work/1539071/how-microsoft-ceo-satya-nadella-...


Windows default products have also been improving in quality, like the mail and calender client. The calendar one is quite good actually. Typescript is also a pleasurable experience (as a new web dev, great timing!) vscode is nice to use too.

I'd rather they just go all in on the Outlook desktop app instead.

Microsoft is the new Microsoft lol. It's back on top as the largest market cap just like it was in its heyday

>The only way forward is p2p.

This is the tech utopia's cop-out. What does p2p even mean? How is the current internet as it is not p2p? p2p doesn't solve discovery.


Because of the people that they hire and the culture they promote.

The rise of the vendor contractor...

This is what happens when you develop an entire industry to avoid claiming the true number of employees your company has.

In the process you stifle creativity and innovation.

But hey, if your big enough you can just buy potential disrupters.


Likely focusing on government contracts/DARPA programs... :/

I don't see how breaking up Google is going to help us decentralize the internet though. But I don't like how they selective demonetize certain groups of people and mess with small businesses with zero transparency.

Regarding the pattern you described:

> On July 27, Tulsi Now Inc. filed a lawsuit against Google, alleging that the internet technology company suspended the campaign's Google Ads account without reason and that the company had treated the campaign's mail differently than it treated other campaigns' mail. The lawsuit seeks "an injunction against Google from further meddling in the election and damages of at least $50 million."[50]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsi_Gabbard_2020_presidentia...

Interview about it, from yesterday:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gy797D3cAY

Won't be in the 3rd debate, so that it's for her:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Democratic_Party_presiden...


She can still qualify the fourth debate - the thresholds remain the same. Tom Steyer just qualified for it despite not qualifying for the third one.

An anti-war candidate like Tulsi will never be allowed to be the final presidential candidate by the DNC. Google and the party work in lock step to make her go away. And they will. You'll get a candidate like Biden or the other awful woman who will do what they're told.

> Those who can control virality can modulate most of the loudest voices on the Internet. That's basically the power to relegate the ideas you don't like to relative near silence.

If you wonder why HN exists, this is it.


If HN went down tomorrow, I could hop to slashdot to find the old-timers, lobste.rs for the hip, reddit.com/r/sysadmin | r/selfhosted | many, many more tech subreddits, and more tech watering holes.

If Google went down tomorrow, we have what, Bing? Yahoo, DDG, and others are all powered by Bing. Otherwise we are trapped with the likes of Yandex/Baidu.


> If Google went down tomorrow, we have what, Bing?

If it's down for a day, Bing is fine. If it's down forever, we have access to $100 billion per year in venture capital to chase one of the greatest economic opportunities in world history. It'd be an extraordinary gold rush that would draw in dozens of start-ups.

Europe would also produce several dozen new search start-ups attempting to take a piece of Google's former market position. It'd be a fun time with a lot of experimentation. Would we end up doing New Search mostly the same way we do Google Search today, just with more competition (or only until there's another winner takes all)?


I was focused on a short term argument, but I get and agree with your point regarding long term opportunity.

I've been using Bing primarily and it seems fine. It's stronger in a few areas like image search, customization, and weather. Translation is roughly equal. For code and paper search it's somewhat worse than google but not WAY worse. I'd highly recommend making it your default search engine if only to help create a more multipolar internet power system.

The point isn't about whether HN goes down. It's about the community you can shape and cultivate.

> Someone achieves virality through controversy. They are promptly de-monetized, deleted, or frozen with no reason given.

In my mind the simplest explanation is not something nefarious by Google, but simply that advertisers don't want to be associated with controversial videos.


simply that advertisers don't want to be associated with controversial videos.

Then why would the re-monetization and restorations happen? It makes more sense that the timing of denial is the key thing. Also, it's an article of faith for implementers of large systems, that if something can be exploited, it will be exploited. This applies as much to attention and political power as it does to monetary gain. In the case of the 1st two, the exploitation is probably done by low level employees for outside interests.


If that was the case Google AD hell would simply realocate the space for the next high bidder of that space.

This is millions of “spaces” we’re talking about. Advertisers can’t vet that many videos, and neither can Google. So they demonetize.

>A recurring pattern with Google and YouTube: Someone achieves virality through controversy. They are promptly de-monetized, deleted, or frozen with no reason given. When the period of viral opportunity has passed, typically in about a day or two, the account/monetization is reinstated with no reason given.

Tulsi Gabbard is suing Google for exactly this:

https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/07/25/hawaii-news/hawaii...


Exhibit A should be Eric Schmidt's book 'The New Digital Age' in which he explains his view that because Google is rich, they should therefore take the reigns of global culture and decide the moral and social norms of society. He is not terribly secretive about the fact that he believes he is inherently Better than the masses and should be a large player in herding the public 'for their own protection.' Of course that just so happens to amount to ossifying global culture in the exact state it was in when Google rose to prominence in the early 2000s but I'm sure that's a total coincidence.

Can you give some citation on Michael Swaine's story. Not challenging you, I'm just interested about it. I couldn't find anything when I searched 'Michael Swaine parking tickets'

> * A recurring pattern with Google and YouTube: Someone achieves virality through controversy. They are promptly de-monetized, deleted, or frozen with no reason given. When the period of viral opportunity has passed, typically in about a day or two, the account/monetization is reinstated with no reason given.*

Do we have a partial list of videos that followed this specific pattern? I'm curious what the agenda(s) might be.


This happens a lot in political commentary videos. Almost none of them receive ads anymore.

Also because a lot of marketers were royally taken to task for letting their ads appear on political videos. Part of it might also not be that Google demonetised them directly, but allowed us the tools to opt out of having our ads shown on those types of videos altogether.

We now have a load of hoops to jump through to justify spend on YouTube advertising - and political videos are a strict no-go area.


Can I ask why advertisers care? You do realise everybody understands that YouTube videos are tailored to them and not an endorsement of the content, right? It's having the horrible side effect of destroying independent journalism which has nowhere else to go but YouTube (and neither does anyone else).

Hm. Is that to suppress a particular set of ideas, do you think, or just cynically pandering to controversy-phobic advertisers? Not that either one is good, but that latter at least seems even-handed, I guess.

The latter.

> Basically, these sorts of shenanigans are like Michael Swaine's story from decades back about deleting his own parking tickets in South Carolina. He was supposed to have parking so he could work on the city's mainframe, but the bureaucracy dropped the ball.

Do you have a link with more details? A quick Google didn't seem to turn up anything.


>Basically, these sorts of shenanigans are like Michael Swaine's story from decades back about deleting his own parking tickets in South Carolina

I can't find anything on this. Do you have a reference? Sounds interesting.


6. Pretty much everything about AMP: forcing sites to conform to a standard they created in order to show up in search, a standard that doesn't let sites control their UX or interactivity (then, just showing Google hosted caches by default instead of being a search engine.)

7. Overzealous GMail spam filters making it hard for anyone new to run email services

8. Google Groups: buying the biggest Usenet archive, breaking features, and embrace-extend-extinguishing it with groups that are on the same interface but don't syndicate to Usenet

9. Buying Meebo to shut it down, buying Softcard to shut it down.

10. Breaking reCAPTCHA for Firefox users, then maybe fixing it a year or two later after causing untold numbers of people to switch to Chrome (possible duplicate of degrading services)

11. Running YouTube at a massive loss for a decade to prevent anyone else from competing in online video

12. Not letting YouTube be run on Amazon devices

13. Bundling / requiring / defaulting Google services on Android phones, the world's dominant phone platform

14. Slowly allowing more ads in search (which has 90+% market share) and reducing their visibility so that people have to pay to have their own website show up when they are searched for

All this being said, my gut is that something with their opaque ad markets is what's really going to stand out in the investigation.


The one that will actually get them in trouble is running ads on top of navigational queries to a trademarked brand.

Here is Jason Fried of Basecamp openly accusing Google of a shakedown racket: https://twitter.com/jasonfried/status/1168986962704982016

Of the 100,000 or so people that actually give $2,700 to political candidates, I'd think this is their biggest gripe with Google, and likely the issue that is going to cause Google the most problems.

The more interesting thing to me is how quickly goodwill just expires. Google search is among mankind's greatest achievements in the past century, along with the free gifts of quality email, youtube, android, etc. It is an interesting thought experiment of how to keep a brand burnished in the eyes of the public given goodwill decays so rapidly.


Google Search has gotten worse in the past few years in my opinion. It seems biased towards newly published content and content from the top 100 sites or so. Before it felt like you were grepping the internet, but now it feels like you're at an airport newsstand. It will frequently re-write your queries for you if you are searching for uncommon things, and putting it in quotes doesn't always fix it.

Have you seen Google Image search recently? They have updated it such that when you click on an image to select/expand in view, the selection is now presented in the top right hand side of the page. But the selection is not floating with your scrolling - so selecting anything below the fold means you end up scrolling back and forth between the top of the page and your previous position. Honestly not sure why they changed it. Terrible.

Using image search on mobile is a truly a painful experience

I've stopped using Google for searching for various generic terms and instead search nearly everything as site:reddit.com 2019 "search term".

Sometimes I get mildly useful information that stands out from the page after page of pagerank gamed garbage.

Now, searching reddit.com for solutions has other issues (notably using Reddit on iOS via Safari, is, as of 9/2019, almost entirely impossible), but that's where I'm at currently.


There are many searches that have so much SEO optimized crap content in the results that it is impossible to find any actually useful content.

Yes, they changed how search works - try using "google verbatim" for the old behavior.

The worst is the blog spam that reaches the top of Google's search results.

I don't think it's a coincidence that those poor quality results are given precedence when they also happen to be littered with, and optimized for, Adsense ads.


Amusingly, at least for me, a search for [basecamp] now gives me no ads.

> ... the issue that is going to cause Google the most problems

I am certainly biased because I seem to see more negative HN Google comments than positive ones. But, I'm starting to wonder if taking money from Google will cause politicians problems in 2020. Will we see candidates bashing each other for being too cozy with Google? Could taking Google money even become a third rail?


And Cal AG Xavier Becerra is a test case: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20944284

Would be more effective if he titled it "Dont click this ad | Click the first organic result below"

As a web user, I have to say, I hate AMP. I always click through it. Especially on reddit.

The double-whammy of AMP meets reddit nagging requests to launch the app really grinds my gears

A combination of noscript and only using old.reddit.com prevents this kind of bullshit for me.

come to europe for extra cookie and gdpr requests

Re: #7, I run my own mail server and haven't had issues sending to Gmail addresses (at least that I know of). Having DKIM and SPF working helps Google figure out that yes, my emails are legit. So does running a secure-by-default mail server (OpenSMTPd) and - relatedly - checking spam blacklists / running open relay tests every once in awhile to make sure I haven't been flagged for some reason.

AT&T, on the other hand, is the one that's quite overzealous.


Running YouTube at a massive loss for a decade to prevent anyone else from competing in online video

How is that different from what every VC does?


It can also be illegal when VCs do it: "Pricing below your own costs is...a violation of the law [if] it is part of a strategy to eliminate competitors, and when that strategy has a dangerous probability of creating a monopoly for the discounting firm so that it can raise prices far into the future and recoup its losses." [1]

[1] https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/competition-guidance/guide-a...


So does that include Uber and Lyft?

i cant see why not. and Wework

I am not sure your list demonstrates anti-competitve behaviour:

1. Did Apple ever offer a XMPP federated iMessage? Facebook offered XMPP messenger? Shall Google bear the eternal burden of keeping their products constant, and not make changes they think are better(even if they are worse overall).

2. When did we have iTunes on windows Phone either? Even Office came for Android and iOS only when the fate of Windows phone was sealed. Lots of developers didn't develop for Windows phone. Shall those be investigated too? (Yes yes, MSFT did make a youtube app, but google has full liberty to decide which platforms they want to make apps for).

4. Now MSFT even specifically tells you that Edge is a better browser in Windows during all sorts of things(while changing default browser, I think while downloading other browsers too). Also iOS will always remind you Safari is there, as it is the default browser and that can't be changed.


It has not been my experience that Apple services are dominant outside of the Apple ecosystem inhabitants. Google, on the other hand, is everywhere.

As a former Windows Phone user, there were apps that talked to Google Accounts (mail, calendar, contacts) as well as an app written to work with YouTube. I don't remember any others right now. But Google actively blocked those apps while refusing to release their own interface to their services. That made it more painful than it needed to be to continue using Windows Phone. The fact that they were able to say "too bad, we will not work with you, the users will suffer" is exemplary of their dominant position.

Maybe there are iTunes users out there that wanted to access their iTunes accounts on Windows phone, but could not?


If you see the original iPhone introduction by Steve Jobs, being able to play iTunes songs was a huge deal. No other phone could do it. (Well apple did try with Motorola for some phone to play iTunes, but those were heavily restricted). iTunes was the dominant music store. Did they ever offer a version for either Symbian, Blackberry, android, Windows Phone? No.

Windows phone had no Instagram too, and even that made it painful to use. If the platform doesn't have enough users, developers aren't obliged to develop for it.

You could always use a web browser for all of Google's services. They never blocked HTML5 apps.


Windows Phone came out a year after iTunes dropped the use of DRM, so any native Windows Phone music app would work.

This was not true of YouTube, where Google actively blocked Microsoft from building a native client.


If I recall Microsoft's client was blocked because it refused to serve ads.

Microsoft rewrote their native YouTube client so that it would serve Google's ads and disallow video downloads.

Google still disallowed it.

Google likewise disallowed various Amazon devices from accessing YouTube during their Amazon dispute.


I'm not really following what you're saying. I believe you're making my point - if you are in Apple's ecosystem, you're in. And it is popular. But Google provides search and email and maps and contacts for "everyone." That's why when they actively blocked Windows Phone from their services, it was anti-competitive.

Other entities like Instagram were under no obligation to build for Windows Phone, but 6tag was built and served the purpose. I don't believe Instagram blocked 6tag from working. If they did, it might not be anti-competitive, but just anti-consumer.

Beyond this, Google's behavior had ripple effects. Developers could tell that Google was putting up roadblocks to make Windows Phone an undesirable platform, and that discourages contributions.

If iTunes only exists on iPhones, but not Android, then it doesn't matter if it also doesn't exist on Windows Phone. Apple, the iPhone and iTunes are not monopolies. They are a walled garden, though. That's just a separate issue.


> iTunes was the dominant music store. Did they ever offer a version for either Symbian, Blackberry, android, Windows Phone? No.

Is it me or does that just sound like whataboutism? So people complain about Google intentionally screwing over a competitor but what about Apple? Apple is very much "we play on our own court".


I think what we're seeing on this forum at times is more emotion than rationality.

Regarding the original list, it's likely only 2 and 5 would pass muster as being issues that antitrust laws would actually be able to deal with effectively. Number 3? Might be an issue if you can frame the argument in a manner more consistent with antitrust concerns. 1 and 4 are probably just emotional frustration leading the poster to say, "These must be illegal because I don't like them."

We need to focus on real issues if we want to be taken seriously. Right now privacy and security activists just sound shrill and unconvincing. Part of that lack of credibility is the tendency to focus on things that are not true issues from a legal perspective as opposed to the slam dunk type issues that stare us in the face.

This is why these issues are so hard to build a consensus around in the larger population, because lawyers hear the complaints of some activists, and they just laugh. Then those lawyers go off and work on things that actually have a chance in Hell of working. So I applaud the move to have an antitrust investigation, but we shouldn't be under the impression that every little thing some guy doesn't like is part of it. There are very specific families of issues that are reviewed for propriety, and if action needs to be taken, it is.

Doesn't mean we should waste the time of these states looking into why some guy's youtube account was cancelled. That, and other ridiculously trivial issues like it, are not what this is about. So we shouldn't even set up those expectations. Particularly not in lieu of getting the word out to the larger society about real antitrust issues. (Of which Google and FB are the main offenders.)


> We need to focus on real issues if we want to be taken seriously. Right now privacy and security activists just sound shrill and unconvincing.

No offense, but honestly just look around. Those activists are killing it nationally in the PR game and have been consistently for the past year.


I honestly think you might want to consider the very real possibility that we, on HN, are in a bit of an echo chamber. Where I live in opioid infested fly over country, if you ask the average person the name of a single privacy concern, security concern, or even a single celebrity privacy activist, you would get a blank stare. The slightly more informed, or slightly more criminal depending on how you want to look at it, would probably say that his phone was a security concern because the cops can use it against him when he goes to see his weed man. (Or worse.) But that's about the extent of it.

Compare that with other issues. How many people around here know all about the #MeToo issue? How many people around here know the ins and outs of all the immigration stuff? You may have disagreements with them as to what should be done about these issues, but they definitely know them. Even more esoteric issues, something like prison reform or the trade war. They definitely know what it means for them and are all about making sure things go their way on those issues. They know Trump is about the trade war. They know Kim K and Trump are about prison reform. They largely support both. (Again, I'm not making an argument about whether or not they are on the right side, just pointing out the difference in familiarity with the issues.)

The only people around here who know about security and privacy issues are the meth dealers, the few techies, and the usual bedfellows of child porn lovers/racist ideologues. We have to get the average teacher in, say, Markesan or wherever, talking about privacy and security in the classroom the same way they talk about Kim K's prison reform push, or the trade war.

I'm respectfully suggesting that this is something that is just not happening right now. Definitely not around here.


I don't think that is the case because I see this outside of HN in my day to day life. Your mistake is assuming that opinion in opioid infested fly over country is what determines Facebook regulation, rather than a targeted PR campaign towards elites that impact policy.

On the coasts (which is half the country at least), people are certainly talking about FB and privacy.

#MeToo requires a cultural shift, not a legislative shift.


Part of the purpose of activism is to exploit current laws for immediate change, but the other part is to create support for changing the laws to provide better protections.

The idea that you could disappear completely from anyone using modern technology (which is what getting accounts banned from communication services will amount to) with no legal recourse or transparency is horrifying, even if it's technically legal, because the laws were written at a time when the tools of communication were widely distributed and could only be feasibly disrupted by governments.

In the short term, the lawyers matter. In the long term, we need to create laws and conventions which ensure that the lawyers of the future are focusing on the right issues.


The Apple ecosystem is huge though. You can't claim Google is dominant "outside the Apple ecosystem". That's the same as saying Google has a monopoly if you ignore its competitors.

I used to work at Google. Apps written by hobbyists were only exceptionally rarely blocked deliberately. But those apps often [ab]use internal APIs and protocols of the services, so they'd break during updates (which were frequent). Sometimes they have to be blocked due to external contracts (e.g. Maps). Sometimes they tripped anti-botting/anti-spam detection and got users blocked that way.

In the end there's no law, agreement or even convention that all services exposed over the internet must allow reimplementations of third party client software. Moxie Marlinspike has written about the difficulties introduced by formally supporting this:

https://signal.org/blog/the-ecosystem-is-moving/


> In the end there's no law, agreement or even convention that all services exposed over the internet must allow reimplementations of third party client software

Yes there are. They are called anti trust laws, and anti competition laws. These laws apply to companies that have significant market power, regardless if they are on the internet or not.

If a company has significant market power, then it is illegal for them to engage in anti competitive practices.

In Google's industries, such as search, it can be described as being close to a monopoly, which is enough for anti trust laws to kick in.

Yes, if you have significant market power, then you are required by law to not engage in anti competitive practices.


You're connecting two very different things. Disallowing a third party client to connect and use your infrastructure for it's own purposes is not anti competitive.

It could be anti competitive if you are a monopoly and it effects competition.

This is a common thing that happens in anticompetitive case law.

Just ignore the internet part of this, for a second. Instead, imagine if a train company, that owned all of the train tracks in the US, decided to retaliate against it competitors by banning some people from using their trains. This is anti competitive.

Being on the internet does not absolve you from anti competitive claims.

This is similar to internet clients. There isn't much difference, logically, from banning people from using your trains, vs banning them from using their stuff on the internet.

If something effects competition, and you are a monopoly, it could be considered anti competitive. It being on the internet doesn't change this.


>imagine if a train company, that owned all of the train tracks in the US, decided to retaliate against it competitors by banning some people from using their trains. This is anti competitive.

No it isn't. As long as the train company is not banning people based on a protected category (a local or federal civil right), a private corporation can choose who it does business with. A company has the right to refuse service. How does that even apply to competition? If anything, refusing some customers from using their trains means that it opens up competition for other companies to serve those banned customers.

To take your analogy in another direction - if a private train company buys land across the US, lays down track with their labor and their material, they are not forced to let other companies use their tracks. That is what you're asking for here.

Of course, if this were a public company or utility that was paid for with public funds, it is a different matter - because it belongs to the public. But a private company doing what it wishes with the private resources it acquired and manages is a right.


> a private corporation can choose who it does business with. A company has the right to refuse service

This is not true.

I would strongly encourage you to read up on the history of anti trust law.

I chose the example of train lines for a reason. The reason being that this literal thing happened. It is the literal most famous example of antitrust law, of all time.

The sherman anti trust act was created, for the literal purpose of prosecuting people, related to railroads, in the example that I just gave.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_United_States_antit...

> if a private train company buys land across the US, lays down track with their labor and their material, they are not forced to let other companies use their tracks.

Yes they are. This happened. Literally this exact situation happened. It was called the Standard Oil Company. And they used the railroad system in the exact way that I described, and it was was broken up, in the most famous example in history of anti-trust law.

Check it out here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Oil_Co._of_New_Jersey...

So once again, this is not an argument about what could happen. This is instead an argument of literally what happened, in the most famous example of anti-trust law, in history.

You cannot disagree with what happened, related to the most famous example of anti-trust law, in history.

I am honestly not sure if you know what anti-trust law even is, if you don't understand anything about the most famous example of anti-trust law in history.


You're connecting several tangential points at the margins and trying to make a larger argument, but you are missing several key components of the early history of the Sherman act.

Maybe I missed it, but I'd love to understand how your specific example relates to Antitrust and the Sherman act (other than being tangentially related to railroad ownership).


Alright, how about I post some official government resources on this general topic:

https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/competition-guidance/guide-a...

The TLDR is that if the refusal to deal with a competitor helps maintain the monopoly, then it might violated anti-trust law.

Here are the main points:

"In general, any business — even a monopolist — may choose its business partners. However, under certain circumstances, there may be limits on this freedom for a firm with market power. As courts attempt to define those limited situations when a firm with market power may violate antitrust law by refusing to do business with other firms, the focus is on how the refusal to deal helps the monopolist maintain its monopoly, or allows the monopolist to use its monopoly in one market to attempt to monopolize another market."

"For instance, if the monopolist refuses to sell a product or service to a competitor that it makes available to others, or if the monopolist has done business with the competitor and then stops, the monopolist needs a legitimate business reason for its policies."

There are absolutely cases where refusing to do business with competitors, can violate anti-trust laws. It says so right there, on an official government page related to this.

This, and similar things were happening, related to railroad services and prices, related to standard oil, which is why I brought up that example.

But that government page is a more general explanation of the problem.


Thank you for taking the time to reply and explain, I appreciate it. I was incorrect.

> Did Apple ever offer a XMPP federated iMessage?

EDIT -> They did NOT, see below comment by nvrspyx.

Apparently they did, and removed it around Mojave-era or so...? I'm not familiar with Apple products, this statement is based on https://www.reddit.com/r/MacOS/comments/9l5xu7/mojave_now_th...

> Also iOS will always remind you Safari is there, as it is the default browser and that can't be changed.

> When did we have iTunes on windows Phone either?

I agree that incompatibility in general is not on its face evidence of anti-competitive behavior.

> Facebook offered XMPP messenger?

They did, then once they imported users to their platform, turned that feature off. That might have precipitated Google to turn off XMPP federation on GTalk to stop the bleeding.

> Shall Google ... not make changes they think are better(even if they are worse overall)?

Nobody said that Google cannot make any changes to their products. Moving from a standard 'everyone' can use to a closed-off system could be argued as anti-competitive, hence its inclusion on the list.

> Lots of developers didn't develop for Windows phone. Shall those be investigated too?

Those developers could refrain from developing themselves, but they were not in a position to stop competitors from developing their own apps. Google is in a different position.

> Yes yes, MSFT did make a youtube app, but google has full liberty to decide which platforms they want to make apps for

Google said not to develop the app that way, but this way. MS complied. Google still refused to allow the app for no explained/good/political/anti-competitive? reasons. Google was focused on killing Windows Phone, not the iPhone, even as far back as 2006. Eric S in the Verge article in my above comment "... at the time we were very concerned that Microsoft's mobile strategy would be successful."


Jabber was an option in macOS's messages app, which allowed you to connect to Facebook for example. It was an app to consolidate multiple messaging protocols. iChat (replaced with Messages) was sort of like Pidgin, Empathy, or Adium. However, iMessage, Apple's own chat protocol, never used XMPP. It has always been proprietary. Messages replaced iChat, which only uses iMessage. However, iChat used to technically still be hidden underneath Messages, but was really a separate app. That reddit post is when they removed iChat completely.

Thanks for correcting me on that. I learned something today!

Messages used to support Jabber and custom IMService plugins. Both of those were removed and Messages now only does iMessage and SMS.

It did, but that was really just iChat packaged with Messages. They were actually two separate apps, but iChat was hidden within the Messages app. Messages just called iChat whenever you wanted to use Jabber or anything other than iMessage or SMS. They even had different UI with iChat using the older, pre-Mountain Lion (I think) design.

> Nobody said that Google cannot make any changes to their products. Moving from a standard 'everyone' can use to a closed-off system could be argued as anti-competitive, hence its inclusion on the list.

So you're saying that Google (or any other company for that matter) is better off NEVER EVER releasing services that use potentially open protocols because later on if they would ever consider changing those to a closed protocol it can be seen as anti-competitive. Better to just always use closed protocols.


"Embrace, Extend, Extinguish" is a pretty clearly anti-competitive strategy.

The best way to counteract that strategy is a more complicated topic.

You are correct that creating bad rules around the removal of open protocols could end up dis-incentivizing usage of open protocols, but that doesn't mean there aren't some good rules that won't (I don't claim to know what they would be).

I think it makes sense that we create anti-trust or consumer protection laws that cover the circumstances under which services with high market-shares can remove support for open protocols.

I even see a potential argument to require services with sufficiently high market-share to implement open protocols.


Google just happens to be the biggest among them, so it's understandable they come first, but this is going to happen for every entity that grows to a certain point because it's how our system works: small players crying mommy about big corporations killing competition until they grow to a point they can kill competition themselves, which they will happily do, becoming themselves the bad guys. Then some external entity comes and restores some balance by splitting them etc. Rinse, repeat.

Maximizing profits, which is the goal that moves every company everywhere, from small shops to multinational corporations, leads ultimately to this if no, sloppy, or deliberately inefficient control is performed.


Biggest among what companies. Both market cap and net income of google are less than both MSFT and AAPL.

MSFT has had a phenomenal year. Amazing that big bad monopoly MSFT, survived an attempt to break it up, and then collapsed to irrelevancy, attacking Google with AstroTurf political advertising campaigns, yet is now higher market cap then AAPL, GOOG, AMZN, currently the only one worth (barely) over $1T.

All of these companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour, actually. This isn't proof that Google isn't guilty.

If some behaviour is too common across all companies, Governments need to focus on laws to address the underlying problems across the industry, not to cherry pick a company and make example of.

I mean, that's why the government isn't just one institution. You have Congress/Senate and the state-level governments to pass laws, and the FTC and the DoJ (and state-level equivalents) to enforce them. You can do both. Except the behaviour of Google et al. has largely gone ignored since their rise for whatever reason. I don't even remember the last time we saw a proper anti-trust case in the US, much less one that went anywhere. Was it Microsoft? Who knows. And there are plenty of financial interests to ensure that anti-trust isn't enforced and isn't adapted to the modern state of markets. There are a lot of things that need to be addressed, but that doesn't make suing Google for their abhorrent behaviour any less valid.

It seems to me like a decent first step.


The irony is that anticompetive behavior usually means competitive behavior but being the one that wins, as OP's examples show. OP even went wonder as blaming Google for Talk, which is mostly famous for being the last major service to disable XMPP after losing marketshare to competitors who already did or never supported it. Before Google, Apple and MS went head to head with the same anti/competitive techniques as each other but since MA one Apple got to play the victim.

In 1903 I haven't gotten the Edge prompts when changing.

Whoa - you might be right. I got a laptop and it was on 1809. Got the prompt. But then updated to 1903... fiddled with some stuff. Reinstalled Windows (but it stays on 1903) and I changed the browser to Firefox, and I don't recall that prompt this time around. (Where it asked you to confirm and you have to carefully read the buttons and then click "Switch anyway.")

Those sound anti-competitive as well

> Facebook offered XMPP messenger?

They did actually. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9266769 The actual link itself is now gone, so there are comments. I remember using it with Thunderbird at the time.


I would imagine it's pretty self-evident that other companies' examples of anti-competitive behavior don't absolve Google of their own wrongdoings.

Are you claiming that google has never engaged in anti-competitive behavior? If not, I would be interested to see your list.

No, I am claiming the above examples are not evidence of anti competitive behaviour.

There is a big difference between removing support for something you once supported versus never supporting it at all. If Google never supported XMPP, we wouldn't be having this conversation. But removing XMPP support in favor of closed protocols raises eyebrows. It makes people wonder if the change was for the better, or just as a way to close out competitors. Similar to Google Reader. If they never had the product, no one would be complaining. But they did offer the product, it was so much better than the competition that it put the competition out of business, and then Google shut it down. That raises eyebrows. That makes people wonder if there's something malicious behind it.

That's not to say they can never change their product lineup or discontinue products. But if they do, they have to answer questions like this. If there was no malicious intent behind removing XMPP support from their chat product, then everything is fine and the questions stop. We don't know, which is why regulators are investigating.

On the Windows Phone part, you are blatantly misrepresenting what happened. It's not that Google refused to develop apps for Windows Phone, it's that they refused to develop apps for Windows Phone, then blocked Microsoft from developing their own apps for Google products, then blocked Windows Phones from accessing Google products through a web browser that was more than capable of displaying Google web apps. You could not access Google web apps on Windows Phones in any way, a limitation that was not applied to any other phone maker or any other phone.

There is absolutely no defending that situation, Google played Microsoft hard and they played them dirty. Yes, Microsoft has done the exact same thing in the past and yes they deserved it, but remember: Microsoft was punished as an abusive monopolist.


XMPP is a bad example. Google Talk (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Talk) supported XMPP from 2005-2014, but by the time they dropped federation, it had already massively declined. You can argue over the reasons for that, I personally blame a combination of smartphones (iphone launch in 2007), which drove phone number based messaging apps/iMessage/WhatsApp/etc and the rise of path-dependent social networks like Facebook (FB messenger)

However, even if you look at the pre-2007 pre-FB era, instant messaging was dominated by Yahoo Messenger, AOL Messenger, MSN Messenger, etc. None of them supported federation, there were several attempts at interop, but none of them wanted it. Moreover, IIRC, Google's stated reason in 2014 for dropping federation was a non-reciprocal leaching that some of these platforms were using to exploit XMPP federation to ingest users into their walled gardens.

In messaging, every single product Google has offered has failed to gain market, and it's really Facebook and Apple which collectively have a oligarchal stranglehold on the market (or WeChat in China)

Google's latest attempt is a restoration of federation on mobile through RCS, but what's the likelihood that the dominance of iMessage and FB Messenger/WhatsApp are going to be weakened by this?


People hate Google for "Don't Be Evil" because it was the "chosen one", while giving a pass to their unabashedly evil competitors.

Google wasn't _chosen_, they said that they would be better and then promptly gave up as soon as they had gained a bunch of good will and it wasn't convenient for them anymore.

And I still fail to understand how Google surveilling and exfiltrating is somehow better than anyone else doing it.


> 3. Posting map/weather/review content straight to SERPs starving MapQuest/WU/Yelp et al from getting clicks

I get why this is included in Anti Trust but I love this feature. Recently read a report that now <50% results lead to click which means it is loved by lot of users too.


Recently read a report that now <50% results lead to click which means it is loved by lot of users too.

You're misinterpreting that report. All it tells us is that Google returns results the user doesn't want to click on more than half the time. We can't determine whether that's for positive reasons (eg info in the results page) or negative reasons (eg the results were garbage) based on the fact there wasn't a click.


Agreed -- my favorite example of this is lyrics. Most lyrics sites are horrible, ad-filled messes, and I for one can't wait for Google to finally eliminate them from existence.

Genius.com is such a good lyrics site (good... not great) and it kills me when I search for lyrics and it's not on the first page of results. I don't know why, but I always have to add +genius to my searches to get it to show up over all the trash sites.

I second that. So good and clean that I've atually contributed myself.

I personally hate Google including say Wikipedia snippets. Quite often I want to read more of the article, and the link is small and at the bottom of the box, often requiring you to click and arrow to reveal the full box.

If they value Wikipedia and Genius/MusicMatch so much, they should make it much clearer where they got their content from.



Lyrics websites are just spam at this point.

Whenever you search for song names they take the first two pages and interesting stuff such as news and interviews are scattered around the rest of the results.


Solution: allow these companies to bid for the spot. Like they're doing in the EU for the choice of default search engine in Chrome.

Allow power users to pick a default, so we don't have to suffer through terrible third party content and ads.

Disabling this functionality will be a net negative for the end user.


I agree that's a useful feature, but that seems orthogonal as to whether or not it is anticompetitive.

i would also love to scrape google s search queries and results pages and make a website showing them. i m sure my users would love it.

Sorry but some one else already did that before you (http://startpage.com).

> Startpage exclusively uses results from Google, which the company pays Google for

or they cant find the link to click. seriously, they are tiny and greyed out and the SERP content fills the view already

Honestly, so many of Google's arguments sound exactly like Microsoft's arguments from the late 90s when they were adamant that the browser was an integral part of the OS and not a separate application. They were essentially saying that "the OS is everything", and so they could roll all sorts of functionality into the OS, leveraging their OS monopoly to get advantages in other areas (i.e. apps). It was always my understanding that it was that leveraging of their monopoly into other areas that was the illegal part.

Google is now basically saying "everything is search", i.e. rolling pretty much everything into SERP pages so you never need to click off Google.


Microsoft's biggest legally official sin was killing the paid browser market. Reflect on that with the benefit of hindsight and the larger modern VC backed freemium economy.

The other evil stuff they did, like blackmailing PC makers to ban competing OSes, didn't even get them in much trouble.

There's a bit of a difference between controlling the OS, which was (largely still is) almost impossible for the average user to safely change even if they wanted to, and controlling a web page that anyone who can type 20 characters can switch away from.


At this point, the "anyone can switch away to another search engine" argument is getting pretty stale, preciously because Google owns all the major assets that would make writing a truly competing service viable:

1. They own Android, so as the default search engine on the majority of the world's phones they are privy to insane amounts of data. They also know tons of other things that only being in control of the largest OS provides, like location history and app history.

2. Similarly, with their purchase of DoubleClick 15ish years ago they own the largest ad network.

3. With Gmail they probably know as much about social connections as Facebook.

4. They de facto control AMP, and can thus dictate site implementation to millions of publishers.

All of this info is used by Google to constantly improve their search engine, and it has all the hallmarks of using information from disparate areas (mainly of businesses they acquired, mind you) to build a deeper moat.


I think #1 is its primary job, search: They rip off everyone's and their mother's content yet don't allow scraping google result pages.

and their moneymaker, ads: preventing advertisers from reaching any kind of adult content publishers by imposing arbitrary filters for what is "acceptable", and using advertising revenue as a weapon to deplatform opinions they dont like

Their acquisition of AI competitors is a huge one imho. They are the only companies which seriously threaten their search engine. In another time, the UK would have blocked the purchase of Deepmind for national security reasons alone.


> 4. Anyone not browsing on Chrome gets an upsell to install Chrome (MS got roasted for this with Windows Media & best used on IE)

Every time you install a new copy of Windows and switch the browser to Firefox/Chrome/whatever, you get prompted "are you sure you really want to switch from Edge? It's amazing!!!1!" Then there's the fact occasionally it will still open things up in Edge -- search for 'Amazon' in Windows Start (is that what we're calling it still?) and do "Search the web" or "Web results" and it will open Edge (in Bing). Apparently my default apps are Mail for Email, Maps for Maps, Groove Music for Music Player, nothing for Photo viewer, nothing for Video player, and Google Chrome for Web browser. I've never opened Mail, Maps or Groove Music, I've never had a problem with photos and videos opening in my preferred viewers, and Windows doesn't seem to entirely respect the Web browser setting anyway...

Antitrust against Google? Sure, but MS is still doing it's antitrust thing 20 or so years on; I'm not aware of Apple being significantly different either. Outside of the OS vendors, all of the tech companies are trying to "maximize profits" by spying on users, forcing lock-in, degrading others' services, whatever.

Point being? I don't know -- "Big Tech" sucks and there's either no taste or no competence in government for shutting down these little tricks and loopholes. Something needs to change, but I don't know how or what. Join EFF, donate money? Maybe...


You forgot AMP and AMP for Gmail

Indeed, I did. Glad you remembered it for me, that is a big one and another example of embrace, extend, extinguish leveraging the power of Google Search.

I suppose that's me in the super-privacy-nerd bubble. Having moved to Fastmail for email and using Firefox for Mobile + Startpage search, I almost never encounter Amp in my own SERPs (not that there's much AMP content out there for Clonk Endeavor ;P).


I don't think it qualifies since anyone can go and implement AMP. If AMP extensions are being made which aren't documented and they are implemented only by closed source code in Google clients and servers then you can argue that they are leveraging their power to keep competition out. Otherwise the competition can simply implement AMP.

Or let's look at it differently, if you are Google and find that a new, HTTP-incompatible protocol would make things better for a significant number of clients, how would you develop and push for that new standard in a way that people won't complain about anti-competitive behavior like you are complaining above? And are you sure that following those steps won't result in other people on HN complaining that it's anti-competitive?


> how would you develop and push for that new standard in a way that people won't complain about anti-competitive behavior like you are complaining above?

IMHO, google would have been fine if they had done everything the same but instead of basing mobile search results on AMP usage, they had based it on page load time metrics.

EDIT: The issue with AMP is less that Google created a new standard and more the way that Google has tried to utilize its other properties to force adoption of that standard in ways that seem more focused on benefiting Google than the internet as a whole.


This 2012 FTC report has some ideas: http://graphics.wsj.com/google-ftc-report/

US antitrust law requires demonstrating harm to consumers not competitors. All of your examples are about harm to competitors.

Harming a competitor harms the consumer because competitors create the products that offer the consumer choice.

My favorite, though it's closer to racketeering, is that they run ads for for branded keywords and charge the same brands for placement. Basically, Google is telling companies "you wouldn't want someone to get you competitor listed in the top position when they search for you, would you?"

As a user:

1. xmpp sucks for battery life. extensions to improve it exist but are optional. xmpp-free hangout was free to improve battery use

2. if i made money selling ads and someone used my content for free & ripped out the ads, i would deny them access too. If they had 0.01% of marketshare, i also would not prioritize making a custom app just for them either

3. GOOD! i do not want to make extra clicks when i do not need to.

4. ok, this is a dick move, i admit

5. having worked at google and seen how things work in there, i am 100% sure this is not a top-down "break firefox whenever possible" directive but just normal shortage of engineering effort and too many things prioritized higher than "make shit work in firefox"


I find the antitrust angle weak, but XMPP federation doesn't require the client itself to use XMPP, only the servers among themselves.

>> 2. Killing Windows Phone by not allowing any Google-based apps on the platform (https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/14/15970082/google-killed-wi...)

I honestly had no idea about this one. The Windows phone and Microsoft clearly had other issues with their mobile platform, but this clearly did not help. Most people I know said they wouldn't switch because most of the Android apps weren't available on the Windows app store.


Another anti-trust violation that was part of Microsoft’s suit was for product tying. Basically, it’s legal to obtain a monopoly in one product via competitive means, but it’s illegal for the company to then obtain monopolies with other products by tying them to the legal monopoly.

Microsoft was guilty of this vis-a-vis Windows, Office, and Internet Explorer (and maybe some server side stuff). Google may be guilty of it as well with Google Search, Chrome, YouTube, Gmail.


There are several more instances of Google promoting their own services above the SERP (and competitors).

1. Shopping. Google got in big trouble with the EU about this recently.

2. Job listings. Google launched a jobs product and promoted it above the SERP, damaging Glassdoor / Indeed etc.

Providing the largest source of traffic (via google search) and competing in industries that depend on that traffic is an inherent conflict of interest.


In my very humble opinion, services that are offered for free should also be investigated for anti-trust practices. Google comes up with Gmail - phenomenally better than other services of its time - kills all viable competition and the let it languish or even degrades the experience. No one can compete with free. Result is that email as a platform is slowly languishing with no real improvements.

If you kill off free and ad supported services[0], you take away the ability of a large fraction of the world's population to use the internet. People using 3-4 USD/month prepaid internet packs to communicate using Facebook and Whatsapp, and these days, even finding jobs (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20556346)

HN's default position of "burn the ads with fire", therefore, has always struck me as a very privileged position that fails to take into account users from all around the world. And guess what? If the kind of people who usually post here succeed in forcing through that opinion, that is what most of the world will have to deal with too, since Silicon Valley drives so much of tech.

[0] Although, it is unlikely that advertisers are really targeting the kind of users I'm talking about, so in effect these users are being subsidized by others.


WhatsApp’s original model was $1 a year. That would have been a reasonable fee even for most developing countries. Job posting sites make money from the poster and don’t have to be ad supported.

What would a $1 a year model do in terms of opening the market up to competition? That seems like the worst of both worlds, no additional competition, and we make these difficult for those without much money.

Were they profitable with that model?

They only had 30 employees when they were acquired. I'd say yes.

So as a company better to just not provide a great free service or a service that is largely better than the competition because if it's too successful then you get blamed for not keeping it updated.

Yahoo and Hotmail were the market leaders offering free email at the time. They set the price to $0 first.

So I guess we should ban HN....

Personally, the one service I really liked that Google killed off for good was Deja News. Ever since they bought it, they brought more and more user hostile patterns until they turned it into Google Groups where you can't search old stuff anymore at all.

This is a good list, although in economic damage terms it's really just the start. Our efforts on this are just becoming public now, but there's a lot more that will come out -- especially in ads, ad serving, and content.

Just about all google sites use user-agent detection which can sometimes mean different quality. I know because I have had to analyze lots if sites with linux vs windows user-agent to see if they behave differently.

This investigation is only about their ad network

Just to pile on, how about taking features out of Android open source project and putting them into Google Play services?

Running YouTube at a loss of hundreds of millions a year for over a decade on a billion-dollar+ infrastructure purely and solely to guarantee that no competition could ever rise against it would, I think, be an easy sell as anti-competitive.

I personally would also like to see Google be the first of many "sellers" of digital goods prosecuted for fraud and false advertising for constantly advertising that they are "selling" you digital content when they are, in fact, only giving you a license which itself amounts to a contract lacking consideration - placing no obligation upon the licensor and extending no legally enforceable benefit to the licensee.


As fun as this is, why not investigate companies that actually display anticompetitive behavior? Luxottica? Comcast? AT&T? I feel like this simply won't benefit consumers as much as the attorneys general believe it will.

Luxottica can be fought with ZenniOptical and friends. Besides my very first pair of glasses, I've never in my optical-aid-lifetime given money to Luxottica for glasses/frames/contacts. That is not to toot my own horn, but demonstrate that an informed consumer can sidestep their monopoly without adverse impacts.

Comcast & AT&T are terrible actors, and they need more regulation, not less, to counter their natural monopoly + rent-seeking behaviors, but there is at least some regulation going on that could be iterated on. Google is, relatively speaking, running amok through the streets.


It had never occurred to me to try to avoid Luxottica, because until about three years ago I had never even heard of them. Yet I seem to have avoided them by accident.

My current frames are Zyloware frames from Walmart.

Before that, my frames were made by Safilo. I had those for something like a decade.

The frames before that say "Frame Japan". I can't find anything useful about "Frame Japan" on Google, so don't know if those are made by Luxottica or not.


They also own all of the equipment everyone else uses to make your glasses.

Own? Or produce? You're not saying lens grinding equipment is always leased from some Luxottica subsidiary, are you?

One possible reason is that the telco giants are indestructible. Are you going to poke one of the largest media conglomerates in the world? Seems like you may face some rapid backlash there. Telco voices sure do carry.

I don't understand this sentiment. Antitrust laws are specifically designed to deal with "indestructible" companies.

And yet they have historically not been used in such a way. The railroads that were targeted during the height of US antitrust legislation were some of the smaller groups.

They were used to literally break up a telco, Bell, in the 80s, so it’s not like it’s impossible or unheard of

Yes, that is true. But now the telcos have adapted into an oligopoly. Additionally, that action was initiated by the Feds, not state AGs as in this context.

I would maintain the position that prosecutors often look for attainable (low risk) fruit. It certainly depends on the prosecutor, but the federal level has been quite reluctant in the past (e.g. how did at&t become so large?...).


Grandstanding before the 2020 election. Google's big, successful, and there have been enough tech scandals in the past few years that it's an easy target.

1- Do you believe that Google isn't engaged in anti-competitive behavior? 2- Investigations have to start somewhere. Sure, those would also be some great people to go after, and everyone is going to have all kinds of expectations of "what's important" but that's entirely subjective.

Basically, I don't see progress, even if it's maybe not the most important thing, as ever being a bad thing.


> 1- Do you believe that Google isn't engaged in anti-competitive behavior?

People seem to be broadly confusing competitive practices with anti-competitive practices. There's nothing anti-competitive about outperforming your competition. No amount of outperforming your competition can make a company anti-competitive. The premise is ridiculous. As long as Bing exists, Google search obviously isn't a monopoly. GSuite is obviously not a monopoly, Microsoft sells essentially the same product. GCP is obviously not a monopoly, it's piddling compared to AWS, and smaller than Azure too. The only Google product I can think of that a reasonable person might find concerning from a monopolistic perspective is Youtube, since afaik it has no comparable competition these days. But even still, having no competition doesn't make your behavior anti-competitive unless you arranged to have no competition through some mechanism other than offering a superior product. Youtube appears to have beaten out the other products in its niche based on merit. why is it Google's problem if no other company was up to the challenge of profiting in that niche?


Very true. I guess it is nice to know there are things done against SOME monopoly/anticompetitive organizations, but still I wish it would go further. After reading your comment I do agree with you though!

Biggest fish in the pond is google. With at&t and comcast you typically have one other competitor within a 25% margin of 50% market share that offers similar services.

It benefits consumers immensly since with good alternatives users can for example use more privacy conscious apps or apps with different approaches of solving their problem than what google thinks is best.


Would I be a bad person for saying I'm sad about this because I want to work at Google and I don't like seeing their future threatened?

I also don't get the anti-Google movement, there are far worse things like our broken healthcare and criminal justice system. This seems like one of those "screw the coastal elites" type of thing. Unless someone can give a reasonable explanation of why Google specifically should be targeted instead of other companies that are more conservatively aligned.


> Would I be a bad person for saying I'm sad about this because I want to work at Google and I don't like seeing their future threatened?

That doesn't make you a bad person, but it IS a bad reason.


That reason is no worse than the inverse reasoning: gleefully supporting the investigation because it threatens Google's future.

Also, I think the reasoning is independent of the specific situation. Working at $PLACE could benefit the poster. So the poster wants to see $PLACE continue to have a bright future. Seems like a standard argument for capitalism and the free-flow of human capital to better jobs.

I understand there are externalities that affect this specific situation, hence the investigation, but since it's not clear there's antitrust behavior, it seems premature to classify the reasoning as bad.


> gleefully supporting the investigation because it threatens Google's future.

what about gleefully supporting the investigation because it will create opportunities for competition, create room for other small companies to have at least a fighting chance at success?


> Unless someone can give a reasonable explanation of why Google specifically should be targeted instead of other companies that are more conservatively aligned.

This is really curious. Do you think anticompetitive investigations and lawsuits should depend on the political orientation of companies?


Your sentiment is understandable, and I still use Google every day because it's still the best in its niches. But here are a few things to keep in mind:

* Advertising revenue is practically nonexistent today compared to its heyday in the late 90s. This is because a few key players like Google have created a monopoly/oligopoly where they are so large, with so much more personal information on everybody, that they keep much of the profit for themselves and squeeze out any competition.

* The internet still provides lucrative careers for many, but this is in spite of (not due to) monopolistic players like Google. In other words, we'd all profit more, and have more room to innovate, if the big players like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, etc didn't control nearly every aspect of the internet.

* Google is several orders of magnitude bigger than anyone's conception of how big it is. Short of a national monopoly breakup campaign, this will have little to no effect on their profitability or hiring.

My personal feeling is that income inequality largely stems from the US no longer enforcing antitrust laws, consumer protection laws, or finance laws like the Glass–Steagall Act. It effects liberals and conservatives alike and leads to global threats like nationalism (a leading contender for World War III) when the vast majority of the population spends so much time working to make rent that it's effectively disenfranchised, no longer has upward mobility/retirement, and doesn't have the means to raise a family.


If there was a monopoly on advertising, wouldn’t we expect advertising revenue to grow, rather than shrink?

I think he means that outside of Google, advertising revenue has shrunk for the publishers and others in the space, and that Google has consumed and controls the lion's share of the advertising revenue.

If you don't want to feel sad, maybe you shouldn't get emotionally invested in a company with a near trillion dollar market cap that exists solely to sell targeted ads.

>should be targeted instead of other companies that are more conservatively aligned.

They shouldn't be targeted to the exclusion of others based on political alignment, but neither should the not-googles be targeted to the exclusion of google based on google's politics.

> Would I be a bad person for saying I'm sad about this because I want to work at Google and I don't like seeing their future threatened?

You're not a bad person for rooting for a company or wanting to work there. I'd just say you're incredibly naive for having a such an attachment to brand. And you're setting yourself to have some of your most productive years chewed up by a company (not even necessarily google) that can take advantage of your dedication with no additional compensation beyond trowing some creature comforts at you.


I used to think like that as well, but then I realized that most of the lawsuits against Google was fair. And the thing is that the anti competitive practices done by the sleazy people over at the business department are bad and leads to lots of lawsuits, but they are also profitable and hurts competition so it is unclear if Google is really losing out on this.

Disclaimer: I work at Google but I haven't seen any internal communication related to anti competitive behavior, I just know what I read in the news.


They are not being "targeted". If you'd read the article, they're being investigated for using anti-competitive tactics from a position as a monopoly - but you think they should be given a pass because outwardly they project a liberal image?

Never ceases to amaze me how you "liberal" americans can support a megacorp in this manner while simultaneously thinking of yourselves as being on the left...


Most of the liberals I know are deeply concerned about google and the other FAANG companies and the abuses they are getting away with. And you're right behind the curtain none of these companies are liberal. There is a word I use, but if you use it on HN you get threatened.

> There is a word I use, but if you use it on HN you get threatened.

The term I know for this type of attitude is "champagne socialist".

Preaching liberal values with a silver spoon firmly wedged in their gob, only caring for those values superficially or only when it applies to others.


don't you think you're succumbing to marketing a bit?

> I also don't get the anti-Google movement

It's virtually all political propaganda from hostile nations. Europeans understand that they desperately need to develop a tech sector to compete with China and the US while their population is aging, brains are draining, and productivity is slumping. But since they've killed off their own tech companies seemingly the only option now is to try and ban FAANG - protectionism through propaganda, arbitrary fines, targeted taxes, etc. Then you see some troll or a useful idiot from US post a nonsensical argument like "I BUILT MY PERSONAL BROWSER AND GOGOLE DIDN'T ALLOCATE 100 ENGINEERS TO MAKE THEIR APPS WORK ON IT", and upvote bots from China / Iran / Russia pick up and amplify the post to the top. This is modern warfare and it's effective. Ask a senior engineer at Reddit or any other communication platform and they'll confirm it (in private).

If you get a chance you should definitely work at Google out of Mountain View office because you'll gain unparalleled technical knowledge and build an amazing network that can match Stanford or Harvard as far as your future goes.


Europeans are humans, and humans have rights, and the EU will enforce those rights.

The title is slightly confusing. According to AP,[0] current participants are 48 States, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. California and Alabama are not involved.

[0] https://www.apnews.com/042b0989b2404c34a57e8ff9c8bbd0db


I can't say California surprises me, but I wonder what the deal with Alabama is.

Are we so far gone that we can't even expect the largest state by population and GDP to help police it's own mega corps to the benefit of the rest of the country? No doubt Google represents a massive chunk of Democrat donations... it's rather alarming that California is just sitting this out.


Google has datacenters in other states, too.

>100 jobs

Yeah but it'll also provide some good money to businesses during construction too.

California, leading by example again. /s

50 = 48 states, 1 district and 1 territory

oh but title said territories plural, red alert


There's probably a rule of grammar that in such a phrase the noun must agree with the quantifier, even when the noun is part of an aggregate. "50 states and territory" doesn't sound right at all. "48 states and 1 territory" sounds stilted. Better to say "48 states and the District of Columbia", but once you include Puerto Rico it gets too wordy.

The original title seems like the best option. Also, D.C. is a territory in a loose sense (part of the U.S. but not a state), just not the same formal category of territory as Puerto Rico. It's an immaterial distinction in a headline such as this.


The stories that make me cringe are when some loyal user's account is frozen and there's no recourse to learn why it happened. Can't reach a person to ask why, email queries go unanswered. It happens every day. Or, say, gmail addresses get taken away, and it causes suffering. Sometimes Amazon closes accounts and effectively seizes assets, because the account held funds. Someone else here mentioned youtube's intermittent demonitization of videos when they go viral. These are issues a government could actually be effective at solving, giving consumers guaranteed review, with burden of proof on the corporation, not the consumer. Add fines and penalties to make it meaningful. Make them remember that the customer is important and shouldn't need a lawyer to get an overlord's attention.

In the past, the tech companies could count on the Republican impulse to protect Big Business to shield them from a lot of these type of investigations (for example, see how the Microsoft Antitrust DOJ investigations got a lot easier for Microsoft after George W. Bush became President).

Now, large numbers of Republicans view Big Tech as the enemy, and combined with Democrats historic suspicion of Big Business, this has resulted in a very volatile time with respect to government regulation and investigation.


Were Obama and Clinton not friendly enough to big business for you? Obama bailed out the big banks without any real punishment and had Henry Paulson (ex CEO of Goldman Sachs) as Treasury secretary.

You also might want to look up the Sherman (R) antitrust act

From https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/nicolenguyen/google-ant... (which I can actually read):

> "Amazon Marketplace and Basics, and Google’s ad exchange and businesses on the exchange would be split apart. Google Search would have to be spun off as well," according to the [Warren] plan.

I'm all for busting up monopolists, but what would fund Google search? I mean, that's what arguably drove Google to build its ad business, in the first place. But if it could work somehow, maybe we'd get a return to more useful search results.

Edit: OK, I get it, ads.


Hmm. I'm a big fan of breaking up Amazon, but that's not the line I'd draw and I'm curious why Basics should be removed from Amazon. Most large retail outlets have the "store brand" for value shoppers. Walmart, Target, Meijer, Home Depot, Staples, etc, they all have the store brand. I'd certainly split Amazon Marketplace and AWS apart from the rest of Amazon, but I'm curious why Amazon shouldn't have their own store brand?

When you own the platform then you have complete access to data like user behavior and sales. With that (unfair) advantage you can more efficiently sell your own alternatives. This happens on every platform (app store, web search, social media, etc.) but it's problematic on Amazon because it can stifle small businesses on and off their platform.

Amazon is utilizing its knowledge of its powerful marketplace machine — from optimizing word-search algorithms to analyzing competitors’ sales data to using its customer-review networks — to steer shoppers toward its in-house brands and away from its competitors, say analysts.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/23/business/amazon-the-brand...

This data is much more powerful than large retail outlets have with their store brands: “I can’t just walk into a store and say, ‘Excuse me, did you look at this brand of cereal this morning and decide not to buy it?’ Amazon has that data. They know you looked at a brand and didn’t buy it and they’re not going to share that data with any other brands.”


> This data is much more powerful than large retail outlets have with their store brands: “I can’t just walk into a store and say, ‘Excuse me, did you look at this brand of cereal this morning and decide not to buy it?’

They definitively can, and are. Granted, it's a fairly new development.


Are there options that don't involve advertising?

Is there any way that we as a society could try to move towards an online economy that isn't built upon hijacking attention?


And making that universally available (geographically, economically and for all ages) as "free with ads" is and making it as anonymous as that (because while people complain a lot about Google's privacy invasion, last time I checked they don't require login to do a search, you can use private browsers, tor, etc but good luck making a universal payment system not traceable, don't think governments would ever allow it).

From a brief survey of the cities I've been to around the world, I'm gonna have to say "not yet".

And even in a post-scarcity post-money society the one thing which remains valuable is attention.


I hate seeing ads, and I hate being tracked. So I'd much rather have fairly priced and privacy-preserving micropayment services.

However, I also get that many people couldn't afford even micropayment prices that are comparable to current ad income. So they'd need some accommodation. Having a "pay or see ads" choice might work. Except that there are adblockers.


I hate the idea of paying for the luxury of having your own thoughts not be intruded upon.

I'm usually as hardcore as the next person, but isn't a bit much to get huffy about someone trying to fund their site using ads? As I see it, they have the right to use ads. And I have the right to block ads. So we just fight it out.

Ads would fund Google search and Google search could still sell ads on the exchange.

This is at least how I took it to mean.


What about all the underlying infrastructure (hardware, software, services, libraries, etc) that both use? Google has a famously single large repository for almost all their products (except Android, Chrome and a few other things): https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2016/7/204032-why-google-stor...

Good luck changing billions of lines of code so you can create a clean separation that can work together between different companies.


It's really no different from a fork. Keep copies of the repository at both companies. Then let things run its course (engineers deleting unused code etc).

The entire Unix operating system was developed at Bell Labs which was then broken up by the US government along with the rest of AT&T. This led it to being commercialised and distributed. Who knows what would come out of Google if everything they did wasn't locked in a monorepo inside a single organisation.

I feel like this argument applied to Bell and it still worked.

"Too big to refactor" is a pretty silly argument against anti trust action

Also that's just not how "single large repositories" even work


Google Search would earn money just as any other site using Google Ads does.

Why Google and not Apple? Apple is worth more, and is extremely anticompetitive. You have to buy and sell apps in their app store. Apple charges a base 30%. All apps must be approved by Apple. And Apple has a history of removing apps from their app store only to release their own clone of the same app!

Because most people don't have an iPhone? Only 40% of smartphone users use iOS. Its fine to be anti-competitive, you just can't do so if you hold monopoly powers. MS only got in trouble when they leveraged their monopoly (OS) in one area to gain marketshare in another (browser).

Google has a effective monopoly on search traffic, (find me a Bing exclusive SEO firm), if they leverage that to gain Android marketshare or others, they could run into issues.


You must mean 40% in the United States, right?

Yes, which is the relevant number for this post where the topic of discussion is US anti-trust law.

> Why Google and not Apple?

It took the various levels of government about 15 years to catch on that all was not well with Google.

Apple will not skate by forever, but at the moment there are more egregious fish to fry.


The simple answer is all the things you list are things you are allowed to do when you don’t have a monopoly, and while Google has a monopoly on Search, Apple does not have a monopoly on Smartphone.

How does Google have a monopoly on search? Does Bing or DuckDuckGo not exist? Or the dozens of other sizable search engines? Monopoly does not mean majority shareholder.

I vaguely remember a strachery article on Google's strategy of saying that they weren't a search company so they could claim that they weren't a monopoly because, hey look we aren't winning at self driving cars and reader and google plus etc.

> Why Google and not Apple? Because Apple controls just their ecosystem (iOS, macos, etc.), and Google controls the web and Android. It is just like Microsoft, but much bigger and more dangerous.

Google gets more press for things like the Damore memo, political advocacy/bias, and walk-outs. They lost a lot of good will with typical defenders of laissez faire business practices.

Laissez faire for me but not for thee, apparently.

or maybe both?

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