What Google’s antitrust trial means for your search habits
If government regulators prevail against Google in the biggest U.S. antitrust trial in a quarter century, it’s likely to unleash drastic changes that will undermine the dominance of a search engine that defines the internet for billions of people.
As the 10-week trial probing Google’s business practices nears its midway point, it’s still too early to tell if U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta will side with the Justice Department and try to handcuff one of the world’s most dominant tech companies.
If Mehta rules that Google has been running an illegal monopoly in search, the punishment could open up new online avenues for consumers and businesses to explore in pursuit of information, entertainment and commerce.
“The judge can compel Google to open the floodgates so more startups and third-party competitors can put greater competitive pressure on Google, which will create higher quality online services,” said Luther Lowe, senior vice president of public policy at Yelp. The online business review site has been one of Google’s harshest critics while spending more than a decade railing against a strategy that favors its own services in search results.
Google’s search engine earned its huge market share by almost instantaneously presenting people with helpful information culled from the billions of websites that have been indexed since former Stanford University graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed the technology during the late 1990s.
In addition to its technological wizardry, Google also pays billions of dollars each year to ensure its search engine is the default choice for answering queries entered in the world’s most popular smartphones and web browsers.
These agreements don’t preclude users from switching to a different search engine in their settings, but it’s a tedious process that few people bother to navigate. This reality is why Google is willing to pay so much for the privileged position, according to the Justice Department.
Google’s payments for preeminent search placement — including an estimated $15 billion to $20 billion per year to Apple alone — are at the head of the Justice Department’s case, making it probable the judge would prohibit them if he rules against Google.