Apparently the Federal Trade Commission is "Leaning toward suing Google," according to an article on cnet.com, Google is many things -- but not an illegal monopoly. It goes into detail about the many ways in which opponents of Google attempt to prove that its business practices are unfair or otherwise monopolistic. My favorite bit was this one, comparing Google's search bias to Bing's:
So Wright analyzed a bigger data set and found Google rarely ranks its own content higher than rival search engines do. It turns out that Bing, Google's chief rival, actually displays alleged search bias nearly twice as often as Google.
This line is particularly funny to me, because I keep having to watch Bing's advertisements on Hulu, bragging that people pick Bing nearly 2 to 1 -- the same proportion with which they artificially inflate themselves in their own search engine. (Funny, but probably not causally linked.)
Later in the article, writer Ryan Radia points out the central issue that I think explains a lot of popular complaints about internet companies -- the methods by which they function are just too new, too alien to apply the same standards and analyses that previous generations of companies worked under.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Ronald Coase once quipped (PDF) that when "an economist finds ... a business practice ... he does not understand, he looks for a monopoly explanation." This sums up the fallacy underlying the case against Google. Its behavior may be frustrating, its employees fallible, and its products inconsistent -- but it's also an American success story that has changed the world for the better, following in the footsteps of Ford, Sears, General Electric, Apple, Amazon, and even Microsoft.
I don't mean, though, that there's no such thing as an internet monopoly. The broad strokes of the existing rules are important, and I'm glad they're there. But they need some fine-tuning and revision before they will ideally apply to the present-day status of corporate reality.