Google: Pay No Attention to the Behemoth behind the Curtain

Jun 30, 2009

google angel halo“Competition is just a click away,” Google Senior Competition Counsel Dana Wagner reminds us. “We are in an industry that is subject to disruption and we can’t take anything for granted.”

I hear him loud and clear. I spend hours a day fretting about the future of Google. (Um, NOT.) But Wagner is doing something few companies have to worry about these days: campaigning to remind us how vulnerable they are.

Then again, as the New York Times points out, convincing people (or the government) you’re no big deal is kind of a big deal when you’re one deal away from anti-trust proceedings, and

[handle] roughly two-thirds of all Internet searches, . . . [own] the largest online video site, YouTube, which is more than 10 times more popular than its nearest competitor, [a]nd last year . . . sold nearly $22 billion in advertising, more than any media company in the world.

Oh yeah, and that “two-thirds of all Internet searches”? That’s only in the US. In some countries, it’s more like 90%. Yep, totally threatened by their competition.

The Times says Dana Wagner is just the guy to be doing the convincing, too. As a former DoJ antitrust prosecutor, Wagner is highly respectful of his former colleagues. This is a marked contrast, says the Times, to “Microsoft a decade ago, whose executives would rarely hide their disdain for regulators.”

But the “boyish” Wagner, with his “aw-shucks grin,” hasn’t been enough to defray government scrutiny of Google’s hiring practices, its agreement with book publishers or ties between its board and Apple’s.

While Google has been spared a government investigation of its core advertising business, no one is fooled by its pretending to be weak:

Eyes are rolling, especially in reaction to the idea that Google is a relatively small player in a giant market. “They describe where they are in a market under a kind of a fairy-tale spun gloss that doesn’t reflect their dominance of key sectors,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “Google search is an absolute must-have for every marketer in the world.”

In the end, Wagner makes no bones about this. “We know we have a lot of people doing searches and we are very proud of that,” he says. “We are not asking for sympathy.”

What do you think? Does this fall under Google “protesting too much,” or is Google truly vulnerable? Will the government ever investigate AdWords? Will they like what they find?

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