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The antitrust case against Google (yale.edu)
248 points by lawrenceyan 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 229 comments



> You mentioned in the paper that Google is going to be blocking third-party cookies in its Chrome browser, which is the biggest browser in the world. This has been presented as a victory for privacy, but you suggest actually it’s another way for Google to shut out other people who want to do digital advertising.

I find it interesting that the HN crowd loved that Apple was blocking 3rd party cookies in Safari but now that Chrome is about to do the same suddenly it's evil.

If it is evil then it was evil even when Apple started doing it. If it's good that Apple did it then it's good that Google is following.

The article basically argues it's evil and both Google and Apple should stop blocking 3rd party cookies because having 3rd party cookies provides opportunity for more competition

> We need to explain that the information about you can be passed among 25 different ad tech companies or it can be passed among 25 parts of Google. Which one of those is better or safer? That’s hard to know. I know which one of them is cheaper—the one where there’s competition. And it’s also better for consumers in the sense of stimulating the content that they want to consume on the internet.


I got a different interpretation from that paragraph than what you suggest.

The interview doesn't state that 3rd party cookies are good. Rather, they argue that they are required to have a "healthy" targeted ads market:

> So the question then is, what do consumers want? Do they want no targeted advertising? Well, then you can’t have an ad tech industry. Do they want targeted advertising that benefits the business that’s sending it, like the dog walker or the New York Times? That would require competition in the ad tech market.

Of course, that conclusion rests on the assumption that "we" want a targeted ad market, an assumption that many here will dispute. But that's not the point of the lawsuit - their point is rather "Since this market exists, then the people must want it. And since people want it, we need to ensure that there's enough competition". "This class of business shouldn't exist" is not within the scope of this particular case.


> I find it interesting that the HN crowd loved that Apple was blocking 3rd party cookies in Safari but now that Chrome is about to do the same suddenly it's evil.

Apple isn't an advertising company. Google is. The label of 'evil' doesn't need to be part of a conversation about anti-trust and anti-competitive behavior.


https://searchads.apple.com/ Apple is an advertising company.

Google sells android phones and gsuite, as well.


> Apple is an advertising company.

Primarily, it's a hardware company. Lots of companies have advertising services, this does not make them "advertising companies". If your advertising products disappear and the company would function more or less the same, that's not the primary product in your company's portfolio. Google would be crippled, as advertising is the primary product (fed by data from all the other services it offers, often at a loss). Similarly, most of apple software would be useless if they lost control of their hardware production/control.


Depends on your definition of advertising-company. If you sell eyeballs through ads that means you are an advertising company.


This is an article about monopolies - which are all about scale and market dominance.

Yet you've excluded both from your analysis. It doesn't seem to be a good faith argument.


Faith doesn't matter in an argument.

This is a purely logical discussion. If you sell ads, it means you are an ads company. The degree to which you sell ads doesn't factor in to that.

I can argue that apple monopolized ads on iOS devices by disabling cookies on safari and removing the targeting capabilities on ad-identifiers. Now the only way to have targeted ads is through the app store. Hope this satisfies your arbitrary 'it should be a monopoly before i discuss it' argument.


Good faith (Latin: bona fides), in human interactions, is a sincere intention to be fair, open, and honest, regardless of the outcome of the interaction.

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

OP wasn't discussing "faith".

> If you sell ads, it means you are an ads company.

Nope. An <x> company is a company that primarily deals in x. Ford is a car company. Their cars contain computers. Doesn't make Ford a computer company. The cars also have tires. Doesn't make car a tire company. Some cars have leather seats. Doesn't make Ford a leather company, furniture company or upholstery company.

> The degree to which you sell ads doesn't factor in to that

Sure does. Particularly in the case of anti-trust, which is the topic here.


It would seem to be blocking 3rd party cookies is good and it's a net negative for Google because their analytics stop working. The article suggests google has more data than their competitors so it's a net positive to them. That might be true for small competitors. It's not true for big ones like Facebook or Amazon or Microsoft or possibly even Apple who have or potentially have a similar amount of info on you via the services they offer


as far as i remember chrome actually sends an additional and probably unique xclient-data property when it connects to google owned addresses. This is a feature its competitors do not have access to.


I just looked through the headers of a request to google.com, expecting this to be wrong, but it does look like this is there! Right at the bottom, x-client-data. The value ends with == which makes me think it's some kind of hash. Crazy. It does not exist when I use ungoogled chromium, firefox, or even edge.



Why only block third party cookies? Block all cookies by default. If the user needs a cookie she can enable them. For example, on a per-site basis. Default setting is cookies on for all sites.


Because that would be a terrible experience for consumers. Do you really want to have to explicitly allow cookies for every site you log in to? Or whenever you want to use a shopping-cart? Do you want every site you ever go to to have a huge popup instructing you on how to enable cookies for the site? Not to mention how difficult this will make life for developers who use cookies for legitimate purposes.


I do this a regular basis. Not quite daily--Firefox had extensions that manage it for me--but every time I use a text-mode browser (lynx, links, etc) it prompts me when a website wants to store a cookie. The answer is almost always no.

> Not to mention how difficult this will make life for developers who use cookies for legitimate purposes.

I'm not worried about this. Developers using them for legitimate purposes I agree with can keep using them. If I don't want your cookie, I don't care how hard it makes it for you. I don't want you storing a consent cookie when I say no (ask when you need to get data, not when the page loads). I don't want you storing a cookie saying when I last visited your page anymore than I want Walmart to know when I walk past their doors (reading a single page on your site does not make me a user. Including me in a general count of unregistered views is fine--assigning me a unique ID is not).

If I log into a website or use a shopping cart, I am explicitly asking the website to store information for me. This is like walking up to the register (to ask a question, to pay, etc. They need to recognize me as a unique individual). Loading the homepage, loading a product listing? Absolutely not; this is like looking at a vending machine on my way by; you don't need to know anything other than (possibly) the fact that someone walked by (measure foot traffic) and did/did not buy anything (subtract number of purchases from number of visitors).


> Do you really want to have to explicitly allow cookies for every site you log in to?

Yes!

Absolutely.

Click login/cart, popup "do you want to enable login/cart for $this_site?" yes/no

But only when you explicitly make the request to use a cart or press the login button. Silently block everything else.

There's about 5 sites I would ever use with cookies. And I use chrome for them. I use firefox with all that crap disabled for everything else.

Give it a try!


> Click login/cart, popup "do you want to enable login/cart for $this_site?" yes/no

I don't see how you could implement that without sites abusing any click event to try and get you to enable cookies.

> There's about 5 sites I would ever use with cookies

Good for you. Most people need more than that.


What as many as 10? 15? Or even 50!

Now count your cookies. Orders of magnitude different. Thanks Google! Nobody agreed to that. Literally nobody.


When you cut to the chase like this it often triggers a canned defensive response such as,

1. "You agreed to it by using the software/website"

2. the design decision was made in the interests of improving "user experience" (meanwhile the users are a cultivated "product", not customers), or

3. the software/website has been "chosen" by large numbers of users which shows they all approve of the design (meanwhile, those users have no other meaningful choice)


I used to use konqueror years and years ago set to ask me about cookies from all sites. It got so tedious. These days I'm much happier with firefox/privacy badger selectively blocking stuff behind the scenes for me.

Though I do wish it weren't necessary.


Google's motto was and is (they remove it and put it back various time) "Do No Evil."

They were the tech darling who innovated and created great tech products/services and all behind this mantra.

We have since seen here on Hacker News the evil they do... i.e. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18566929 being one example of many.

They get so much flack because they chose to have and promote that mantra then failed miserably in front of all here, many whom they inspired to get into tech and strive to work for them. Personally, you couldn't pay me enough to work there!


I'm confused about what the remedy is supposed to be, or what outcome the AGs are seeking. Actually, it sounds like they haven't made up their mind yet either:

> And then the states are going to presumably file a complaint also at some juncture, probably after that. So then we will see what those complaints say, what kind of conduct they allege as being anti-competitive.

Is it normal for suits like this to be touted out in public for so long ahead of an actual complaint being filed? Seems like intimidation to me.


s/intimidation/politics/.

The AGs are trying to look good in the press, so they look good to the voters. As far as actual lawsuits go... there may be one, someday, maybe.


Yes, it's not at all clear what remedy would be effective.

Some limit on total percentage of searches, similar to the limit in the 1996 Telecommunications Act that no company can own stations reaching more than 35% of the national audience?

That would seem to break google into roughly a triumvirate, but does that actually solve any of the problems in any useful way?


"Intimidation" is a pejorative, of course, but I don't see anything wrong with alerting Google that they are risking an antitrust lawsuit if they keep doing things the way they are doing things.

I'm not sure I see the need to be so worried about a nearly trillion-dollar company being intimidated.


> I'm confused about what the remedy is supposed to be, or what outcome the AGs are seeking.

Further down the article this is mentioned:

> If the federal government is in fact in the beginning stages of antitrust action against Google, what should we expect to see publicly?

> They’ve said that they’re going to file a complaint in the summer, which is really quick. So that would be obviously something to watch. And then the states are going to presumably file a complaint also at some juncture, probably after that. So then we will see what those complaints say, what kind of conduct they allege as being anti-competitive. Or perhaps the federal government doesn’t file a complaint, but they settle. They say, “Well, here are the six things we didn’t like, but you’ve changed your behavior, and so therefore that’s remedied the lost competition and we’re not going to bring a case.”

The situation that they are trying to address is a novel one and will likely require a novel solution. The AG's are not business people; their interests are in protecting their constituents from harm caused by monopolistic players in the market. How that is to be done, remains unclear.

I imagine the prosecutors will learn more about Google during the course of this process and they will come up with a solution that would allay their concerns.

If it looks a bit like bullying, it kind of is. The Government is the other pillar of power and steps in occasionally when its interests (usually things relating to the betterment of society, not always) need to be protected. It has the power to control the destiny of corporations that grow too big and "abuse" their power (whatever that might mean). This is how society works; if corporations operated with unfettered control over everything, society would quickly degrade into a dystopian hellhole (this is unfortunately already happening in the US, see the freeze on minimum wages at the federal level).


> The AG's are not business people; their interests are in protecting their constituents from harm caused by monopolistic players in the market. How that is to be done, remains unclear.

Are we just assuming good faith on the part of government now?

I personally think Google should be an antitrust target, but I'm not placated by a "don't worry, the government has all of our best interests at hearts" argument.

If they want to release a "teaser" of their allegations I don't think we need to buy it at face value. Personally I'll reserve my judgement until they make real allegations.


The Government is elected and accountable to the public. Google? Only to it’s shareholders. I think I know whose side to assume good faith on.


You can't think of a single elected official or government body that has acted in bad faith..?


I definitely can.


The most likely remedy would be to split their ads business from everything else.

Make the ads business have to buy search data, and make the search business have to sell search data (and maybe make some money showing ads too).

This would allow other companies to buy the search data and also to try and bid on selling ads next to google searches.


I think the remedy would be to force them to sell data as a utility. This would help with the anti-consumer ad auctions where there is no information outside of google.

It would also make it so they couldn’t put their own services as easily above organic search because organic search data would be available.


Telling someone that they are breaking the law and giving them a chance to stop before they are punished is not "intimidation." It's like a cop telling you that you're parked in an illegal spot and that you're going to get towed if you leave your car there.


This is very well written.

If antitrust laws do not define google as a monopoly, it's obviously the antitrust laws that are wrong. Google is obviously a monopoly.

The 2018 case against Google in the EU (€1.5bn fine) made very similar points and won.

The real problem is what comes next. If recent history is a guide, it will be a cost-of-doing-business fine. This does nothing. At best, they'll adapt practices slightly. Maybe they've adapted enough post 2018 to make this case difficult.

We need a new approach. There is no way antitrust courts can act as regulators effectively. They find that a monopoly exists, but... the goal is not regulated monopolies.

The whole premise of antitrust is that monopolies are harmful in lots of systemic ways. We must assume that most are unknown. A prosecutor & court can't track down every monopolistic mechanism or dynamic and fine google for it. We need to avoid and void monopolies. This is why there are mechanisms to void mergers.

Adwords could IPO independently. They'd be a great, profitable company. So would Google search, youtube, android... All these could be financially viable companies independently.

Total share price would be lower. This reflects the fact that monopolies are more profitable. OTOH, the Google monopoly is an easy one to solve. It's so profitable that financial viability is easily achieved.


There is no chance whatsoever that YouTube would be a profitable stand-alone business. The only reason it works at all is because it gets a free ride on the infrastructure that Google builds for serving products with better margins. Network transit alone would completely destroy YouTube, nevermind all the storage and compute they need for transcoding etc.


One thing that might support your point is the lack of rival products


What makes you say that?

Google report Youtube's revenue as $15bn, and profits to be really high. Maybe they underaccount infrastructure costs, but it's definitely not billions.

Google could be broken up into very logical units.


Google doesn't report anything but revenue on Youtube, so we don't know the margin. Most of the revenue is dispersed to content creators, and infrastructure costs must be huge, so more likely than not it is a loss leader.


the purpose of a loss leader is to bring you into a store to buy other presumably more profitable stuff. what is youtube leading people into?


YouTube is mainly a 3-way market; the content producer, the content consumer and the ad seller. All of which benefit from network effects. In addition to that, a high 7 day active user count is a very attractive goal in itself as you can upsell them almost anything adjacent. Eg. Premium subscription, music service, movies, tv channels...


My (naive?) assumption is that user data is what is being "led into the store" aka being collected and fed into the rest of the ecosystem.


According to numbers that came out during the Oracle trial, Google only made $23 billion in profit from Android from inception through 2016 (https://www.theverge.com/2016/1/21/10810834/android-generate...). Google pays Apple a reported $8 billion a year to be the default search engine for iOS. Apple has made much more on mobile from Google than Google has made on Android.

Youtube is still just barely profitable according to most accounts even with $15 billion in revenue.


Huh, without taking a position, I get a lot different impression of those numbers than you. 23 billion profit against 31 billion dollars in revenue implies a 190% profit margin. And I wonder if those numbers even fully account for the effect of Android on their dominance in other areas. I think most companies would love such a generous profit margin.


That’s 23 billion of profit over 8 years.


Perhaps we'd see more innovation in mobile OSes and video delivery platforms if they had to operate as viable independent financial entities.


Anyone can deliver video. It is just cost prohibitive unless someone else - in this case Google - is willing to subsidize it as basically a break even business.

Is anyone really clamoring for another mobile OS? Manufacturers can already basically bastardized Android anyway they wish.


That's like saying "Do we really need another browser? Anyone can fork Chromium".


And the vast majority of users aren’t clamoring for another browser.


>The whole premise of antitrust is that monopolies are harmful in lots of systemic ways. We must assume that most are unknown.

This is completely untrue. There's a clear economic reason for why a monopoly, defined a certain way, is bad (reduces overall utility, worst outcomes for consumers, and everyone's a consumer). That's why we have antitrust. If the definition of a monopoly is changed arbitrarily, then the original arguments about why it's bad don't necessarily apply, so the concept becomes meaningless. Making arbitrary, unprincipled decisions based on what people not educated in economics feel might be bad is a great way to drive an economy into the ground.


> Google is obviously a monopoly.

Of which market though? Search: maybe. Ads: no.


First, I think that once a strong monopoly exists monopolistic dynamics persist throughout the integrated layers. This is a premise of anti monopoly legislation.

Search, mobile, adwords, "advertiser tools" like google analytics, play store, youtube. Google have huge market share in each layer. These reenforce each other, amplifying the monopoly dynamics.

Second, I think adwords could qualify as a monopoly on its own. Online ad markets have grown a lot recently, but circa 2008 (I think) adwords market share peaked pretty high even if you define "market" as "all online ads". The market can be defined more narrowly too.

Third, EU courts have already found against Google for monopsonistic behaviour in their adwords market. Competing search engines monetizing via adwords faced some dirty tricks, but adwords was the only buyer.


People also need to remember that being a monopoly isn't as big of a deal as what you do with that monopoly.

If you try to extinguish competition like Microsoft did then you're going to be in trouble. Google Search for example has been routinely expanding to favour Google properties e.g. shopping, travel, news over third parties. With shopping being particular egregious where they are now starting to bypass third party ecommerce checkout flows entirely.


How would Android be a profitable independent entity? By becoming a new vertically integrated vendor like Apple? I doubt they could charge enough just selling per handset OS licenses to make this a viable business without recouping any of the service revenue.


How much does google pay Apple for search priority on iOS safari? Assume they would likewise need to pay android similar amounts


I don't have the numbers but it seems very likely to me that Google spends a lot more than this on maintaining and improving Android and this alone would not be enough to put them in the black.


Goldman Sachs seems to think Google is paying Apple nearly $10 billion.

https://www.thestreet.com/investing/google-pays-apple-billio...

Google could easily support Android with $100m a year if that.


Sure, but also assume any other player that wanted to be the default search engine on Android to also pay Android a similar amount..


What's even the point of adding a bunch of rules to break up a player with less than a third of the market and already in decline? It seems pretty clear that competitors have stepped it up. Meanwhile in Mobile ma bell has reassembled itself and in cable we're stuck with regional monopolies; in healthcare we're happy with the same or greater dominance by total monopolies like for insulin or glasses amongst other goods; likewise in payments with Visa and Mastercard.

Smells like political rent seeking to me.


I have a big problem when people talk about Google only having "a third of the market", and counting total digital ad spend as that market. For example, I bet that if you looked at certain industries of people selling things online (for example, plumbers, attorneys, hotels, etc.) you'd find that nearly 100% of businesses spend money on Google. Sure, they may spread ad spend around (e.g. lots of businesses uses Facebook for brand awareness and Google for targeted search marketing), but these businesses don't see not spending on Google as an option. If there were real competition, these businesses would have a choice to spend these dollars somewhere else, but the fact is that Google is so dominant in search that for most companies the options are "pay the Google tax" and "go out of business". That doesn't feel like a market with healthy competition.


If you cut any industry finely enough, you will find a monopoly. The pizza restaurant next door is a monopolist in the pizza category on my street.

So if you don’t want policy to be completely arbitrary, you’ll need some principles to follow when drawing industry boundaries.


> The pizza restaurant next door is a monopolist in the pizza category on my street.

That's ridiculous. Sure, it may be easiest to order from the guy next door, but if you don't like the pizza next door, you can easily call the guy 3 blocks down the street.

My point is you have options when it comes to pizza. There are many types of businesses that simply do not have any options besides Google. Don't believe me? Ask literally anyone who works in digital advertising. If you were planning any kind of digital ad campaign that relied on search, and you said you weren't going to spend on Google, they'd think you were insane. "Oh yeah, I've decided to put all my search ad spend on Bing." It sounds ridiculously laughable just writing it out.


By this logic Apple is a monopoly in the mobile space since nobody can afford to ignore them when building apps.


People absolutely can afford to ignore Apple in the mobile space, except if your app is 100% reliant on the US market. iOS is only about 20-25% of the global market.


And yet iOS generates 80% more revenue than Android does[0]. If you want to make money, you can't ignore Apple.

[0] https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/07/03/apples-app-store-...


That's not universal - anecdotally I've seen Android versions that end up generating 80-120% more than the iOS version (per user). It depends a lot on the market and your product. Also, in other situations I can't help but wonder if it could be put down to Android's 2nd class citizen status in many companies. If you're going to give your iOS users a native experience (with no expense spared) while doing the bare minimum for Android (or not at all) then yes - you will earn substantially more per user on iOS.


This doesn’t really make any sense. If there were overwhelming riches to be had in the Android market, companies would allocate greater resources to making Android apps good. But there aren’t — at least not compared to iOS — so the resource allocation is commensurate. Companies want money first and foremost; they don’t care which platform allows for a prettier UI if it gets in the way of $$$.


I don't think that is true. Even when app development is a very small share of total cost, and certainly insignificant compared to benefits especially re: other makets, such as Snapchat, the Android app might be horribly lacking.


There aren't overwhelming riches to be had on either platform (unless you're Apple or Google of course).

The point I'm trying to make here is that people will use that figure (often without much thought) to justify giving Android users a sub-par experience - which only serves to reinforce it. I've worked for several companies that have given parity to iOS and Android, and one that did not. For the former we did not observe a disparity that large. YMMV by region and industry of course.


I really didn't think about that one. Yes, it's entirely true, a ton of Android apps are so broken that I would have no reason to buy the app or service.


If you monetize mainly by charging people for your app, sure. If you sell mandatory subscriptions or make your money from ads, Android is more important.


This makes sense on paper but iOS users also tend to have higher disposable income[0] which would make them spend more on subscriptions and be more valuable ad targets.

[0] https://www.mobilemarketer.com/news/survey-iphone-owners-spe...


That study is US-only, too. If you're making a solely US-based ad-servicing service (which makes very little sense, and if you are you should spend time on internationalization before spending time on your iOS app), otherwise if you are making a subscription service only in the US that does make sense.

And even if the trends did hold up internationally, and I really suspect they don't, Android would still be better for ads and subscriptions internationally due to nearly three times the market share, despite a bit more than half the disposable income.


I don’t see why the trends wouldn’t hold up internationally. Android is more popular than iOS internationally because the vast majority of the world has a lower PPP than the US. Android is popular in places like India which pale in comparison to US revenues per customer simply based on PPP alone.


I really don't believe that is true. Even in countries with high GDP iPhones can be much less popular than Android, for example Germany, or Italy, or Japan, or Finland, by pretty massive margins.

People don't really buy iPhones as soon as they have money unless it is a status symbol in their culture, which it really is the more the country is Americanized/anglophone. I think that correlation holds up much better than GDP PPP. There is no real reason for money to predict iOS market share except for that.


We're talking about US antitrust law and its enforcement in this thread. And in the US market iOS is the priority for app developers.


Very few US companies operate only in the US as far as app development, and none of the statistics I've seen so far concern solely the US.

In any case, if you're making a social media app or other international app, an Android version is likely more important.


You're kind of completely missing the point you're responding to.

There is no such thing as international anti-trust. In this conversation the US market is the only thing that matters since we are talking about US law. Hence, android does not really matter much for revenue.


That is not entirely true, because the internet is inherently international. It is a different kind of anti-trust, though I recognize that laws haven't caught up to it.

Even in the US, Apple does not have even close to a monopoly over Android, anyways. At best they have 50% of the marketshare.


iOS has 58.54% market share in the US according to https://gs.statcounter.com/os-market-share/mobile/united-sta...


That's because Apple is a monopoly, or at least Google and apple form a duoopoly. And if you make mobile apps you have to pay the google tax, apple tax, or more likely both.And play by their rules.


On android, you can publish yourself which Fortnite did [0]. iOS you cannot though and in fact they are getting sued for their "abusive monopoly in iOS app/in-app distribution services" [1].

[0]: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-45063002#:~:text=The%20d....

[1]: https://www.hbsslaw.com/uploads/case_downloads/apple-dev/201...


Yes, it is technically possible. But good luck getting your users to do that if you aren't as big as fortnite.


This raises and interesting point:

Would consumers be better served if app developers had to pay the Google tax, the Apple tax aaaaaand the Microsoft tax, the Samsung tax, the HTC tax, etc etc etc?


Yes, because if there was competition, that "tax" would likely be lower. For instance, Microsoft's fees for one-off purchases are just half of what Apple/Google are charging.


Yes, it is. Not in defanged US antitrust law, but in reality.




I think there are lots of monopolies, yeah


That would be closer to a monopsony (single buyer), though the details get a bit fuzzy when talking about platforms rather than straight customer-seller relationships.


Yes.


I work for Bing. Awwww, man. ;-)


Doesn't that mean spending on Google is profitable? You can simply set a bid limit at less than your customer lifetime value (multiplied by conversion rate) on all channels. If someone outbids you systematically, then your spend in that channel drops to zero. Who cares whether it's Google or anyone else. The right move is to spend on all profitable channels, and if you run out of money, borrow more. Why pass up profit when capital is so cheap?


>If you cut any industry finely enough, you will find a monopoly

And inversely, if you cut any industry coarsely enough, you will never find any monopolies.

"Don't break us up! Sure, we may own the entire telephone service, but we do not have a monopoly. See, you should be looking at total human communications. People talk in person, send letters, etc. We own a teeny tiny slice of total human communications."

"Don't break us up! Sure, we may own the entire rail network, but we do not have a monopoly. See, you should be looking at entire human travel. People walk, ride horses, travel by ships, etc. We own a teeny tiny slice of total travel industry."


Peter Thiel said you can tell if a company is a monopoly by the way they talk about themselves:

“Anyone that has a monopoly will pretend that they're in incredible competition. If you're a non-monopolist, you will rhetorically describe your market as super small, you're the only person in that market.If you have a monopoly, you will describe it as super big, and there is lots of competition in it"


This has been a point of contention all the time. Regulators want to shrink the market size as much as possible, and companies want to expand it as much as possible. This is not a way to determine monopoly.


The quote was referring to the way the company describes themselves in e.g. 10Q briefings.


The only monopoly is the government granted monopoly, ma bell was one.


So if Verizon manages to, through mergers and acquisitions and like, get a 100% market share in the US, it would still not be a monopoly, because it is not government granted?


In Verizon's specific case it would be a government granted monopoly either way. Between infrastructure easements to wireless spectrum to state laws banning municipal competition, that industry is government granted through and through.


Of course not. If you don't like paying the monopoly prices, you can just, uh... you can just start your own backyard wireless telecommunications service provider.


MCI was created to compete with Ma Bell and did so.


We already have a framework to define markets, called hypothetical monopolist test. It's conceptually simple; given a market definition, can a hypothetical monopolist impose significant increases in price without customers turning away? If not, it means there's competitors so it's not monopoly.

In this definition, Google's not going to be a monopolist as advertisers can easily reallocate their budget to alternative options (FB, Amazon, etc) to improve their ROI if Google decides to increase their fee significantly. Publishers don't have much options other than AdSense to sell their ad slots so it's monopsony(=single buyer controls the market). Not sure if the US antitrust law can handle this situation. If so, then this is going to be a landmark case.


> In this definition, Google's not going to be a monopolist as advertisers can easily reallocate their budget to alternative options (FB, Amazon, etc) to improve their ROI if Google decides to increase their fee significantly.

That is the point I 100% absolutely disagree with. Ask any digital marketer, most of them see FB and Amazon as serving different purposes than what targeted search ads do. If you put 'Bing' or 'DuckDuckGo' I would agree with you, but in that case you'll find that the way Adwords bidding work that Google pretty much already takes a huge portion of potential margin - in many areas with deep-pocketed investors who think they'll eventually turn profitable Google actually takes more than 100% of potential margin.


> Ask any digital marketer, most of them see FB and Amazon as serving different purposes than what targeted search ads do.

I'm very well aware of this, but this doesn't necessarily mean that budget planning will be done completely independent across multiple different channels. We already have observed a significant fraction of search advertisements budget has been moved from Google to Amazon as Amazon becomes a more effective ads platform. In fact, nowaway this becomes a much more attractive option since Amazon now owns literally everything from advertisements, auction, optimization and measurements in a single platform.

> in many areas with deep-pocketed investors who think they'll eventually turn profitable Google actually takes more than 100% of potential margin.

Most of the Google's largest advertisers are big, conventional companies with a strong cash flow, not those burning the money from investors. They really care about incrementality, efficacy, measurement and performance. Sure, you can probably burn a few million dollars without a good reason but you cannot spend x100 like that.


You can make similar arguments for many other industry titans too. If you don't cater to Apple you will lose out on major chunk of high paying people, if you don't cater to Amazon you will miss out on a lot of e-commerce sales, if you don't cater to Instagram you will miss out younger audience.


This is the worst of all possible market definitions. That the market is the thing which only this company does. Most of the companies are choosing google (or forced to choose google) because of the reach and the traffic it gets you. They are free not to spend on Google, use Facebook, Amazon, or any other network (many exist but people arent so aware), the returns are very very low. Its a moat for Google given that their targeted marketing is very very accurate compared to other networks. Same goes with Facebook.

If you limit them, you are not improving your ROAS or even efficiency. For most of the companies, they would end up spending higher per qualified lead compared to what they get from Google. This is very hard to break and side by side ensure that the advertisers (and publishers) are not harmed in the process.

Facebook has its own audience Network, but that is really bad in terms of returns. There are others like Taboola, Smarty Ad and so on, but all of them end up not delivering enough returns, and as a publisher, you end up going to google.


It has been mentioned before on topics like this one, but lots of people commenting in here are directly financially involved in this type of discussion (i.e. breaking up Google or FB), as in they're probably employees of those companies and as such their relatively big compensations depend on these companies' operations remaining pretty much the same.


I think it's pretty clear what the motivation is if you look at who's pushing for this.

  - Large publishers and news agencies who have seen declining revenues due to increased competition for ads.
  - Left-leaning people who believe large companies are inherently bad for society.
  - Right-leaning people who believe "big tech" is biased against them.
Its also worth noting who's not pushing for this.

  - Advertisers.
  - General consumers.


I have noticed a decline in quality of google products in recent years. I attribute this primarily to their increasing monopoly power. Not to mention all the products google has killed: https://killedbygoogle.com/, many of which were quite popular.


It's not like Google has some noble duty to launch or maintain their products if they don't want to.


The second and third groups contain many general consumers, so I who you intend include in that. Is your point that only ideologues believe that Google deserves anti-trust scrutiny?


The point is that the groups pushing anti-trust action seem to be motivated by things that have nothing to do with helping Google's customers.


> Left-leaning people who believe large companies are inherently bad for society.

Curious to read more about this. It could just be me, but I have not seen much criticism of Google coming from this perspective. The closest I can think of is criticism of their skill at avoiding taxes.


Advertisers just apply a markup and pass it along to their customers.

This is the weakest part of your argument.


>General consumers

But are they pushing against it? Would they, if asked?


If the verdict involved something like "your Google account will no longer work with X service" there would definitely be a lot of consumer pushback


Or if you now have to pay for X what you used to get for free


Google already does this, bolstered by their monopoly. You used to be able to listen to Youtube videos with the screen off without paying them.


YouTube vanced ftw


That's an assumption. Severing the financial tie might not necessarily fully sever the operational relationship. Obviously Google would be pushing that narrative hard, but it would be relatively easy to push back and say, "Separate companies with a non-exclusive relationship would still be lucrative and so the two companies that result from this action aren't going to give that up just to spite consumers/regulators."


Why should anyone care about general consumers? They're just fine being sheep as long as they're comfortable.


Protecting consumers is the entire basis of anti-trust law.


this is sort of an admission that the motivation is purely notional, and most people would not see any actual tangible benefit to it


> in healthcare we're happy

Are we, though? It sounds like you're saying why go after google when there are so many other companies with similar levels of control over their own markets who we also don't go after. That's not a reasonable objection, unless you can find somebody who thinks that we should go after google, but not go after these other companies.


> That's not a reasonable objection, unless you can find somebody who thinks that we should go after google, but not go after these other companies.

But you can -- the US Department of Justice, who are apparently preparing a case against Google and not companies in those other markets.


So in order to go after one monopolist they must go after all monopolists are once? Can’t they prioritize?


Which brings us back to the original question -- why are they starting with Google and not the others?


Especially when Time Warner and the other conglomerates have been doing this shit for decades before anyone knew wtf Google was


"What's even the point of adding a bunch of rules to break up a player with less than a third of the market and already in decline?"

The market they are defining does not include Facebook, Amazon or other "walled gardens". Details in the PDF.

The "why not look at other industries/companies" argument is old, tired and makes little sense. Looking at one company/industry does not prevent AGs or DOJ from looking at another.


So if you slice “the market” granularly enough and squint, then there is a monopoly.

If I had a general consumer business, I would much rather use FB advertising because they know more about their users than Google.


1) Google, thanks to its acquisitions / strategies is actually all over the web, and has a hand in every single part of the ad tech stack (outside of walled gardens). It's problematic

2) As a consequence of #1 (all those Google Analytics install collecting data) and their properties (YT, Search, etc...) they have excellent data on pretty much every one.

As a matter of fact, someone in the industry made a test on Grindr to see what kind of audience quality each player had in the adtech world. Google was the best provider and by a large margin.


That's only you, though. Plus you don't have a consumer business. Not very persuasive.

The "choice" described in the paper is not between Facebook and Google, it is between Google and nothing. According the the authors, Facebook does not particpate in the business of ads for the "open web".


Who cares if FB participates in the “open web” when the majority of adults in the US have a FB Account and probably spend more time on FB than anywhere else?


Is this a rhetorical question or does it seek an answer?

Assuming the later, academics and people working on these investigations, if the "open web" is the market they are using for their antitrust analysis. If Facebook participated in this market then one could argue that there is some competition.

From a footnote in the PDF:

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3391913


They are wrong if they think Google is a monopoly on "open web" advertising anyway.

Facebook's Audience Network allows you to buy ads on 3rd party (open) websites[1] as does VerizonMedia/Oath

[1] https://www.facebook.com/business/marketing/audience-network


What about AdGear, Adition, Polar and YoSpace?


Yes and many others. However the reach of the ones I listed is huge.


Why didn't Google mention the ones you cited and the "many others" in its response to the CMA report? Do none of them have customers in the UK?


That's a different report. I'm not particularly familiar with it, but I believe they were looking at Google dominance in search and search advertising, whereas this attempts to make an antitrust argument in "open web adverting".

The argument that Google is dominant in search is much stronger than the argument made here.


If you are not familiar with the CMA report then how do you know it does not address display ads on third party websites, i.e., "open web adverting"?

In the CMA report "open web advertising" is referred to as the "open display market".

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5dfa0580ed915...

"We have organised our work into three thigh-level themes:

Theme 1 considers to what extent Google and Facebook have market power in search and social media respectively and the sources of this market power;

Theme 2 assesses whether consumers have adequate control over the use of their data by online platforms, by exploring the choices they are given, how easy it is to exercise those choices and whether there is adequate protection for those who do not engage; and

Theme 3 focusses on the business to business digital advertising markets, exploring a range of concerns including a lack of transparency, conflicts of interest and the leveraging of market power to undermine competition."

Not disagreeing with your premise, however the Google response to the CMA report devotes a significant amount of verbiage to explaining and defending their position in the "open display market". On page 4 of the 25-page response to the CMA report you will find the heading "Competition in Digital Advertising". Under this you will see the subheadings "Search Advertising", "Display Advertising on Third Party Websites" and "Our Relationship with Publishers". The "Search Advertising" section is just over 3 pages. The "Display Advertising on Third Party Websites" is 4.5 pages. The "Our relationship with Publishers" section is just over 2 pages.

It is true the CMA did not make precisely the same arguments as the authors of the "roadmap" paper. They are two different jusrisdictions. However the CMA report forms the factual basis for all the arguments in the roadmap paper.


Why do you think Google didn't list these companies?

I found the Google response[1] and I'd note that they don't name any other companies at all (at least in a very quick glance through). I suspect this is a policy choice by Google - they don't want to be seen as pointing regulators at competitors.

I would also note that on page 23 footnote 69 they point references showing "the top 100 U.S. advertisers use an average 4 to 7 DSPs according to a 2016-2018 study" and "500 largest U.S. publishers use an average of 6 SSPs"

[1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5d78ba3540f0b...


In parapgraph 29 of the response, with respect to "publisher ad serving", Google mentioned several competitors by name. In the roadmap paper the authors note the publisher ad server market is "particularly concentrated" with Google having a "90% or higher share".

Not sure I understand what you are thinking regarding the "policy choice" idea. Would need some more elaboration.


> In parapgraph 29 of the response

Could you refer to page number or something? I'm not going through counting paragraphs. I searched for "publisher ad serving" and didn't find it, and searched for "Facebook" and didn't find anything that seemed to sound like what you are talking about.

I don't understand the gist of your comments here either. You asked me why Google didn't refer to competitors in their response, but now you say that they do?

> Not sure I understand what you are thinking regarding the "policy choice" idea.

"they don't want to be seen as pointing regulators at competitors."


The paragraphs are numbered for you. The legal field often prefers to reference numbered paragraphs instead of page numbers. It can be easier. Paragraph 29 is on page 8.

You claimed the authors of the roadmap paper are "wrong". You cited a couple of purported Google competitors, Facebook and Verizon. I noted that in their response to CMA report Google did not mention those two competitors. They mentioned several other ones, none of them as prominent as Facebook or Verizon. Then you said there are "many other" competitors, too, besides Facebook and Verizon. I am wondering why Google did mention any of these competitors you are referring to in their response to the CMA report. Seems like it would be relevant to mention them.


Page 8 has footnote 29. Paragraphs aren't numbered. It doesn't name competitors there so I'm pretty confused.

However page 7 does say:

The Market Study will need to take account of the ways in which other players are entering, expanding, or consolidating in the supply of digital ads Examples include Amazon’s growing ads business, Verizon (which purchased AOL and Yahoo!), the integrated AT&T/Time Warner/AppNexus businesses, AdForm, and Alibaba – one of China’s largest digital ad providers that recently...

The reference in that quote include footnote 29. Perhaps you are confusing footnotes/references with the substantive response?


Again that goes back to slicing a market to fit a narrative and not reality.


All antitrust lawsuits contain a narrative. There will be at least two narratives, one of which will be Google's.

As for "reality" you would need to be more specific what you mean.

What if someone said, "Who cares if they are slicing a market to fit a narrative?"

Are you saying the authors who are "slicing the market to fit a narrative" are not allowed to do that? Or are you just saying you do not like that they are doing that? Or both?


If you had a general consumer business and used both, you'd probably drop Facebook after finding that they don't translate into revenue growth at nearly the same rate. If you didn't, you'd still likely find that your return on investment is far better with Google ad buys. At least, that was my experience with a lifestyle/hobby product. So many leads from Facebook were simply garbage, and the numbers seemed, well, let's just say questionable.

Again, your mileage may differ, but FB knowing more about people didn't seem to matter for me. When it came down to it, a dollar spent with Google was far better than a dollar spent with FB.


Why are monopolies a problem? Because they stifle competition? Why is this? Because they control a market or ecosystem to the point where they can very very effectively prevent new players from entering it. If we have an ecosystem that a large number of our citizens are affected by and it is very hard for a new company to compete with a few established players, then there's a risk of many of those citizens getting "the short end" because the companies controlling the ecosystem have no incentive to competitively price anything. I think that's as good a reason as any to consider busting a monopoly.


None of the big tech companies “control” an ecosystem. Users voluntarily choose that ecosystem because of network effects.

Every major tech company’s product has a viable alternative.


And I guess 90s Microsoft didn’t have a monopoly if you counted all embedded OSes and all software and all hardware devices with software.

There are other monopolies and Google isn’t alone, but I think if this were political then Twitter and Facebook would be bigger targets.

Maybe it’s petty because Google completely bungled the Congressional shaming.


I hope the anti-trust investigation focuses on search. They have an obscene monopoly on search, built largely on the massive amounts of our personal data they have access to (through Chrome, Gmail, YouTube and so on), even though their product has been stagnating and returning worse and worse results for the better part of the past decade.

We need real competition there and it doesn't seem like Bing and its clones (Duckduckgo and so on) are going to get us there. They are at too big a disadvantage out the gate.


I've never heard Visa or Mastercard characterized as monopolies before. Is that true? I guess I always just thought they were so regulated that nobody wants to try and enter the market (except Discover who I happen to bank with)

Not to be too tangential here but does anyone know if Visa/Mastercard monopoly has a negative affect on the consumer right now? I havent noticed one, so it must be a lot more subtle than, say, internet / cable monopolies.



The payment one is just ridiculous and completely wrong.

Credit cards are already competitive i.e. Visa, MasterCard, American Express. And the payment space is one of the most dynamic and competitive around. Endless amounts of new startups and bigger players in digital payments e.g. PayPal.


> Visa, MasterCard, American Express

Add Discover and you essentially have a complete list of credit networks in the US. The other offerings you see are mostly white label products built on top of the usual credit networks.

I wouldn't consider PayPal a competitor since they don't operate a credit network (although they sometimes facilitate money transfers that don't involve the credit networks). Whenever a physical credit card is used in the US, it's almost always the case that one of those four credit networks collects an interchange fee.


I think it would be important to disclose your affiliation to Google, especially when you're defending your employer, and arguing against breaking up Google.


Google's ad business has doubled in size in 3 1/2 years. They're not in decline and neither is their ad business. They'll be at $200 billion in sales soon; they're one of the largest, most powerful corporations in world history.

Amazon's ad business is a small fraction the size of Google. Facebook's ad sales are less than 1/2 that of Google.

Market share isn't the only factor to consider in pursuing anti-trust.

However if it's market share you're interested in: Google has three other monopoly positions and their ad business is the cornerstone that makes it all function, providing an excellent reason to target the ad business to inflict a reduction in total system power in one shot. This is the proper way to view the giant tech companies: with a holistic view of how they maintain and integrate their overall monopoly positions and extend them, rather than focusing on very narrow abuses.


Are you disputing that google has monopolies in search, browser, or hosting user-generated videos? Because, as I understand it the argument is google is abusing it's monopoly power in those areas to increase prices for ads.


This! I would love to see google broken up and admittedly dislike the company. But I think that they are declining on their own.


Are Google's lobbying efforts considered to be rent-seeking?


> Smells like political rent seeking to me.

Pleonasm.

But fully agree with your point.


Why do you consider google in decline??


I think it's because Sundar lacks strategic vision and/or lacks the courage to disturb the power structure/struggle below him. He's a Ballmer.


Ah makes sense.


Why do people always say this? Multiple agendas can be pursued simultaneously


Because those things are not pursued. Good faith can only go so far when their comment was just as valid a decade ago as it is today.


The person you're replying to is a current Google employee.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/06/10/amazon-...

https://twitter.com/william_fitz/status/1270740531081932801?...

Googlers downvoted and flagged a comment that raised the possibility of astroturfing. Looks like we hit a nerve. Their employer is spending millions trying to sway public opinion.


I downvoted and flagged your comment and am no googler. It's against HN's rules to accuse other users of astroturfing without evidence: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

Even if another user works for Google and is commenting about Google, a lot of people comment based on what they know or how they feel from work. Nothing could be more natural than to do that, so it's not evidence of an organized campaign. Moreover, it's not something we'd want to suppress on Hacker News, because we don't want to disincentivize [1] people from showing up here to talk about what they know, and for most of us, what we work on is our area of greatest knowledge.

Should an employee of $CO disclose that they work for $CO whenever they comment on a topic that's related to $CO? Arguably that would be courteous to other users. But not doing it is certainly less discourteous than accusing someone else of being an astroturfer or shill, and the implication that someone was paid to post an HN comment rather than expressing a sincerely held view is a slur.

There is plenty of past explanation about HN's no-astroturfing-accusations rule at [2].

[1] https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...

[2] https://hn.algolia.com/?sort=byDate&dateRange=all&type=comme...


Thank you for letting me know. I was not aware of that rule. I do see commenters that routinely like to share the fact of who they work for, It may be that they only do that when they think it stengthens their comment. In any event, I will not make the same mistake again.

Remember that to argue that the comment contained an "accusation" requires that one draw some inference from the inclusion of the Wikipedia URL. Inlcuding the URL was a mistake. The statement I made however contained no accusation. It merely drew attention to the fact that Googlers often disclose their employer when talking about Google stuff on HN but in this case the person made not mention of it. I found that noteworthy. The inference to be made there would simply be potential bias. I think that's fair.

Is it within the rules to state that a commenter is an employee of "${CO}"? I note the commenter who did that did not get flagged.


Thanks for the balanced reply! Fair enough re "accusation". If I had read your comment more closely I would have said "insinuation", which is the word that the guidelines use anyway.

> Is it within the rules to state that a commenter is an employee of "${CO}"? I note the commenter who did that did not get flagged.

That's a tough one to answer unequivocally. Bringing in someone's personal details as ammunition in an argument is generally not allowed: https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=false&so..., so if I had to pick yes or no I'd say no. But one can imagine lots of borderline cases.


"Why cut my fingernails? They'll grow back."

- Ephraim, "Munich" (2005)


We've got 5G on the way with the 3-way mobile mobile in the U.S. plus Space X's Starlink on the way: https://www.starlink.com/. All this will provide competition for cable companies big time.

As for payments, the Visa/MC/Amex hegemony will get challenged by crypto. Ethereum's scalability is rapidly approaching Visa scale and with stablecoins and DeFi skyrocketing in popularity, it's going to be an interesting thing to watch.


Starlink is not competition for cable companies, unfortunately. Any area dense enough for cable is too dense for Starlink. There may be more competition in wireless carriers than wired ISPs, but that's not saying much. It's still not nearly the competitive market it should be especially with even more consolidation happening recently.


The problem with US antitrust laws is that they ignore global competition.

Breaking up a Facebook or Google does not provide for more competition, it actually will provide less competition as another large global competitor with get even bigger by swallowing up their users.


If Facebook or Google are seriously hobbled through regulation I expect their place will be taken by companies like Bytedance (TikTok) which is already the most downloaded app in the US. TikTok is actually just a loss-leading tool for Bytedance to get data for their main product, their AI research.


That doesn't make any sense.

Any company trying to build a US social network or social engine through acquiring Facebook or Google would need US advertisers. Otherwise what is the point of having these users.

And if you have US advertisers you will need to have an official US presence. This in turns means you are subject to US law including antitrust. Also a deal of that size would need the US government to sign off on it.


> Any company trying to build a US social network or social engine through acquiring Facebook or Google would need US advertisers. Otherwise what is the point of having these users.

The point would be collecting data on them and spreading propaganda.

Not every country operates using quarterly profits as their one and true God.


> We need to explain that the information about you can be passed among 25 different ad tech companies or it can be passed among 25 parts of Google. Which one of those is better or safer? That’s hard to know.

Really? Neither option is great but if you absolutely have to choose the lesser of two evils it seems obvious that Google is going to be a better steward of your data than 25 random ad companies. At least Google isn't going to sell your data. Those 25 other ad companies are going to turn into 2500 real fast.


I look forward to Microsoft passionately coming to Google's defense in order to protect the "freedom to innovate".

https://news.microsoft.com/1998/04/09/microsoft-advertisemen...


Do antitrust cases normally result in a breakup or sanctions? or Both? I was not around for the Microsoft one, did it have any real impact?


(I'm a Googler, opinions are my own. I also have zero desire to directly comment on the original article).

My understanding from the original antitrust case against Microsoft is that it DRASTICALLY impacted the internal culture at Microsoft. While the EU got their browser choice option in Windows, the indirect consequences were much further reaching. Based on comments I've read from former MS people, every decision after the antitrust case happened were looked through in a different light. "Will this bring on more scrutiny?".

So I'm guessing there were many unseen decisions that came out of the case. I'd imagine how hard certain products were bundled changed. How they were marketed. Even what features were implemented changed.

Even Google has some scarring due to the Oracle Java lawsuit. These big cases and rulings have fairly wide reaching impact within a company.


> "My understanding from the original antitrust case against Microsoft is that it DRASTICALLY impacted the internal culture at Microsoft. While the EU got their browser choice option in Windows, the indirect consequences were much further reaching. Based on comments I've read from former MS people, every decision after the antitrust case happened were looked through in a different light. 'Will this bring on more scrutiny?'."

Pretty much spot on, at least in my recollection.

[EDIT] As an aside, it's widely held (e.g. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/01/learning-from-micro...) that Microsoft's antitrust woes were because it didn't have political lobbyists in place to counteract it and supposedly Google took a lesson from it and built up it's lobbying efforts considerably. Kinda makes you wonder where their efforts broke down?


Didn't Google successfully kill the previous round of anti-trust efforts this way? Seems like a success to me.


Essentially the big problem is that antitrust has been pretty much neutered for the past couple of decades. We haven't seen properly functional antitrust regulators in a very, very long time.


Since the 80s. Robert Bork’s ‘The Antitrust Paradox’ was a watershed moment that paved the road for what we have today.


In the EU we got a pop-up letting us choose a different browser.

Beyond that it didn't have much effect directly but it also stopped Microsoft been so hilariously agressive in other ways (though that's a harder effect to pin down, 2000-era Microsoft was a shark with bloodlust).


I'm not sure if it was the same antitrust thing, but there was a lot of stuff in the background that did happen along these lines. I knew some folks working on Samba, and all of a sudden they were going to workshops run my MS and getting documentation and so on to aid integrating with Windows.


> In the EU we got a pop-up letting us choose a different browser

Wonder what it'll take for this to come to all of the other OSes with default browsers


Those OSes would have to have monopoly market share.


Breakups are very hard. Microsoft was overturned on appeal.


If it can be overturned with an appeal doesn't that only reinforce the underlying problem? If just me as a user of the platform have been feeling increasingly squeezed by AMP, more and more aggressive ads, poorer search results. Large scale data collection, the deeply troubling stance on privacy and anonymity, shouldn't there be a more collective way to say enough?

And to just head this off: "Just switch platforms bro, there are tons of other options out there, haven't you heard of DDG?" this isn't a valid response and instinctively I know you know it to, that's why there is talk of anti-trust.


Wait, why doesn't it work? I have a friend who uses Brave and DDG and all that. Brave will block the trackers but you could just as well install Chrom(e|ium) with uBlock Origin (and uMatrix if you're so inclined) and also get one of those Amp-bypass plugins.


The issue is that unless a large enough percentage of users do so, Google still controls the market, and runs the table on the other side. Google is an intermediary in the chain between other businesses which run ads and seek search placement, and consumers which see ads and look at searches.

As long as Google holds 90% of the market, businesses have to advertise with Google, and websites have to cater to Google's search ranking demands.

And users choosing to switch never happens in large enough quantities to change this: Almost everyone uses the default search provider. Which is why Google operates Chrome, Android, and pays for Firefox and Safari search placement. And even if half those platforms weren't first party (and monopolies in their own right), they can't get outbid easily on the other ones because, due to the existing monopoly, they have more money to bid than everyone else.

Fundamentally, I think the bare minimum to handle Google is breaking Android and Chrome away from Google and prohibiting the company from operating their own browsers and operating systems. (It might also be prudent to set limits on their ability to bid for default search placement, as a way to encourage browsers to shift to a browser choice model, which would be hard to compel Firefox and Safari, in particular, to do within the confines of a suit against Google.)


I think that is a non-sequitur in this discussion which is about a user

> If just me as a user of the platform have been feeling increasingly squeezed by AMP, more and more aggressive ads, poorer search results. Large scale data collection, the deeply troubling stance on privacy and anonymity, shouldn't there be a more collective way to say enough?


How is this a non-sequitur? There is a clear issue that led to a question about said issue? Issues with google, why is there not a way to solve this? Straightforward.


A fair question. I think it comes from the fact that:

> If just me as a user of the platform have been feeling increasingly squeezed by AMP, more and more aggressive ads, poorer search results. Large scale data collection, the deeply troubling stance on privacy and anonymity, shouldn't there be a more collective way to say enough?

So, we're focusing as a user here. Switching to uBlock Origin Chromium + DDG + Amp bypass extension:

* Squeezed by Amp -> Solved

* More and more aggressive ads -> No ads, solved

* Large scale data collection -> Blocked, solved

* Troubling stance on privacy and anonymity -> No data access to your data, solved

> And to just head this off: "Just switch platforms bro, there are tons of other options out there, haven't you heard of DDG?" this isn't a valid response and instinctively I know you know it to, that's why there is talk of anti-trust.

Everything is dodgeable as a user. Therefore it _is_ a valid response and I do not instinctively know it's not right.

There are good arguments, to be clear. If most people are on Gmail and they won't access mail. If Maps data can get Calendar/Mail data for free but no one else can, then that's anti-competitive. If Google uses Chrome to recommend some random tool that's bundling.

But not the thing the OP said. I don't think he's right there.


I would point out that Google believes in AMP first development, that someday websites will be AMP only even. Furthermore, Gmail supports AMP4Email now. This is one of the multiple avenues Google is rewriting the Internet to their own platforms.

And the market forces I described are why businesses have to implement AMP. Eventually you and I will get pushed out.


Doesn’t solve poorer search results.


We as users are not really Google's customers. What I'm not hearing much/any of is companies reducing their adword spend or use of Google apps based on Google's business practices.


> If just me as a user of the platform have been feeling increasingly squeezed by AMP, more and more aggressive ads, poorer search results. Large scale data collection, the deeply troubling stance on privacy and anonymity, shouldn't there be a more collective way to say enough?

Well, in that sense you don't have to be their customers. If you're subject to this then you don't have to be.


Yes and no. The judgment against them, requiring breakup, was overturned on appeal. But Microsoft was pretty sure that they were going to suffer a lesser penalty, so they settled the case by accepting some restrictions on their behavior, and some monitoring.


It seemed to have a huge impact, Microsoft stopped doing the really awful stuff they had been doing following the case. It was overturned for pretty stupid reasons, in my opinion, but regardless, it had an impact.


With Google taking 32%-49% of ad spends [1], and perhaps even more as AdMob appears to be undisclosed (although let's assume in this range), if competition could cut this take in half while maintaining equal targeting efficiency, we might see an explosion in growth of niche businesses. If the cost reduction resulted in a 50-50 split between higher publisher revenue and decreased ad costs, then that ~12-24% higher revenue plus 9-16% advertising cost reduction would make a ton of businesses with LTV:CAC ratios on the margins vastly more profitable. Even more importantly, they would be able to reinvest earnings on a far tighter cycle back into their businesses.

The vast, vast majority of young businesses do not have access to institutional capital, fueling their growth through positive unit economics. Relatively small changes in costs and revenue relative to margins can have huge effects. For example, an ad-based business with $1 CAC and $2 LTV, where 50% of the LTV is earned over the first 12 months, 25% in the first 3 months, takes a year to see it's ad spend returned and break even, at which point it can reinvest that dollar for new customers and start the cycle again.

With 15% lower ad costs and 20% higher revenue, the LTV:CAC becomes $0.85:$2.40, and assuming the same earnings-curve, at three months in $0.60 has been earned, and $0.85 in under five months. That means this business, and those like it, are suddenly able to grow at over 2x the rate as they could prior to such a breakup.

As much as many people hate advertising, it is still one of the primary channels for people's wants/needs (often unknown) to get matched to supply, and thus removing a monopoly and increasing the efficiency of this matchmaking could stimulate explosive growth in new and existing products and services that can't currently cost-effectively reach their customers. Ultimately, this would be a great benefit to everyone.

As a final note, this is relatively loose thinking and doesn't account for second-order effects like increased ad spend competition with increased revenue, but I think still an interesting thought to get out there, as I think the gist of it still holds.

[1] https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/180195?hl=en


Google is definitely exhibiting anti-competitive behavior and they should be broken up.

What kind of company can get away with a critical product, such as advertising platform, email services, etc and provide ZERO SUPPORT. Literally they have no customer support that you can contact. This is the behavior of a monopoly.

If they were in a competition, they would invest more and more into things like customer support. But they save billions by not investing In customer service and having no way of contacting them. This is monopolistic behavior, because that’s how they squeeze more and more money out of their customers.

Instead of raising prices like traditional monopolies, they do it in other ways like having a product that is easy and cheap for them to maintain but hellish for their customers who are dependent on it. They hide behind algorithms to detect fraud, they close accounts immediately based on bad information and there is no recourse. If they were in a competition they would have customer support but since they don’t have competition, they eliminated it entirely with impunity.

Google should be broken up or forced to spend a certain percentage of their revenue to customer support the way any other company would be forced to in a regularly competitive environment.


>What kind of company can get away with a critical product, such as advertising platform, email services, etc and provide ZERO SUPPORT. Literally they have no customer support that you can contact. This is the behavior of a monopoly.

They're giving away a product to you literally for free, and you're complaining about a lack of support? Do you expect any company to offer you support for free? People have other choices; there are plenty of paid email services, but people pick GMail anyway because it's free. Clearly these people would rather have a free unsupported service than pay for a supported one, who are you to take that choice away from them?

If somebody leaves an old piece of furniture out on the curb for anybody to pick up, do you think the person who takes that furniture home is owed support by the original owner? Free is free; what kind of a sense of entitlement does it take for somebody to expect support for something they're not paying for?

They do actually offer support for their paid services.


"They're giving away a product to you literally for free, and you're complaining about a lack of support?"

I think he/she is saying that isn't how they should do business. Maybe they should charge.

From an antitrust perspective, giving away something for free isn't generally seen as benevolent, it is often seen as predatory. Microsoft got in a lot of trouble for giving away IE "for free." They did it to kill Netscape's business model.

Are you suggesting Google is doing it out of the kindness of their heart?

A healthy market isn't one company giving things away for free, making their money indirectly, and squashing all competitors.


>From an antitrust perspective, giving away something for free isn't generally seen as benevolent, it is often seen as predatory. Microsoft got in a lot of trouble for giving away IE "for free." They did it to kill Netscape's business model.

It's predatory (dumping) if they lower prices to kill off competitors and then raise prices later. I don't see them doing that, at least with GMail; can't imagine them charging for it.

>A healthy market isn't one company giving things away for free, making their money indirectly, and squashing all competitors.

A healthy market is one that generates the most value for consumers. I don't see how consumers win if the government kills off all free email providers and forces people to pay for what they were previous getting for free.


You can upgrade your google account to google one which has support and an extra 85 GB of storage for $2 a month [0].

[0]: https://one.google.com/u/1/home


I love the cover art on the paper. Sums up the issue perfectly. For those who will not read the PDF:

Google completed a series of transactions that allowed it to participate in every level of the ad stack. (#1)

Google leveraged its power in search advertising, in which it holds monopoly power to coerce advertisers to use Google products to access the display market as well. (#2)

Google advantaged itself through arbitrage and cross-subsidization opportunities made possible by the fact that it, and it alone, operates at all levels of the value chain. (#3)

Google withheld interoperability in order to disadvantage, foreclose, and punish its ad stack rivals. (#6)

Google designed auction processes that cement its own market power and raise rivals costs. (#10)

Google kept key market information hidden to shield itself from scrutiny from publishers, advertisers, and potential new entrants, suppressing otherwise natural competitive forces. (#14)

Google leveraged its control over the ad tech stack and Google Analytics to weaken rival sources of display supply. (#18)

1. Acquiring Independent Companies To Cement Its Role Across the Ad Stack

2. Leveraging Market Power in General Search into Display

3. Designing Auctions That Facilitate Arbitrage and Rent Seeking

4. Cross-Subsidizing Competitive Functions of the Ad Tech Stack with Monopolized Functions In Order to Rise Rivals' Costs and Foreclose

5. Deceptive Gathering and Integration of Data

6. Strategic Disabling of Interoperability To Disadvantage Rivals

7. Withholding Interoperability to Steer Demand and Supply Through Its Own Exchange

8. Providing Exclusive Programmatic Access to YouTube Though Google's DSP

9. Retiring the Third-Party Cookie

10. Disadvantaging Rival Exchanges by Google s Publisher Ad Server

11. Undermining Header Bidding Through the Development of So-Called Open Bidding

12. Undermining Header Bidding Through Exclusionary Features of AMP

13. Designing Analytics to Steer Market Participants to Google Products and Prevent Entry

14. Resisting Transparency at All Levels of Ad Tech Stack

15. Obscuring Fees So That Competitors Cannot Enter and Compete Effectively

16. Using Privacy Laws as an Excuse to Hide Performance Data

17. Thwarting Publisher Efforts to Understand Source of Payments

18. Designing Attribution to Favor Search and Disadvantage Publishers

19. Raising Rivals Costs and Foreclosure of Existing and Potential Horizontal Competitors

20. Capturing Publisher Data in Order to Monetize Their Audiences

They are not looking at Facebook, Amazon, or other walled gardens as viable alternatives for those who want to place ads on the open web. There is only one "choice". "All roads lead through Google".


Wow, this is very poorly written. Even ignoring the fact that they appear to have just sourced all their info from the CMA(note below), they really need to tighten this up considerably. In particular, you cannot mix conclusions and introduction/background into the same section (when this happens, it is usually because someone is writing to a conclusion). Also, the overuse of lawerly adjectives (i.e. hyperbolic) and catch phrases really shouldn't fly.

Either way, I don't think the case is made particularly well.

Anytime you talk about prices, you are on very shaky ground indeed. If advertisers can't make money at a certain price, they don't buy it. Equally, Google's marginal cost is zero so they have every incentive to move inventory. Equally, publishers make money when Google does so the gross price is roughly correct (in other words, focus on fees...that is where the issues are).

There is conspiracy theory stuff here - Google are fiddling attribution measurement to favour search ads, they are hiding prices (no, publishers say this but advertisers are very aware of what they are paying...it is leaving their account), arbitrage...clutch pearls. There is inaccurate stuff here - imposing rigid market definitions (for example, the difference between exchange and Adsense is the publisher...most small publishers want a simple product like Adsense). There is directly contradictory stuff here - Google uses data to steal from publishers...but taking away third-party cookies will lower prices and publishers won't be able to bid efficiently...okay, which is it?

I think there is quite a clear case, it isn't made here. It needs to be far more concise. Google shouldn't operate exchanges and publish, it shouldn't operate exchanges and advertise, the exchange should be transparent. The core business here isn't complicated: I have something to sell, I need a venue to create a clearing price, there are other people who need to buy it. There is a long history of people creating venues that aren't fair, the solution is: create a fair venue.

All the stuff about trying to prove harm and say that Google is a bad actor who is doing all these secret, ultra illegal things (that no-one has any proof for) is, quite frankly, nonsense. It doesn't matter if Google is doing bad things or not. The point is that their market position gives them that opportunity, and most humans are greedy. Watching a lawyer try to moralise is an unedifying sight (this paper comes from a billionaire's think tank, watching someone try to moralise about other people's behaviour with their pockets weighed down with gold is...really not a great sight, particularly as this content is just copied from the work done by the govt in another country...a charmed life indeed).

CMA Note - I am from the UK and the CMA are terrible...mainly very well-connected Brits who either worked in business and ran their company into the ground or people who can't get a job in business at all. In particular, relying on CMA's market definition is perilous. Their logic is usually: what definition do we need to get the right decision? It is bafflingly inconsistent.


At this stage in human history, Google search is so engrained into the web that surely the only moral action is for Google to calve off the free part of their business and place it in public trust.

The upside would be they would have more time to focus on their premium paid-for services like G Suite, Google Cloud Print, and Cobra Kai.


This antitrust case seems very beneficial to Amazon's ad tech platform. Very suspicious


One of the more... interesting... conspiracy theories about this is that Donald Trump is trying to punish Google for being insufficiently supportive and helping the business of his noted political ally... Jeff Bezos?


I don't think Bezos is Trump's political ally.


Here is an example of the type of anti trust stuff Google does

One of the industries we work in is a classic New Startups Vs Established Silicon Valley Company/Companies type of industry

In this case the Established companies are Google and a few others

*

Here are some of the things Google does

A) Whenever any company grows beyond a certain threshold, it drops that company drastically in organic search

The #1 and #2 companies are at #41 and #42 in search results

B) IN parallel, fills up organic search with every possible negative result they can find about these companies

C) Adwords RoI drops from 1:4 to 1:8 range to 1:1 range

D) Click Fraud increases + some of the click fraud is from Google Cloud and Google servers

Either -> Google can't stop click fraud from ITS OWN SERVERS, or it is doing it itself

E) One of the startups was growing very fast in Android - App STore - 1,500 people a day (pretty fast for our industry)

Within ONE WEEK of this information becoming public, each and every app from every company in this space got kicked out of Android store

F) Drops email open rate by putting emails in Social Folder, Newsletter Folder, Junk Folder

Of course, they are so blatant about it they did it to all the companies in the space in the same week and dropped it by the almost exact same amount

So everyone's Gmail open rates fell from 11% roughly to 5%. In the SAME WEEK

G) YouTube comments are hidden

All the positive comments on YouTube videos get hidden and can only be seen by finding the option to show all comments (which 99% of people don't even know)

*

A lot of people are making arguments without actually being the target of the antitrust

Keep in mind this (Google) is a company that has

The largest browser share

The largest search engine share

The largest OS share

The largest video platform share

and many other advantages

They also are a trillion dollar company

HOWEVER, they play very dirty

If you are in an area where you are competing against them they will use EACH AND EVERY of their levers and they will go all out and do straight up illegal stuff

Things like dropping the two largest companies in a space to FOURTH PAGE of search results


After Google got caught compensating scholars for friendly content, people should be extremely skeptical of anything read until the case the formally revealed. Regardless of how critical or supportive it is of Google.


Remember the owner of WSJ, Rupert Murdoch, is vehemently anti-Google:

https://www.google.com/search?q=rupert+murdoch+google&rlz=1C...


Only in the same way that The Doctor of Thuganomics is vehemently anti-Undertaker.


Do you have evidence?


Link?



As a sibling points out, News Corp is notorious for Google hit pieces. I would take anything they say with a grain of salt.

This piece makes some bold claims, like

> Google has paid professors whose papers, for instance, declared that the collection of consumer data was a fair exchange for its free services

But the only specific paper they reference is [1], a copyright paper with doesn't seem very relevant to Google's core business. If their claim had any merit, why couldn't they produce a more relevant example?

They claim that Google "pays professors", when in reality Google is giving out research grants. Professors are getting "paid" only in a very indirect sense, since the funding goes to their departments. As their example paper says,

> The authors would also like to thank Google for a grant that enabled us to hire research assistants, to compensate human subjects, and to travel to present our findings.

And this isn't some secretive operation, despite the WSJ's attempts to frame it that way. You can see a list of these grants in [2], along with more background about the grant program. The referenced paper is listed there under Policy.

Edit: Also wanted to call out this amazing bit of spin:

> Mr. Sokol, though, had extensive financial ties to Google, according to his emails obtained by the Journal. He was a part-time attorney at the Silicon Valley law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, which has Google as a client.

Wikipedia says WSGR has ~1850 attorneys. In what world does this constitute "extensive financial ties"?

[1] https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2130008&...

[2] https://research.google/outreach/past-programs/faculty-resea...


Google is just that big bullying gang on the school yard. We all know what we need to do


Get straight As, go to a better school, and eventually become its boss?


The bully can shut down your better school and hide you're report card. Doesn't track.


Probably a plan. Just realise the bullies were never that confident in the first place.




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