For quite some time European regulators seemed eager to crack down on Google simply because it was too big, too powerful. But now they may be signaling that bigness by itself may be legally acceptable, so long as regulators don’t find Google has “abused” that position. Yet abuse of Google’s search dominance is precisely what is being alleged by Microsoft and other parties that have filed complaints in Europe.
According to a report in Reuters, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia implied that dominance without more could be tolerated:
“Google is the browser of choice for very many of us; but dominance is not the same as abuse of dominance. Abuse is a conduct that protects or extends dominance by illegitimate means, and we still have to conclude whether this is the case for Google,” he said.
According to comScore Google is far and away the dominant search engine in most markets around the world. Out of roughly 40 countries measured Google is number one and has more than 50 percent market share in all but five:
- Russia (where Yandex is #1)
- Japan (Yahoo)
- China (Baidu)
- Taiwan (Yahoo)
- South Korea (Naver)
According to StatCounter Google has roughly 90 percent of the global search market, though precise share varies by country.
In Europe StatCounter data show that Google controls roughly 94 percent of the search market.
Regardless of whether the data above are precisely correct, there can be no question that Google “dominates” search. But absent a finding that there’s an abuse of power or anti-competitive behavior, Google may yet escape the fines and penalties that were visited upon Microsoft by European regulators.