2008 may be the year that Google’s innocence ends, as media and governments start to cast a less forgiving eye at the behavior of the company that controls 60% of the search market and perhaps as much as half of all online advertising revenue.
In 2007 the Federal Trade Commission opened an antitrust investigation into Google’s $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick. The deal was eventually approved, although the EU took a lot longer to give their stamp of approval (The EU in general isn’t a fan of Google).
This year, though, things might not go so well. Politicians are lining up to question Google’s recent search marketing deal with Yahoo. The deal was clearly structured to try to slide past regulators, but it isn’t clear that this time Google will get a pass.
Other questions are being raised as well – such as why Firefox continues to default search to Google on clean installs, instead of offering users a choice right up front. Microsoft is forced to offer users a choice when they install Internet Explorer. Given the longstanding financial ties between Google and Firefox, perhaps the same choice should be presented there as well.
There’s no getting past the fact that Google has out-competed everyone in the search game, and is justly collecting the economic rewards of that effort. But society loves to tear down their heroes just as quickly as they supported them as underdogs.
This may be the year that things change for the ten-year-old Google. Their days of innocence may be over – perhaps Yahoo, or Firefox, are the apples that they should not have bitten into.