We’ve said many times that no one stays on top forever. The Justice Department is preparing a new antitrust investigation against Google parent Alphabet Inc. – again. To refresh your memory and as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, “This comes six years after a similar probe from the Federal Trade Commission, which resulted in no significant damage to the company that powers more than 90% of the world’s internet search activity.”
Closer scrutiny is long overdue. What was not reported was the history of the past anti-trust investigation: it was 2013 – the days when Google executives were frequent guests at the White House during the past administration. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, Google visited the White House 230 times – more than all other tech companies combined. Both Google co-founder Larry Page and Google lobbyist Johanna Shelton met with FTC officials and top White House advisors. The investigation was then shut down when Google promised to voluntarily police itself. Interestingly, this is when Net Neutrality discussions also began and here’s an interesting statistic:
Alphabet/Google Market Caps prior to Net Neutrality: $399.05B for January, 2015. Market Caps as a result of Net Neutrality: $664.55B for Sept. 29, 2017
In the midst of all of this, Google/Alphabet had a sudden, massive outage on Sunday which took down Google, gmail, YouTube, Vimeo, Uber, Snapchat, et al. Ironically, all on the heels of the lawsuit being filed. That was the kill switch, in case you missed it, so Net Neutrality’s reversal aside, exactly who owns that ‘last mile’, after all?
The anti-trust issue in 2013 was that Google owned 90% of search. Here it is, six years later, and they still own search – but they’re also a much more valuable and profitable company, and they’re controlling the conversation. When you become the town square, you have to allow open discussion. Whether or not you agree with the talking point that conservative voices are being censored, head’s up: there is someone from the tech sector currently running for President. He may not have the name recognition of a Mark Zuckerberg who has expressed having political aspirations (:49) in the past – Facebook even changed its S-1 filing, should Zuckerberg decide to run. Tech wields enormous influence, and there’s no doubt that attention is being paid on both sides of the aisle, as the anti-trust issue is being taken up by both Democrats and Republicans.
Sunday’s outage was a definite shot across the bow. Make no mistake about it: this is a battle for the future.
Let us not forget who created the infrastructure upon which all of the tech fortunes were made: DARPA – the US Government. Careful when you bite the hand that nurtured you.
The C-Suite has long been occupied by Alpha males. In tech, for the most part, we’ve seen the rise of the Betas, the backroom boys who’ve moved into the corner office and as we’ve said before (Tech and the Rise of the Beta Male), it’s a whole different thing.
With Google leading 90% of the people to their answers and conclusions via search, if you think Standard Oil was a threat and was supposedly too big to break up, this is a much bigger threat: Google controls speech. With their massive data collection, surveillance infrastructures, their ability to manipulate the conversation; and now that it’s hitting Washington closer to home and can potentially threaten their own fiefdoms, trust us, this time politicians on both sides of the aisle are taking the anti-trust issue very seriously.
As Bloomberg observed, “Washington is much different than it was in 2013, and sentiment in the capitol and beyond has soured as U.S. technology superstars have grown even larger and more dominant. An investigation of Google is likely to be politically popular on both the left and the right. The politics and the optics aren’t in Google’s favor. Now we’ll see – again – whether the law is against the company as well.” It’s not 2013 anymore and given their unbridled hubris, Google seems to have forgotten that tech rises and falls in cycles. There was a time when Yahoo! owned search – and someone else may well come along and unseat Google.
There’s definitely something in the air. Make no mistake about it: it’s the winds of change. Onward and forward.