19 Comments

I have a question. Do Google's behavior and actions from 15 years ago matter in this case? When they purchased YouTube, they 'disappeared' our exploding music video website SINGINGFOOL. A year later, they did the same for our movie and tv search and review site VIDEODETECTIVE. I hired a lawyer who wrangled me a visit to the DOJ. Absolutely nothing happened and we moved on to providing B2B data service which thanks to Netflix and Comcast did quite well. So again, does this matter now or is there a 'statute of limitations' kind of thing? If it does, how can I help win this case?

Expand full comment
author

Statutes of limitation depend on the legal claim, so I don't know the answer. I suspect judges would probably look poorly on an old claim.

To help this case I think any evidence you have on the poor quality of Google would could be useful.

Expand full comment
Aug 7, 2023Liked by Matt Stoller

I was a beta user of Neeva as well and got excited immediately after I started using it. When they rolled out the AI feature to their search engine I was tickled, and when they announced they were shutting down I was immensely disappointed.

The irony is that while they had a relatively large percentage of their users who signed on for the premium paid service, they simply did not have *enough* users, paying or not, to justify their continued operation. I hope that this case lays the groundwork for competition to re-enter the search engine space.

Expand full comment
founding
Aug 6, 2023Liked by Todd Mentch

Conceptually, ATT constricted bandwidth because of their network control. (Remember how much it was to talk to Grandma?) The market's reaction - creating a bunch of new providers, allowing outside devices on the network, and replacing Bell Labs with a thousand start-ups - led, at least indirectly to Google/Android/YouTube. And another monopoly, this one constricting search.

Expand full comment
founding
Aug 7, 2023Liked by Matt Stoller

Microsoft also had full control of personal computing. Everyone ran Windows, and every application had to run on Windows. When the web came along, everything had to run on Internet Explorer 6.0, even as Microsoft ignored standards and blew off its numerous security issues. With the rise of Chrome, the Windows moat was finally breached, but now Google is the new rent-seeking gatekeeper. The cycle continues.

Expand full comment
Aug 6, 2023·edited Aug 6, 2023

Great article. However, having lived much of my life prior to the ATT breakup I tend to disagree to some of the points. What we had pre 1982 was far and away the best communications system on the planet. Now we don't. It is also a stretch, in my opinion, to say that the breakup pretty much led to things like the internet and todays cellular phones. Things like that came because of technology advances, many of which had actually originated in Bell Labs. The real issue, and you did spell it out nicely, is the total lack of enforcement of regulated monopoly and antitrust since the mid 1980's. This is today affecting everything from communications to search to medicine to pharmaceuticals to the electric grid and much much more. And, it is hurting the consumer with all of those things costing orders of magnitude more than they should, not to mention lack of access for millions. Breaking up Google, while it may be a good thing, doesn't solve the main issues we have.

Expand full comment
author

"What we had pre 1982 was far and away the best communications system on the planet. Now we don't. It is also a stretch, in my opinion, to say that the breakup pretty much led to things like the internet and todays cellular phones. Things like that came because of technology advances, many of which had actually originated in Bell Labs."

Thanks for this. Bell Labs was amazing, but keep in mind AT&T was withholding important innovations as well as inventing them. They created the answering machine in 1938!

Expand full comment

My dad was a low and practically no income physician in a small town. I noticed that he had prescription pads that were provided by one of the pharmacies in town. From the pharmacy’s point of view it tended to make the patient think he had to go to that pharmacy to fill the prescription. At some point this was ruled illegal, so today prescriptions do not have a pharmacy name on them (if you can get a paper prescription). I think the default search engine setting has a similar effect.

By the way, electronic subscriptions make it more difficult for the patient to shop around.

Since AT&T’s monopoly was a government granted monopoly on long distance service I don’t think the analogy with it and Google works. Almost all local phone service was government granted monopolies as well because it was believed these services were natural monopolies. It is not clear to me that search engines are natural monopolies whereas before wireless phone service was developed local telephone service was. And I think the long distance monopoly held by AT&T was certainly no longer a natural monopoly after they began to use satellites.

Methinks the Supreme Court will have the final say on Google.

Expand full comment
author

"My dad was a low and practically no income physician in a small town. I noticed that he had prescription pads that were provided by one of the pharmacies in town. From the pharmacy’s point of view it tended to make the patient think he had to go to that pharmacy to fill the prescription. At some point this was ruled illegal, so today prescriptions do not have a pharmacy name on them (if you can get a paper prescription). I think the default search engine setting has a similar effect."

That's fascinating, thanks.

Expand full comment

"Google has maintained this monopoly, the government alleges, not by making a better product, but by locking down everywhere that consumers might be able to find a different search engine option, and making sure they only see Google."

I hope they mention Neeva, which sought to build a better search engine, but recently folded and got acquired, stating quite plainly that getting people to actually choose to use a new search engine was simply too difficult to achieve. They built a competing search service from the ground up entirely, and technologically this is not a barrier.

Expand full comment
author

I hope so.

Expand full comment
founding

Did AGs from PA and/or CT attend? I live connections to each state, and what they do in their states to push back against monopoly power can influence how AGs in other states are going about their work.

Expand full comment
author

CT AG William Tong organized it. I don't know if the Pennsylvania AG was there.

Expand full comment

Hi, Matt, I would like to fill in the gap in my knowledge. What book would you recommend about the break up of the Standard Oil monopoly for this general reader? I was fascinated to learn today it led to the development of gasoline!

Expand full comment
author

Oh good question. Not sure.

Expand full comment

I don’t think it is accurate to say the breakup of Standard Oil led to the development of gasoline. There was continuous research on improving gasoline that began before 1911. There was a search for a light hydrocarbon that would ignite consistently for use in automobiles. An interesting history of the oil industry is a book called The Seven Sisters.

Expand full comment
author

"A more important negative indicator is the invention that was almost neglected. While the Standard Oil monopolization case was proceeding, the petroleum refining industry was subjected to two technological revolutions. The demand for kerosene illuminating oil -- Standard's principal early product -- was threatened by the advent of electric illumination, but the emergence of the automobile created demand for gasoline, which until then had been a nearly worthless by-product of the refining process. In 1907, 8.0 percent of American homes were wired for electricity; by 1912, the figure had doubled and continued rising to 34.7 percent in 1920. In 1907, 43,000 passenger automobiles were produced; in 1912, 356,000; and after the first million-car year in 1916, factory sales reached 1.9 million in 1920. Using traditional methods, petroleum refiners were hard-pressed to extract enough gasoline to meet the burgeoning demand. A new process for obtaining a much higher fraction of gasoline from a barrel of crude oil -- thermal cracking -- was invented around 1909 by William Burton, Frasch's former assistant and in 1909 head of production at Standard Oil Company of Indiana. Indiana Standard applied to Standard headquarters in New York for authorization to spend $1 million developing and installing thermal crackers. The request was turned down; the invention was considered too risky.21 Only when Standard of Indiana became independent in 1912 could the project go forward. The Burton process was widely licensed. Between 1913 and 1920, when competing cracking processes began to emerge, 91 million (42 gallon) barrels of gasoline had been refined using the Burton process."

https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/getFile.aspx?Id=644

Expand full comment

By Anthony Sampson published in 1975.

Expand full comment