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Google and the FTC

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Recently, you may have seen in the news that Google is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission to determine if it is engaged in anti-competitive practices. According to the WSJ.com story, “The people familiar with the matter said issues in the FTC probe are expected to include whether Google searches unfairly steer users to the company's own growing network of services at the expense of rival providers.”

On the desktop, I have been a user of Google services since I abandoned its competitor’s inferior product nearly a decade ago. My action at that time was emblematic of how markets behave. Ten years ago, I was loyal to Google’s competitor. Google’s search engine arrived with faster and more relevant results, and in digital a world that personifies low switching costs I switched. Google, like any fiscally responsible company, then found a way to monetize its platform and began presenting ads … many of which I have benefited from and many of which I have ignored.

And while Google’s superior search engine product has grown to a level that makes regulators and its competitors nervous, it is important to remember that in the U.S., it’s not illegal to have high market share, it’s only illegal to abuse your high market share. Which brings us to the current FTC snipe hunt.

As an advertiser on Google and other platforms, I have been witness to Google’s “Don’t be evil” policy for nearly a decade. Its ad tools have been an integral part of our success in reaching customers and potential employees. Because its algorithms work, Google has a willing and receptive audience, and, as a result, our ads work. In the hyper-competitive world of the Web, if Google were “doing evil” with its platforms, users would flee like rats from a sinking ship. The FTC’s thesis that Google is favoring its own products is as ludicrous as saying that Sears should not have put Craftsman tools on its shelves. Prudent companies look for integration points, and customers make choices. The difference in this case is that if I don’t like the Craftsman wrench, I don’t have to drive across town.

I only have to move a few pixels to find an alternative.

To say that Google has revolutionized our advertising strategy would be an understatement. To say that Google has abused its power would be entirely inaccurate in my view. In short, Google’s model works. It represents the best of the free market and innovation. As an advertiser and a user myself I certainly don't support any action by the federal government to intervene in Google's business.

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