Google: Target for Destruction?

image Back in May, we talked about then-recent comments by Obama administration appointee Christine Varney and her blatantly anti-Google attitude. We’re forced to circle back around today as Wired gives those who haven’t been following this story a remedial look at the rise of Google and how Varney might attack them.

Here’s what our take was on this situation back in May (more on what’s changed and what Wired said in a minute):

This is certainly a reason for concern. Varney hasn’t been quiet at all in her hate-on for Google.

“For me, Microsoft is so last century. They are not the problem,” Varney said at a June 19 panel discussion sponsored by the American Antitrust Institute, according to Bloomberg. The U.S. economy will “continually see a problem – potentially with Google” because it already “has acquired a monopoly in Internet online advertising,” she said.

[…] There is most certainly innovation and money to be made in online advertising, [but m]ore to the point, though, it’s vastly underestimated the alignment between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to views on antitrust.  Of course, elected officials are brought to office through the votes of the individual, but the ability to sway those votes generally comes through financing of big business. To suggest that votes are bought is tantamount to accusations of corruption, but it’s naïve to think that politicians of all stripe aren’t sensitive to the desires and will of big business.

If the May piece is new to you, I strongly suggest you re-read it to get a better image of all the image-thumb75[1]arguments against why we should take Varney seriously.

It was our general opinion, after examining the issue a bit here at SiliconANGLE, that the Goog was unlikely to see any serious scrutiny since the definition of antitrust and anticompetitive behavior weren’t even close to being met, even in the loose definitions of the terms established in the landmark tech cases with IBM, AT&T and Microsoft.

Wired thinks differently, though:

If the DOJ does launch a case against Google, it likely will not come for at least five years. It takes time to build the political will to go after a beloved company. And for all the time, energy, and money spent on big trust-busting lawsuits, they are frequently useless by the time the adjudication has been completed. (When the Microsoft case finally concluded, for instance, Netscape was already irrelevant.)

Wired doesn’t take an experts position and overtly predict that a case will or will not happen, though certainly the entire feature piece is predicated on the perception that something is coming down the pike.

I think it’s pretty easy to get lured into that mode of thinking due to the strong language by Varney, but quite frankly after political capital burn rate that the president’s administration has been engaged in, taking on a company like Google that more often than not offers a hand up to the smaller guy could be a pretty dicey proposition.

Google’s not perfect.  I routinely go after them for a number of their less sensible practices, but on the whole they’re a good company with altruistic motivations, and attacking a company like that even in the most favorable political climate can have questionable results.

Adam Thierer over Technology Liberation Front pulls out a quote from Eric Goldman today that I think most succinctly expresses why an antitrust case against Google is a Bad Idea:

“The problem for antitrust in high tech is that the environment changes so rapidly. Someone who looks strong today won’t necessarily be strong tomorrow.”

Remember that silly Hollywoodization of Microsoft, Antitrust? What was the line that was repeated throughout the whole film?

“Any kid in a garage could put us out of business.”

It’s truer now than it ever was, thanks to social media networking tools, cloud infrastructure and rapid application development. With sufficient sales, networking and technical knowhow, a staff of five can have the impact a staff of five thousand had a decade ago.

The bottom line is that simply because a company continues to innovate and make sound business decisions doesn’t mean they’re anticompetitive. The strongest argument Google has going for them to shut this down before it begins is the truth, and it’s that.