U.S. States Would Like to Break Up Google

Posted on June 6, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Google with 22 Comments

The U.S. states that are investigating Google for antitrust violations are leaning towards breaking up the firm, CNBC reports. The resulting breakup would split the firm’s advertising business away from the rest of the company.

There are 50 state attorneys general investigating Google alongside a separate U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation, and it’s possible that the two will charge the company together. But either way, Google is expected to face U.S. antitrust charges within a few months.

According to the CNBC report, the states are currently weighing several options to punish Google for its abuses, including behavioral changes and some combination of behavior and structural changes. But the leading option, right now, appears to be breaking up the firm.

Some believe that a breakup is unlikely because the two acquisitions that led to its dominance in the online ad market—DoubleClick in 2007 and AdMob in 2009—happened so long ago. And Google has been trying to wean itself from this singular source of revenue; a decade ago, 99 percent of Google’s revenues were derived solely from its ad business, but today that figure is closer to 82 percent.

Google’s dominance isn’t the issue, of course, it’s the abuse. And that abuse has been well-documented by a laundry list of companies that found themselves on the receiving end of Google’s artificial tailoring of search results that pushed Google services over those of third parties.

Google, of course, says that it has done no wrong.

“We continue to engage with the ongoing investigations led by the Department of Justice and Attorney General Paxton, and we don’t have any updates or comments on speculation,” a Google statement says. “The facts are clear. Our digital advertising products compete across a crowded industry with hundreds of rivals and technologies, and have helped lower costs for advertisers and consumers.”

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Comments (22)

22 responses to “U.S. States Would Like to Break Up Google”

  1. sherlockholmes

    lol, what took them so long?

  2. webdev511

    IF it happens there will be one ad company making a lot of money and a lot of other businesses that impload because they are currently subsidized by the ad business and cannot support themselves.

  3. bart

    Add Facebook and Amazon to this list.


    But let's focus on Google first. Popcorn ? ? ?

  4. harrymyhre

    Here’s just one point. If you are a business owner. When a potential customer searches for your business, your business info is presented in this ANCIENT super funky list format that is so ugly. This is the 21st century. Why can’t the google user pick from some styles for that list?

  5. madthinus

    The notion to split up companies makes only sense when they are vertically integrated. In this case, Google is horizontally integrated. Every product is feeding the main source of revenue, ads. They are an Ads business, first and fore most. Splitting the Ads business from the rest does not achieve anything. What they need is behaviour change. The only business that they have that is generating money is their Commercial Cloud platform and that is tiny.

  6. hellcatm

    There are a lot of companies that the DOJ should investigate. Actually, a lot of them should not have gotten so big in the first place by buying up a bunch of companies which made them anti-competitive. Just a few are Facebook, AT&T, Apple, and Spectrum. Google is just one of many companies that needs to be looked into.

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to HellcatM:

      I've followed tech for decades and I've literally never heard of Spectrum, so I had to look it up. Apparently, Spectrum is what Charter calls its cable/internet service, sort of like how Comcast's cable/internet service is branded as Xfinity. As one of the most hated brands in America, Comcast decided to just call its core product something different to confuse customers. Now everyone hates Xfinity AND Comcast! Apparently Charter did the same thing after they bought Brighthouse and Time Warner Cable. In the future, you should probably just say Charter, because that's the terrible corporation that needs to be broken up. Spectrum is just a trade name they use to make you think that they aren't the same company that you used to hate.

  7. christian.hvid

    I'm sure this will end in Google displaying a ballot box on every page where you can select whether you want your ads from Google, Facebook or any other of the "hundreds of rivals". :)

  8. nbplopes

    1) Android / Huawai US Gov attack;

    2) MS wins questionably a mega contract with US state department

    3) US is thinking of breaking up Google;


    Interesting ... very interesting.


    But yes ... I’m getting really irrated by Google trying to upswell YouTube Premiun every single time I open the YouTube app.

  9. txag

    I really hope this happens.

  10. MikeCerm

    "And Google has been trying to wean itself from this singular source of revenue; a decade ago, 99 percent of Google’s revenues were derived solely from its ad business, but today that figure is closer to 82 percent."


    That's because Google is abusing its monopoly power to entrench themselves in other markets and product categories, killing off rivals by giving away products for free -- at first, and then eventually charging money for them after disadvantaged competitors have been forced out of the market. With no other competitors, Google has become increasingly strict with how handset makers can use Android if they want access to Google services.


    Now that Gsuite and Android are viable products on their own, they could easily survive on their own following a Google breakup. Other projects that are currently dependent on Google's monopolistic ad business, would have to survive on their own, or go with Gsuite or Android, or one other other business units that should be broken off from the company.

    • nbplopes

      In reply to MikeCerm:


      What about Microsoft Office, Windows, XBox, Smartphones (no bother lost it), MS Cloud., SQL Servers, CRM, MS Slack sorry Teans... who knows what more?


      MS Suite once coat hundreds for a single license and now 99 a year for 5 people ... and the suite has grown. Not to mention promos of free for 12 months.


      Wonder if Windows Store can be disabled or replaced.

      • miamimauler

        In reply to nbplopes:

        "Wonder if Windows Store can be disabled or replaced"


        I wouldn't worry about the Windows Store. MS are doing a fine job at destroying it all by themselves.

        Zac Bowden over on Windows Central has an excellent article up on how poor the Store is and how MS are pretty much ignoring it. Paul Thurrott himself has also remarked on the Store and its shortcomings.


        Pretty much the only thing keeping the Store relevant was its XBox section but now XBox has its own Store.


        In theory the Store is a great idea but like so many of MS's consumer offerings they release it and then ignore it letting it wither on the vine into irrelevance or eventual death.

      • MikeCerm

        In reply to nbplopes:

        What about it? You think Microsoft should be broken up? Maybe. But Microsoft doesn't dominate any particular industry the way that Google does with advertising. Microsoft doesn't have any truly dominant market positions any more. If Microsoft wanted to acquire (just so they could kill) WordPerfect, I think the DOJ would/should stop that from happening. But I don't see how breaking up Microsoft as it currently exists would help increase competition. Microsoft is competitive in many areas, but they're overtly abusing their positions the way that Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook so clearly are.

        • Vladimir Carli

          In reply to MikeCerm:


          they should all be broken up, Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft too. All these companies have the ability to corner the market by subsidizing any product. They are just too big

          • nbplopes

            In reply to Vladimir:


            Agreed.


            But as it is, the day I see it, if eventually Google get split, who stands to win the most is Microsoft.


            There is an in going battle between MS and Google on Productivity / Office apps. Google is a tad ahead on market share but the fundamentally the market is split between the two. Once MS had it almost all.


            Google managed to get a slice by providing an OS independent innovative web solution while leveraging on the Ad business financially. I think most of Google App market share is driven by Ad powered “free” service. Android had a major role popularizing the apps. So it’s kind of a Ad / Google Web Apps / Android combination.


            Basically Google is doing what MS did really with Office / Windows and still does. Nothing more, nothing less. MS may not be happy about not having an Ad revenue that can use to leverage financially say, Office. So they uses Windows for years.



            They can leverage Office against smaller competitors .... For instance just the other day MS presented Microsoft Teams standing upon the shoulders of the popular Slack, aka copying their method more or less. Short after they bundled MS Teams into Office while not increasing the price. So it’s basically 100% subsidised. Slack revenue is driven only by their app ... Of course they will react, putting themselves on the hand of another giant ... AWS. The all thing is riddled to flow towards the way of giants. But its not an easy thing todo ... how do we prove intent?


            Apple does this stuff with their App Store, Music, Apple TV ... For instance, I believe they model their App Store policies privileging their apps and services. Sometimes in ways that they even collect revenue of things aren't apps, they don't serve or help to serve in any other way but having the App on their store.


            The way I see it, the competition framework needs to reframed. These massive companies should not be be legally allowed to leverage assets this way against competitors. Between themselves or smaller. When they pull the lever its devastation ... look at the recent Wall Street reaction to Slack growth even though it had a record break.


            This stiffs innovation and in the end customers get worst products.


            Again for instance ... the way I see it most MS app on Android and iOS work more or less like Trojan horses, pulling people towards Windows. The other way someone was saying that he used Teams on the iPad only for video meetings because anything else he needed to do in a PC. I thought it was weird and asked him, what feature specifically he was not able to use on the iPad. He said "upload and delete files". I thought what? So I downloaded the app, and indeed there was not button to upload a file. I managed to do it by downloading One Drive and do it through there, but its not intuitive. A couple of weeks later, a button to upload one file at a time appears in Teams ... but no way to delete in case you make a mistake.


            Now this very difficult to interpret. One might just put it down to bad app design, or development is on going so on and so forth. But lacking such a common simple feature its nevertheless weird ... By the way ... Slack, being Multiplatform (heck its their revenue driver) has none of these issues.


            So there are indeed many ways to skin a cat. Perception is key.



  11. skramer49

    I would feel better if they focused on Facebook and all their tentacles.

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