How Quickly We Forget: Google's Competitors Falsely Claim Google Dominates Because It Was 'First'
from the history-lesson dept
Well, the second part of the Senate’s anti-Google hearings have wrapped up, and like the first part, they seemed pretty misguided. It was a lot of repeating things about how Google is big. There were some reasonable points that do bear more scrutiny, concerning some of Google’s business dealings with partners, but, on the whole, people seemed to be making a big deal out of nothing.
For example, one Senator continually quizzed WSGR lawyer Susan Creighton over whether or not Google “scraped” content. Creighton seemed to stumble over the question, but the proper answer is of course it does, because that’s how search engines work. Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman complained about Google taking the same content it indexed for search, and then using it elsewhere. But no one mentioned the basic concept of fair use. If it’s a problem for Google to scrape and use content — as was implied repeatedly in the hearing — doesn’t that make any search engine illegal?
But, the most ridiculous testimony came from Thomas Barnett, a lawyer for Covington & Burling, who was representing a bunch of Google competitors who put together an operation called FairSearch. When asked about whether or not Google was a monopoly player, Barnett flat out lied, claiming that Google is dominant and can’t be unseated “because it got there first.”
I know they say that the history books are written by the winners, but this seems like a case where the history books are being revised by the losers. Anyone who was actually paying attention when Google came on the scene thought Google was a joke. The search engine market was locked up and there was no room for competition. We had Altavista, Lycos, Inktomi, Excite and a few others as well. People thought Google was a crazy idea. Who would possibly enter the search market — especially since Yahoo really seemed to have the market wrapped up (without its own search engine, but partnering with Altavista and Inktomi, before later partnering with Google)? It was a dead business.
Google wasn’t first. It was seriously late to the party.
And that’s really the point that’s important here. Markets that look locked up in the tech/internet world very rarely stay locked up for long. Five years ago, MySpace absolutely dominated the social networking space. Where are they today? Ten years ago, Yahoo was the dominant destination site. Fifteen years ago AOL was how people got on the internet. Fifteen years ago, Netscape was how you surfed the web. All of these players were dominant with huge market share. How are they all doing today? Which one needed government regulation to break their hold on the market? Things change. Markets change. Rewriting history and bitching about Google because it’s big misses the point. If Google does bad things, there are hundreds of entrepreneurs out there just waiting to take parts of the market away from the company.